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The IT Training and Experience you didn’t know you needed [CCNA & FSNA]

The IT Training and Experience you didn’t know you needed [CCNA & FSNA]

New: Real-World & Skills-Based IT Certifications 

So you want to know what IT certification you should be spending your valuable time on. Let’s lay out some reasons why you want to get certified in the first place. 

  1. To make yourself competitive so you can finally receive that promotion from your helpdesk role and level up the ranks of IT. 
  2. Validation of skills a potential employer defines in a job description, like “Dynamic Routing Protocols, EIGRP and OSPF”. 
  3. Cisco Partner Professional Services certification requirements – Some partners rely on engineers to earn specific certifications (i.e. CCNA) but also require specialist certifications, like Cisco IOS WAN Specialist or Enterprise Wireless Specialist. 

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In the world of IT certifications, many of them are geared towards a trivial understanding of the topics listed on the blueprints. I mean, how many different ways can you answer a question about EIGRP or OSPF? Well, the truth is there’s plenty of ways if you know them well enough. 

But what does it prove to an employer finding a candidate that has CCNA, CCNP, VCP, MCP, NSE4, CCIE, JNCIE, MCSE? 

It says a person has spent a lot of time learning about different technologies on different vendors’ equipment. If you were to see my alphabet soup it would like this, CCNA R&S, CCNA Security, CCNA Wireless, CCNP R&S, CCNP SP, CCIE, VCP, NSE1, NSE2, FSNA, FSNP . 

And quite frankly, to anyone fresh to IT, no one blames you for asking where the heck to start and wondering which bowl of soup looks the most appetizing to an employer. Don’t stress too heavily on which IT certification you should start with or which one you should get next, that’s why we’re here to help.

Let’s lay out some facts about the certifications themselves and how they matter. We’ll start with perhaps the most common.


Cisco CCNA (200-301)

Cisco CCNA 200-301
Cisco CCNA training

CCNA is a 100 question, question/answer exam. It’s mostly multiple choice answers to a single question. Clicking on radio buttons or checking boxes to answer the questions. It requires you to be knowledgeable about the topics listed on the blueprint, even the ones that aren’t explicitly defined, like EIGRP, VTP, LISP and VXLAN, still better know them! For additional details on the CCNA 200-301 and the inside scoop on the exam, watch this video. The issue with the CCNA, is it isn’t an exam that looks for the candidate to be “strong” in implementing Cisco IOS networks but mainly knowledgeable on the technologies. 

So what does that say about the CCNA, is it worth it? 

YES!!!! Even though it doesn’t test you on configuring the topics listed, if you’re not testing the topics out on the CLI, then you’re not doing enough to earn the value that the CCNA grants you when you pass. 

The key to earning your CCNA is to find a training course by a reliable provider and spending about 45-90 days (depending on your commitment) learning concepts before scheduling an exam. We’ll revisit this again in a minute.


Cisco CCNP (ENCOR 350-401, ENARSI 300-410)

CCNP is 2 exams, the Core exam and 1 concentration. The Core exam is a 100 question, question/answer exam. Like the CCNA, it’s mostly multiple choice answers to a single question. The ENCOR exam is the CCIE Written exam replacement, which is why it’s 100 questions, it is the equivalent of CCNP Route and Switch from the previous version of the exams. But you’re not required to configure anything. 

The ENARSI exam is 90 minutes long and is the replacement for the CCNP TSHOOT exam from the previous version of the exam. This exam does require you to be interactive, resolve issues, answer questions, drag and drop, etc. This is the first exam you have to know how to configure something. 


What Are The FSNA and FSNP?

If you’re new to networking, I could assume you skipped past my alphabet soup of certifications I listed earlier instead of reading each letter. But if you’re familiar with these certs, and acknowledged each one, you may have wondered what the FSNA & FSNP certifications are? 

Let’s break down the FSNA and FSNP, NexGenT’s certification portfolios so far, with more to come in the future! 

Unlike the CCNA and CCNP exams, these exams are very lab focused, so focused in fact that we don’t call them exams, we call them SQCs! 

