This networking certification advice was one of the contest-winning pieces selected from the CCNP Video Mentor contest.
When I was 17, I attended the Westover Job Corps Center in Chicopee, Mass., and I really needed to do something with my life -- I had bad friends, I was messing up in high school, and so on -- but I was always proficient in computers and always loved to be on one. When I first decided to go to Job Corps I knew I wanted to take up the Computer Repair vocation. It was then and there that I met the instructor, Wilfredo Robles, who, to this day, I regard as one of the best mentors I could ever have. Not only was he an expert in his field, he saw something in me and knew I had a lot going for me.
It was he who sparked my love for networking, and his words of motivation and skillful teaching brought me back on track to where I always knew I would be.
So I began studying for my Network+ certification at Job Corps. Each day, Robles would lecture in the first part of class and, since there were only about four of us, we would all sit around his desk to listen and take notes. I always found myself asking as many questions as possible, unafraid of how dumb my questions might sound to anybody else. The best advice I could give anyone who is just starting out is to ask as many questions as you can, because your teachers are there to help you. They'll do anything to help you understand what you don't get because, in the end, all they want is your success.
After the lecture, I would go to my room and open up my Network + book to study for hours with my headphones on. I found the Mike Meyers' Network+ books to be very informative and extremely easy to read and understand. When reading, I always made sure I took down notes, and I sometimes found myself almost rewriting chapters. But that's just my way of absorbing material.
My technique for getting the most out of reading is the following:
- Read a chapter and take all the notes you can. Take a lot, if possible; the more, the better.
- If you have a book with the keywords and terminology from that chapter -- or a glossary with the definitions of those words -- copy down each word and definition.
- Since I had questions at the end of my Network+ book, I would write down each chapter question and answer it. This was great practice for the test.
- Ask questions about concepts you don't understand. Just keep asking until you have no questions left. You'll be glad you did, because once the lecture is over and you find things you don't understand, you're stuck -- when you could've just asked your teacher!
- Also, if you ever see something you want more information on, get on Google and search your heart out. My co-worker Sean and I always joke around and say -- whenever we need to find something out -- "Ask The Master of The Internet," a.k.a. Google; Google knows all.
- When you study, get as comfortable as possible. Really, this is important. Comfort for me was putting on my big, ol' hooded sweatshirt and putting on my headphones and losing myself in the music while I studied. I can't stress enough how important it is to be comfortable.
- Most of all, stay motivated. Study as much as possible and never lose hope. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful instructor help me stay on top of what was most important. If you're willing to go all the way in IT, then give it your all.
In the end, all the hard work you put in will pay off. It's not an easy field and sometimes the concepts, theory and terminology can seem overwhelming. But when I scheduled to take my Network+ exam, I went and passed on my first try!
Ultimately, my dream is to be a Cisco Network Engineer and CCIE certified. It's what I've always wanted, and with the support of my family and my own motivation and desire to be something great in life, I know I can achieve anything -- and so can any of you, I promise. Nothing and no one is holding you back except yourself, and that's something that took me a long time to learn.
Networking certification advice from the trenches
Certification preparation: Locate good reading material, resources, and practice tests for any networking exam.
How to pass your exams: No matter which exam you're trying to pass, this bulleted advice will help.
CCNA exam plan: Know the best CCNA resources, and read how to mentally prepare for your CCNA.
Network+ exam plan: Learn how to study and read your Network+ material.
Your certification game plan: This covers online tests, lab setups and lists of activities to complete A+, Network+, CCNA, MCSA and Linux certifications.
CCNA studying: Understand studying time restraints here.