Hard work, self-study lead to certification success

Network engineer Chris Bryant is riding certification toward the top of his profession. Read how he's using these hot credentials to reach new career heights.

Vital Statistics
Name: Christopher Bryant
Age: 38
Certifications Held:
  • CCNP, Routing And Switching
  • MCSE, NT 4.0
  • MCP + I
  • CNE, Netware 5
  • CNE, Netware 4
  • CNA, Netware 3
    Location: Virginia
    Employer: Sycom Technologies
    Favorite Study Method: Reading and hands-on, with classes as required
    Hobbies: Roller coasters and the Miami Dolphins NFL team
  • Chris Bryant
    Chris Bryant

    If you're looking for certified network engineer Chris Bryant, you might try your local amusement park and check its most death-defying roller coaster. Bryant prefers to be in one of two places: on a roller coaster or deep inside a network router. Since he's accumulated his impressive list of certifications, Bryant's life has seen more ups than downs, no matter which location he happens to be in at the time.

    Bryant recently toted his certification collection to Virginia-based Sycom Technologies, a recent winner of the Virginia Entrepreneur Of The Year 2000 award. As a Sycom consultant, he is currently working with a large electric utility to standardize and synchronize their network procedures and policies. It's a job that allows him the opportunity to work with both Novell and NT 4.0.

    Bryant earned his CNA 3.11 in January of 1997. He completed the 4.11 in December of that year, and finished the CNE in July, 1998. He took a breather from the certification track, then completed the MCSE in July, 1999. On a roll, Bryant then took on Cisco, getting the CCNA in August, 1999 and then completing the CCNP in March of this year. Like a rapidly rising roller coaster car, he has since picked up the Novell 5 upgrade.

    His ride isn't over. According to the colorful Bryant, My only goal right now is the CCIE. I really enjoy working with Cisco products, and I also welcome the challenge that this program offers. I recently passed the CCIE written exam and am currently assembling routers and switches to build a lab to prepare for the next portion of the program. It will be a tremendous amount of hard work, but I look forward to it.

    Bryant continues, I also want the CCSI. I enjoy helping others achieve certification and would love to teach Cisco classes one day. On top of that, I want to edit and write study guides and technical manuals. I'm just getting started!

    Chris found his success through a regimen of self-study. Says Chris, To this point, I've achieved my certifications almost strictly through self-study. When I was working on the MCSE and CNE, I set up a server and workstation in my home lab, saw what worked and saw what didn't. My favorite method of learning is breaking something and fixing it, which doesn't go over too well in the workplace!

    It's even more important to be able to do that when you're working with Cisco products. I picked up a couple of routers off the Web when I started working with Cisco, and quickly found I enjoyed working with routers more than I did servers. I achieved my CCNA and CCNP with a combination of book study and hands-on lab experience.

    When pressed about the value of formal classes, Bryant says, I have attended only one class, the Novell 4.11 CNA class, which was paid for by my employer at that time. As I said, my feeling is that if I have a good book and the equipment, I have the discipline to learn the material on my own. I am definitely not talking down trainers; I know I'll be taking some classes to get ready for the CCIE lab.

    For Novell, I used course guides I bought off the Internet and worked through them with a server and workstation I set up at home. For NT, I primarily used Alan Carter's outstanding MCSE Study Guide, which I still use to this day. For Cisco, I primarily stick with Cisco Press books, although as I prepare for the IE lab, I'm using books from just about everyone!

    Bryant offers some solid advice to newcomers. Don't try to get rich immediately. Make sure you have some hands-on experience with the product you're becoming certified with, whether it's on the job or in a lab setting. The newer cert exams are designed to weed out those who only memorized some facts. While I'm a big believer in understanding theory, to be successful, you do have to know what you're doing when you're working with the product.

    And, finally, with a serious tone, Chris Bryant says, There is no field in the world that rewards knowledge, experience, and hard work like information technology. No, it is not always easy to break in, but nothing worthwhile is easy. I have more than tripled my salary in just 40 months in the field. You're not going to do that anywhere else. It is hard work, and I have worked a great deal to get where I am, but it has all been worth it. I wouldn't trade careers with anyone.

    Not even with the guy who runs the roller coaster.






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