Wait, what? SQC is Skills Qualification Check, in other words, if you don’t know how to configure something that you are being tasked with configuring based on the requirements of the SQC, you’ll lose points for not implementing it. 

“Hey! This sounds an awful lot like the CCIE Lab exam.” It is in fact, except we’re not testing any really crazy routing designs to make your head spin. 

The goal of the SQC for the FSNA and FSNP isn’t to test your trivia knowledge on a topic, it’s to see if you can get a network built, tested and verified working. At the end of the day, you need to be able to deliver technical solutions to business challenges. The FSNA and FSNP are real-world skills certifications.

Now that you have a general idea of the certifications, let’s discuss how they are delivered. Guess what, they aren’t full of trivia information, you get enough of that in CCNA and CCNP. 

These certifications are project focused, meaning we present you with a project that you will be tasked with delivering to a fictitious company. 

“Hey! This sounds like what I do in the real world!” Exactly! Welcome to real-world training!

There are currently 3 projects, with more in the pipeline to come. The first one is the Full Stack Networking Project or FSN Project, the second is the Cisco ASA SSL VPN Project and the third is the Colocation Data Center Project.

The SQCs are the big differences between FSNA/FSNP and CCNA/CCNP. They are Skills checks, meaning you are required to meet a certain standard in order to pass. The FSNA is the Full Stack Network Associate, which is geared towards the entry level understanding of IP enabled networks. The FSNP is the Full Stack Network Professional, which is geared towards more advanced networking at a larger scale for more real world applications.

Both the FSNA and FSNP are hands-on, lab-based tests. The candidate is required to configure a network to a certain set of requirements to meet the needs of the business. The reason why this is a huge differentiator is that you have to know how to get things working AND know what the technologies are


The Full Stack Network Engineer (FSNE) program is comprised of two stages in which the FSNA and FSNP certifications are awarded.

  1. FSNE Basic Training (FSNA + CCNA certifications)

In FSNE Basic training you learn how networking works starting with the Full Stack Network Associate course. You’ll earn the FSNA certification through doing your Skills Qualification Check (SCQ) in the FSNA Lab and also taking the FSNA Written Exam. During the last half of FSNE Basic Training you’ll learn additional topics and labs related to the CCNA and then study for and knock out that exam.

A quick look at the introduction to the FSNE program
  1. FSNE Advanced Training (FSNP certification)

 You’ll then be promoted to Advanced Training. You’ll go through the 3 projects and the Advanced Training FSNP SQC. (You want real-world experience? We’re giving you the closest thing possible!) The SQC in Advanced Training is much more involved and is broken down into three sections. The goal is to fully test a candidate in all aspects of the network engineering role that they might see. 

  • The first section is troubleshooting, you’ll have 5 tickets to resolve as if you were a consultant or engineer working for an organization where something is not working. 
  • The second section is the deployment, where you’ll be tasked with rolling out a new branch office, router/switch/access point/PCs/phone and server and get it all working from scratch. 
  • The third section is configuration, where you’ll be given a list of tasks to complete. Some of these tasks were started by someone else who was reassigned to another project and other tasks are set up from scratch in the existing network. 

After successful completion of the above tasks, the candidate is granted the FSNP. By the time every student is done with Basic and Advanced Training, they will have earned the FSNA, CCNA, and FSNP. They will be job ready and well versed in networking. This will set them up well for follow on training like CCNP or other tracks they might want to dive into. 

Although these certifications may be new to the industry, imagine the interview where you sit down in an employers office and explain how you’ve worked on three projects connecting an organization’s sites together! By taking advantage of the program that these projects were built from, you’ll have much more experience building networks than their helpdesk guy, Tom, who’s been waiting to get internally promoted for the last 4 years. 

If you want to make yourself the most competitive candidate during your job hunt, you can utilize our real-word skills certifications and training programs to help you truly standout and become job-ready.




NexGenT at Cisco Live 2019

NexGenT at Cisco Live 2019

Wow! NexGenT was excited to be there as Cisco Live celebrated its 30 year anniversary this year and they spared no expense. How big was Cisco Live 19? 28,000 attendees, 1.2 million online views, 45,000 unique devices connected and 75,000 TB of data passed through their network which was a new record. To say the event was big, would be an understatement. It definitely was the place to be in the IT industry!

