From auto mechanic to internetworking ace

Can certification really be used to change careers, boost income, and increase professional satisfaction? Certified professional Ron Anthony says YES!

Ron Anthony
Age: 35
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Employer: Self-employed, contracts with CCPrep
Certifications Held: MCSE, NCP, CCNA, CCNP. Working on CCIE and CCDP. Plans to get CCSI.
Favorite Study Method: Hands-on. Understand the requirements of a certification, obtain the appropriate equipment, learn the equipment thoroughly. Test study and prep come after 100% familiarity with equipment.
Family: wife Sandy and two sons
Hobby: Learning about computers
Ron Anthony's life goal is to take excellent financial care of his wife and two small sons. To that end, he credits certification for making that dream a reality at the age of 35.

Ron's journey to certification success started far from the technical world--while he was earning a Bachelor of Religious Education degree from William Tyndale College, in Michigan. Ron started out repairing automobiles to pay his way through school, but it wasn't long before the lure of motherboards and PCI cards overwhelmed that of sheet metal and spray paint. And the tinkering moved from carburetors to computers.

As his interest in computers and networking grew, and he continued to build and repair systems, Ron learned what he needed to know to earn his first certification - Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) in 1997. To pass the first exams he relied more heavily on his hands-on experience than traditional test preparation. He quickly became hooked on certification, and in 1998, completed the exams necessary to become a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE).

The MCSE led to a better job, at Network Associates. There, he became involved with firewalls. This led to a new certification-Network Certified Professional in the Gauntlet Firewall, which Ron then taught to co-workers.

It wasn't long after that that a friend offered Ron an opportunity to train for a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification. This time the training, on Cisco routers and switches, was more formal. As part of his certification strategy, Ron purchased a few Cisco routers. This commitment cost him, in the short term, but paid for itself in the long term. After acquiring that certification, Ron attended a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) boot camp and, in 1999, added that certification to his growing resume.

To date, Ron has taken about twenty certification tests. "I have never considered myself a good test taker," Ron says. But looking back, Ron thinks that the tests were actually easier than he originally feared. "A test is just a test: it tells you where you are in your learning process. It points out weaknesses and strengths, so that failure just shows what you need to work on to pass," he says. Ron failed six of the test on his first attempt, but always came back and passed in the end. .

For individuals just starting down the road to certification, Ron offers the following advice:
  • Study to pass the test, but do it in conjunction with hands-on experience. There are thousands of people who can tell you the right answer, but cannot set up basic configurations, he says.
  • View all the tests you fail as pre-tests. Also, forget about your failures and focus on accomplishments.
  • Finally, maintain realistic expectations about advancement. This will come, but you must demonstrate hands-on skills and a track record as well as hold a certification.
At present, Ron is a Cisco instructor teaching CCNA and CCNP boot camps. He also writes the monthly subscriber issue for the CCPrep.com Web site. The technologies that he teaches cover a wide range of networking technologies, from LAN to WAN. They include Ethernet, Token Ring, FDDI, on the LAN side, and Frame-relay, ISDN some ATM LANE WAN technologies. Within these topologies, Ron teaches switching and routing which leads to many other topics from design to implementation.

But despite already achieving more than he originally envisioned, Ron isn't finished with certification yet. The next stops are the Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP) and the coveted Cisco Certified Internet Expert (CCIE) certifications. After that, he plans on pursing Cisco's instructor designation, Certified Cisco Systems Instructor (CCSI), an ambitious career path involving significant levels of dedication.

During his journey through the world of certification, Ron's pay has increased five times his original salary. He credits certification with changing his life and enabling early fulfillment of many of his long term goals, all within a few years of earning his first certification.






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