Wendell’s CCNA Timeline with: Learning@Cisco, CLUS, Cisco Press, & Wife

By certskills April 13, 2018 09:05

Today’s post gets to my personal history with CCNA, touching on some historical tidbits that I hope you’ll find interesting. I’ve included many memories and some nostalgia. Those of you who have enjoyed part of your CCNA journey with me (or at least my products) might enjoy a stroll down this memory lane. Those of you who only care about the current exams, well, look for the other posts in this blog!

Quick Aside: Previous and Next CCNA Anniversary Posts

Before getting into the details, let me summarize where we are in this CCNA Anniversary series:

  1. The first post asked some poll questions to give us some data about you and your CCNA history.
  2. This post is #2!
  3. Next week, I’ll get into a retrospective on CCNA topics, and circle back to those polls from post #1.

On with today’s topic!


Learning@Cisco in the Mid-1990s

For those that did not know, Cisco Business Unit called Learning@Cisco owns the Cisco certifications, along with the mission to develop most of the formal Cisco training courses. When thinking back to their announcement of CCNA and CCNP in 1998, it helps to look back at training inside and outside Cisco in the mid-1990s.

First, Cisco announced their first certification, CCIE, in 1993. Internally, that certification came from the Cisco Services organization rather than the training organization that later became Learning@Cisco. Eventually, Learning@Cisco took over the CCIE program as well (I think in the early 2000s – feel free to tell me the year if you know.) But between 1993 and 1998, Cisco continued to revise the CCIE certification and add specializations (for instance, CCIE SNA), with CCIE being their only certification at that point.

The early-to-mid-1990s also saw massive growth in IT and the Internet, with a growing IT certification space, particularly with Novell (which held the market share lead in the server software market) and then with Microsoft (which overtook Novell’s market position over time). It seemed inevitable that Cisco would introduce additional certifications. Cisco did just that in 1998 with CCNA and CCNP as the first professional level certifications from Cisco.

Fast forwarding until today, Cisco has added to, changed, and even retired some CCNA, CCNP, and CCIE certifications. Of note:

  • CCNA Routing and Switching remained as the only CCNA certification for their first 10 years.
  • CCNA R&S exam 200-125 is the 7threvision of CCNA R&S with a different exam number.
  • As of 2018, there were: nine different CCNA certifications, seven different CCNP certifications, and six different CCIE certifications.

My own story weaves in and around Learning@Cisco and their certifications as well. I taught courses for one of the original Cisco Learning Partners back in the mid-1990s as one of the first Cisco Systems Certified Instructors (CCSIs). As long as we’re waxing nostalgic, I recall six (yes six) total courses in the Cisco course lineup when I first started teaching back in 1994 (but there may have been a few more). Now Learning@Cisco produces too many courses to count!


20 Years of Cisco Live and Certification Announcements

My CCNA story also weaves in and around Cisco Live events as well. Cisco Live is wonderful! Truly. I’ve been almost 20 times, mostly on my own dime. Enough said.

For several years back in the 1990s, Cisco held two Cisco Live US (CLUS) events: East and West. Learning@Cisco announced CCNA and CCNP at the 1998 CLUS East (Philadelphia), and I learned about the certifications at the show. Note the CCNA and CCNP names didn’t include “Routing and Switching” yet, given that Cisco announced a single CCNA and single CCNP certification at that time. With the announcement, the first Cisco certification pyramid was born, showing CCNA, CCNP, and CCIE.

Making new contacts and finding new opportunities can be one of the best benefits of going to CLUS. For me, being at CLUS helped me make a career-changing contact. Many of the regular attendees to the show comment that meeting new people and connecting with people they already know are the #1 reasons to be at the show.

Cisco Live is in its 29thyear now – check out this link for some cool memorabilia. And you can read more CLUS and why to attend from the blog posts at this page.


20+ Years of Cisco Press at CLUS

Next, let’s take a brief look at Cisco Press in the context of the CLUS show.

CLUS lets partners and cooperating companies set up booths at the show. Most of those booths sit in the World of Solutions (WoS). There’s also a bookstore, with books (surprise), as well as apparel and other souvenirs. Cisco Press has had some space at CLUS since about 1997, usually at the bookstore, sometimes at the WoS, and a few times at both. For perspective, the 2018 CLUS WoS, looks like an approximate 400,000 square feet of space. In comparison, the 1998 CLUS East WoS (it probably was not called that yet) looked like this:

  • Approximately 2000 square feet based on my 20-year-old memories – small enough to play catch standing at opposite ends of the room.
  • It held maybe 10-20 small booths.
  • The Cisco Press booth at the 1998 CLUS WoS – the second year Cisco Press came to the CLUS show – was the size of a small desk, maybe 2 by 4 feet.
  • The Cisco Press booth held the entire Cisco Press lineup of 5 or 6 books at the time.