There was no shortage of big announcements at Cisco Live 19, either. From the opening keynote by Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco, everyone knew Cisco is poised to move into the next decade with aggressive innovation that will lead the IT industry into the Internet of the Future. Then Cisco’s VPs took over and set the stage for the week and what Cisco would showcase. David Goeckler, EVP/GM, Network and Security, provide exciting insight into where Cisco is going as he announced the use of Software Defined Networking over Multi-domain architecture to provide the ability for the separate domains at the Access Layer, the WAN and in the Cloud to operate as one. With this technology the Network Engineer will be able to automate all the way from the user to the application across the entire network. Then Scott Harrell, SVP/GM, Enterprise Networking Solutions, introduced us to WIFI 6 and 5G and how Cisco is using those to expand the campus network. Sacha Gupta, SVP, Product Management, followed up Scott by showing us how Cisco DNA would be implementing AI and Machine Learning to help Network Engineers be able to quickly and accurately diagnose problems in the network and resolve them through the use of anomaly detection automatic packet capture to show what was happening when the user was experiencing issues. He proceeded to explain how in the coming months Cisco will provide the innovative capability of Machine Reasoning that will actually identify the anomalies in your network based on your specific setup and use case. The keynote went into how Cisco is preparing for a post Quantum computing world. Basically, the current encryption methods we use will be defeated easily by the quantum computer and it is imperative that we make our encryption stronger before the quantum computer is realized. The technology is getting so smart it is mind blowing!

Chuck Robbins finished up the opening keynote with probably the biggest announcement of all as he unveiled Cisco’s New Certification Suite. The current engineering suite is being completely restructured and they are adding an all new software suite known as the DevNet Certification. This certification will be for software developers in the area of DevOps.

NexGenT co-founder, Jacob Hess, was able to get a thorough break down of all of the changes to the Engineering Certifications from the Product Manager for Cisco Certifications, Greg Cote. Check it out the video at the link below.

We were also able to get an in depth interview with Ryan Rose, Cisco DevNet Certification Developer. Now, NexGenT can better understand what the DevNet Certification is and how to train people on it. C video coming soon that will provide the detailed information.

After the Opening Keynote NexGenT was able to get exclusive access to the World of Solutions at the Cisco Showcase. We got a private tour of the Network Operation Center by the Network Architect in charge of designing the entire Cisco Live 19 Network, David Hunt. He walked us through the network which spanned not only the San Diego Convention Center, but also reached to the surrounding hotels at the Marriott and Hyatt. He further explained how they had basically taken over the wireless access points in the convention center so they could provide a great network experience to all 28,000 attendees. Full video breakdown below.

After that we were able to walk the entire showcase floor all by ourselves. For us, it was like a kids in a candy store, as we really got to “Geek Out!”

We learned all about WiFi 6 and 5G. We found out that these two exciting new technologies are not necessarily competing, but are great compliments if used correctly. WiFi 6 will greatly increase wireless capabilities within buildings and the surrounding areas and 5G will give you increased functionality when you are on the go and don’t really have the ability to connect to a WiFi access point. Cisco is offering WiFi 6 capable access points today. We actually were able to get an interview with Cisco’s Product Manager for WiFi 6. Watch the video to learn more.

It was also really exciting to see how Cisco partners with other vendors to provide innovative solutions. Companies like Google, Dell, Pure Storage and Net App. We actually got up close and personal with two of the solutions. One other partnership we learned about is how Cisco partnered with the City of New Orleans. Using Cisco products like DNA center, routers, and cameras they worked with the city to help reduce crime. We found out that through this partnership crime has decreased to the lowest it has been since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city. We spoke with the account manager for this solution and she provided some passionate, inspired insights. You have to see this video!

Cisco Live 19 was a fantastic experience for NexGenT. We had a lot of fun and learned a whole lot! If you want to see where the industry is going Cisco Live is definitely the place to go. Next year they will be in Las Vegas and we cannot wait to see what new innovations they have to announce! Maybe NexGenT will see you there.