IT Career JumpStart

Sep 22 2010   1:42PM GMT

Sometimes, you must resist the urge to combo

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

This morning I took a couple of minutes to clean out my Outlook folders, and found an interesting email in my spam folder where it had been mis-classified, probably because the message sender had crafted some text that made it look like a solicitation of sorts. In reality, the message originated from my Website and formulated a number of interesting questions — to which I also append my answers, before ruminating on a an entirely understandable but not always practical impulse that the questions clearly contain:

  • Is a CCNA by itself enough certification to provide an entree into the job market?
    Alas, no: the CCNA is really just a stepping-stone to other, more advanced Cisco credentials, as the author’s next question shows that he or she understands pretty well already.
  • Must I go on to earn a CCNP or some other more senior Cisco certification to gain any employment benefits?
    Alas, yes: a CCNP represents something between a checkbox item (something everybody needs to qualify for certain positions) to an outright differentiator (something somebody can use to gain an edge on otherwise similarly qualified job applications) when it comes to going after lots of various networking jobs (obviously, those with a strong focus on Cisco infrastructure elements).
  • I’m also pursuing a Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering. Is there some way I can combine my Cisco certs with my degree?
    Uhhh…gee…I dunno if this even makes sense, unless you’re going to get involved in the manufacture of networking equipment and even then the connection is more in the eyes of its pursuer than in any kind of obvious or even overt synergy. Without conducting deep research, or spending a lot of time in pondering this, my immediate impulse is to say “Here’s a case where you must go one way or the other, because there’s no obvious or easy way to do both together.”

But gosh, I certainly do “get” my interlocutor’s obvious wish that various aspects of one’s professional life interlock together, and that the resulting whole be at least equal to, if not more than, the sum of its constituent parts. All I can say, in chewing on this wish in light of the combination proposed — and lots of others I can think of, turning first and foremost to my own early-career transition from anthropology to computer science, once I realized the chances of gainful employment were much higher if I worked in the latter field, no matter how interesting and absorbing the former one might have been — is that sometimes our wishes for coherence and useful combinations of truly different and disparate things exceed our abilities to put those things together in workable fashion.

People invariably have lots of different interests, both personal and professional. Sometimes, we can reconcile and combine those interests to create something that pulls various things together, and sometimes we can’t. Honestly, I’m a bit stumped as to how one might really and truly go after a combination of chemical engineering and Cisco certification (ideas anyone?). And thus, because I can’t see a connection, I’m also bound to float the possiblity that it may be difficult or impossible to find such a connection and make it work.

That doesn’t mean my writer shouldn’t try; it only means that in asking me for advice on how to pursue such a connection I really can’t offer much useful information to help that process along. Maybe I’m overlooking something, whether obvious or otherwise, and in that case I hope my readers will post comments to help me remedy that deficit. I’d love to have grounds to offer better input than I have currently formulated, which is to say that it looks to me like the person must go down one path or the other — in other words, to bag the ChemE side and do (Cisco) networking, or to drop the (Cisco) networking and do ChemE instead.

Life is full of choices, and not all of them are easy ones. From my current vantage point, this is a branch in a decision tree, not a shared pathway. What do you think?

2  Comments on this Post

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  • 1989j
    i am a graduate and want to make career in IT. what certification would u suggest me that will help me to get int IT.
    0 pointsBadges:
  • Ed Tittel
    Dear Sir or Madam: There are hundreds to thousands of credentials that might help you get into IT. Without knowing more about your background and interests, the size of that field of possibilites makes it difficult to offer meaningful advice. If you'd care to tell me more about yourself and your interests, as well as your career plans and direction, I can probably help you with some input. Please consult my blog post: "7 Questions for Highly Effective Career or Certification Advice" ( so I can help you help me help you out! ;-) --Ed--
    14,085 pointsBadges:

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