Now back to the future. For those of you who haven’t managed to get to Cisco Live, these days Cisco Press works the CLUS bookstore, with tons of books available to browse. I’d guess the book area of the bookstore takes 1500 square feet or so. The Cisco Press brand has produced about 1300 titles over its 22 years. (Here’s a photo of the CLUS 2017 Book Store book section.)


Connecting Wendell and Cisco Press at CLUS over Learning@Cisco Announcement, 20 Years Ago

Now comes the story of how I connected with Cisco Press. That small tabletop for the Cisco Press booth at the 1998 CLUS held one copy each of the Cisco Press book lineup, and one little placard. The placard was the size of a business card, and easily overlooked. It said something like: “Want to write for us? Call Jim, 317-zzz-zzzz”, or something like that. After the show, the process ran something like this:

  • Called Jim (and then his replacement John) until we could finally get on the phone together.
  • Convinced them I knew networking (CCIE #1624 helped, to be sure; CCSI and teaching Cisco courses helped as well)
  • Once convinced, John asked a question like this: “Hey, now that we think you’ll be a good candidate… which of these Cisco certification books would you like to write? You can pick!” (Really)
  • Picked CCNA.
  • Signed the contract.
  • Wrote the first Cisco Press Official Cert Guide, late summer/fall 1998.

So, while this month marks 20 years of CCNA, 1998 also marks 20 years since I first started with Cisco Press. It’s been an incredible ride. I’ve collaborated with them on 30+ book editions and several other video and software projects. They’ve been great to me personally – many thanks to the folks at Cisco Press, present and past!


20 Years of CCNA, 20 Years of Marriage

Hopefully, you found the walk down memory lane interesting. Somewhere along the way, you might have wondered how I recall some of the dates so well. One reason: Cisco announced CCNA in the short months between when I got engaged and got married to my wife Kris back in 1998. And my choice to write about CCNA was partly motivated by our plans to get married!

Backing up a bit, I spent the early and middle parts of the 1990s teaching and consulting, traveling on average 60% of the work days each year. I got engaged to Kris in January 1998, and soon afterwards began a stretch of traveling 7 out of the next 8 weeks to teach some classes. Even before that stretch I knew that I needed to be home a lot more, especially in our first year of marriage, so I had been doing a lot of thinking, talking, and praying about what to do next.

Oh yeah, CLUS 1998 was in April, did I mention that?

So, the story goes something like this: I get through that travel stretch, go to the CLUS show, and see the Cisco Press table. I glanced through the “Internet Routing Architectures” book by Sam Halabi (their first book). I then see that little placard that said to call Jim if you want to write for us. Hmmm… I could write a book and teach/consult a little less. Maybe I could do that, be home more, while we figure out whether I need to get a real job that keeps me in town or make some other plan.

I didn’t set about with a plan to write every edition of the CCNA Official Cert Guides spread over 20 years – I just set about to have a great beginning to my marriage and tried to make my work life accommodate that plan. And Kris has been there every step of the way, always encouraging me through the process!

Circling back to 2018, for the first time this year, Kris (and daughter) plan to join in my annual trip to CLUS. CLUS happens to occur the week after our 20th wedding anniversary. I’ll probably catch a few of the Orlando parks with the family, and then be off to CLUS. Hope to see you at CLUS – or maybe at one of the Orlando parks!


Happy 20th Anniversary CCNA!
#CCNA Exam Topics - First 20 Years, and Next Steps
By certskills April 13, 2018 09:05
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  1. Ken Fee (@kenfee42) April 13, 09:54

    Congrats Wendell!! I remember meeting you circa 1998/1999 when I was still at convergent. Time flies.

    Reply to this comment
    • certskills Author April 13, 11:02

      Good memory, Ken! I miss the ATL… until I get passed like I’m standing still while going 75 on the highway. 🙂 Time does fly! Look for you at CLUS again this year!

      Reply to this comment
  2. Aubrey April 13, 11:21

    Interesting that the official announcement of the CCNA/CCNP was in 1998 when the very first steps of the Cisco Networking Academy were taken in ’97. And by ’98 institutions and colleges all over the world were picking it up. The Australian college that I was employed at signed on in that year, 1998. The development of the Academy and Cisco certs have been in tandem for those 20 years. I’ve also been to a few Cisco Networkers/Cisco Live! AsiaPac events here over the years too (no where near 20 though) – highly recommended that every networker attend at least one!.

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