How Cisco Online Communities Helped Me to Achieve My CCDE

Disclaimer: This is not a promotional blog; it is purely based on my personal experience.

We all know that CCDE stands for Cisco Certified Design Expert. The key word in this title is “Expert”

Typically, an expert is someone has strong knowledge combined with extensive experience in his/her area of specialization (in our case [Network Design])

Knowledge normally comes from academic education and self-learning and development (e.g. trainings, reading books/articles etc.). Obtaining knowledge this way is almost always based on theories and someone else experience in common and standard scenarios.

On the other hand, experience comes from practical practices. What’s interesting about experience is that you must learn something regardless what is the outcome (success or failure).

In fact, an expert sometimes referred to as someone who has done all the possible mistakes (and of course must learned from these mistakes 🙂 to avoid repeating them)

Taking the above into consideration, the key requirements to pass the CCDE exam is to have strong network design knowledge and experience. Experience is always the difficult part, because it takes time (accumulated by time), also, it is not only based on the number of years, ideally, it must be based on the number of scenarios, networks and projects you worked on.

The logical question someone may ask: is there a way to develop, expand and maintain network design experience apart from the daily job?

From my proven experience, the answer is Yes. Let’s see how…

In 2007 I came across Cisco Support Community (used to be called Cisco “Netpro”) at that time there was no Cisco Learning Network CLN as I remember.

I found many topics, many people with different levels discussing real life technical topics and issues as well as sharing knowledge and experiences for learning. Since then I started participating in these communities/forums.

In 2012 and 2014 I was selected as a VIP Cisco Support Community also known as CSC, based on people’s rating to the responses (requires 100s of good rated Reponses!)

So, what was the motivation for me to do so at that time?

  • First and mainly, is learning – more specifically “continuous learning”
  • Second, sharing knowledge with others

You may think, also to obtain the VIP title, well the first time I was selected as VIP I even didn’t know for more than a month because it was not my focus ! however I can tell you it is worth it to gain such a title because it means a lot and I strongly encourage you to gain such a title.

As mentioned earlier an expert, is someone has done all the possible mistakes, however it is not practical or even possible to do that even if you want to. The best way to achieve the same is to learn from others’ mistakes, and this is what makes Cisco Communities unique place for learning. Because you will have visibility to a hug amount of questions, cases, requirements, mistakes, technical issues, limitations etc. by time, it will enable you to become an expert.

Personally when I started preparing for the CCDE I had an exposure to a large number of scenarios, use cases etc. from my work experience as well as from my participation in Cisco Communities. This, saved me a hug amount of time and efforts.

Today Cisco Communities become larger, more developed and specialized:


Keep in mind the learning through these communities is not a temporally goal that you do it only for a week or couple of months. You need to make it a habit. I used to visit it at least once a day for few years.

It is like when you go to the GYM and you want to achieve a certain level of fitness or body shape

You can do it very quickly – take some medicines that may help you to achieve your goal quickly “but, temporary”, and it will be associated with a lot of bad side effects.

This is like someone trying to cheat by looking here and there to find exam dumps to pass the exam. He/she may pass the exam; however, the first interview will reveal the truth! so what is the value of the certification in this case?

The other option, you can go regularly to the GYM and change your eating habits to make it lifestyle. With this approach you may take longer to achieve your goal, but you will always stay in shape.

This is what you can achieve in your learning, if you make the visiting and participation in Cisco communities your habit.

Last but not least, from my experience, the learning you gain through Cisco Communities (Cisco Support Community and Cisco Learning Network) is way much better than any training course, because

  • It is always available and interactive with others
  • You have the chance to interact with industry’s SMEs, even from Cisco
  • You will have visibility to a hug number of scenarios
  • Well Structured, by technology and also by goal (e.g. Cisco Learning Network mainly focus on Cisco certifications)
  • You can connect with people over there to help you answer your learning and real life questions
  • Access to a large number of technical documents and blogs, such as the Unleashing CCDE blog series
  • It is free 🙂
Categories :
Marwan Al-shawi – CCDE No. 20130066, Google Cloud Certified Architect, AWS Certified Solutions Architect, Cisco Press author (author of the Top Cisco Certifications’ Design Books “CCDE Study Guide and the upcoming CCDP Arch 4th Edition”). He is Experienced Technical Architect. Marwan has been in the networking industry for more than 12 years and has been involved in architecting, designing, and implementing various large-scale networks, some of which are global service provider-grade networks. Marwan holds a Master of Science degree in internetworking from the University of Technology, Sydney. Marwan enjoys helping and assessing others, Therefore, he was selected as a Cisco Designated VIP by the Cisco Support Community (CSC) (official Cisco Systems forums) in 2012, and by the Solutions and Architectures subcommunity in 2014. In addition, Marwan was selected as a member of the Cisco Champions program in 2015 and 2016.


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