Cisco's CCIE Blockbuster: 10 Things Partners Need To Know About Cisco's New Certification Program

Certification Blockbuster

Cisco is changing how individuals can become Cisco-certified through its new Continuing Education Program, cutting out the need to keep taking certification exams.

The program allows any certified Cisco individual to become recertified by obtaining credits towards a specific certification through online courses, instructor-led training or participating in sessions during an event.

"We're focused on really upscaling our certified base," said Tejas Vashi, senior director of product strategy and marketing for Cisco Services, in an interview with CRN. "Everything that we're doing here will help the partner ecosystem … We've never done anything like this before in terms of certifications."

Here are 10 things channel partners and Cisco certified individuals need to know about the new program.

No Exams

Although individuals still have the option of taking an exam to get Cisco certified, the networking giant is striving to allow people to get recertified at their own pace instead of having to prepare for a single exam.

"This encourages individuals to not just wait and prepare for an exam over a two-year period," said Vashi. "This is another alternative to just taking an exam. That option is not going away, we're continuing to invest in that … The end goal is to keep the technical workforce across our partner ecosystem, as well as the industry, contentiously upscaled and prepared for the challenges of today's digital economy."

Certification Credits

Individuals need to obtain a certain amount of credits, depending on the certification, to achieve a Cisco certification. There are several different avenues to getting a certification: online courses, instructor-led training at a particular venue or participating in a session during an event.

"Folks need to understand the new skills and stay in line with the evolving jobs, so we need to provide them expanding learning options so they can continue to stay upskilled in a mechanism that's most conducive to them," said Vashi. "You may be really good at picking up a book and learning it, but some people prefer to sit through an instructor-led class, while some people want to do things self-study. We're creating all of these different learning options."

Cisco Live

Cisco Live is the first official event where partners and individuals can obtain credits towards a certification by participating in certain sessions. For example, an individual could gain credits for attending a Cisco Live Training during the four-day event.

"Some people need a social environment to bounce their ideas off of their peers, so it's another learning environment where you can earn credits," said Vashi.

Cisco Live 2017 runs from June 25 to June 29 in Las Vegas.

Program Portal

Cisco created a customized online portal for its Continuing Education Program providing individuals details around learning options, authorized providers, validate credits and for tracking progress. The portal shows where a person stands in terms of certification levels, certification status, days until certifications expire as well as a person's learning history. It also shows recent credits approved, pending or the amount of credits still needed to achieve a certification.

This portal is also where partners can sign up for courses, live event sessions or view other offers that can be applied towards credits. Additionally, the portal provides information on specific courses, the location of a training and even the language in which a course is being taught in.


Cisco Certified Internetwork Experts (CCIEs) and Cisco Certified Design Experts (CCDEs) with an active, emeritus or suspended status can recertify by earning credits.

"This is open to all people who are certified with Cisco, but even in that suspended mode as well as emeritus – they can really become active in this program. That's a very big win for CCIE's who maybe didn't find the time or focus to study for the exam … they can get back to active mode to become fully certified," said Antonella Corno, senior manager of product strategy for Learning@Cisco.

Learning Path Customized For Specific Career

Cisco said the new program offers better learnings paths to specific jobs and career interests. Through the variety of ways an induvial can now become certified, the path towards certification becomes more customizable for a person's specific vertical or industry.

"Let's say we're both CCIE certified security professionals for example. However, you work in a financial vertical, and I'm in a manufacturing vertical. There's different careabouts and different regulatory concerns that I would have, compared to what you would have. There might be different types of security threats that your financial employer is facing compared to what my employer is facing in manufacturing. So we want to make sure the learning paths is customizable to your specific needs," said Vashi.

Learning In "Smaller Bites"

One of the pillars to Cisco's new Continuing Education Program revolves around individuals learning in smaller bites and more frequent intervals, according to the company.

"What we've learned is that folks retain a better understanding when it's provided to them in smaller bites versus larger chunks of training at one time," said Vashi. "We want to make sure it's convenient to access the curriculum [and] we're making this content available to you at any time through multiple learning modalities."

'Hand-In-Hand' With New Enterprise Agreements

Teshi said the new program goes "hand-in-hand" with Cisco's new Enterprise Agreement (EA) unveiled on May 31. The network leader said the new enterprise licensing agreement has the potential for partners to bring in more revenue, with a lower upfront investment on software, hardware, and services.

"The reason for the enterprise licenses is because the industry is evolving. So the skills that an individual will need in today's environment continues to evolve. We're making sure from a skilling standpoint that folks are skilled for the digital economy, and the enterprise licensing is about making sure -- from a technology standpoint -- our partners and customers are ready for this digital transformation as well. So they go hand-in-hand," said Vashi.

Agile Blueprint

Cisco said its Agile Blueprint is a modular approach to exam revisions that enables a continuous refresh of technologies covered by Cisco certifications. Instead of refreshing an exam every three years or so, Cisco will launch "minor releases" in certain areas to keep tracks up to date.

"For example, if you have a CCIE for our new data center [certification], normally we would plan for a major release in the span of about three years because we want to give people the time to really get there … In that three-year timeframe, data center technologies evolve even if the job isn't. So products become obsolete and new product come in," said Corno. "In-between those major releases, we want to do minor releases. That is what we refer to an Agile Blueprint. It's a set of minor releases touching the technologies behind the certification in-between major refreshes to keep the tracks more relevant and more updated."

Program Availability

Certified Cisco individuals can enroll in the program this summer and start submitting for credit courses on August 1, which is the beginning of Cisco's 2018 fiscal year.

"This is a huge opportunity for partners and industry professionals to get Cisco recertified in a new, more flexible way," said Vashi. "The Continuing Education Program empowers the certified community to upscale, and recertify, how and when it's best for them."