You could say I’ve been waiting a while to write this…so here goes…
Going back probably 7 or 8 years ago, my exposure to WiFi was primarily as the home IT admin (Dad, the WiFi is slow!) or serving as a project manager on WiFi related projects, and I loved getting into the weeds with my engineers.
Just about 6 years ago, I jumped to my current employer, first as a manager and eventually into my current role as Senior Wireless Architect. As the first title would imply, I managed a team of engineers and, through that experience, was inspired to become more technical again-for a variety of reasons.
As with many other current WiFi engineers, it seemed few people wanted to support it, though everyone of course wants it to work. So in 2013, right as I started, my then-VP saw me as the guy who got to deal with it-because I was new, and couldn’t say no. Didn’t know then how it would alter my career, but if he were alive today I’d thank him.
I was fortunate to have an excellent vendor SME on our team. He was the one who introduced me to the concept of a CWNE-he is both a CCIE-W and a CWNE, and I became curious, and that allowed me to discover and target CWNA. For a number of reasons, it seemed like a good move, even as a then-manager. I wanted to be more technical, and we had a small team with a lot of WiFi, so getting smarter about it just made sense. So back in 2017, I took my CWNA boot camp at my first WLPC. I enjoyed it, I learned a lot, and it scratched a part of my brain I guess I didn’t know needed attention.
In August of 2017, I finally ended up taking and passing my CWNA exam. Initially, the general consensus was that would be it-I’d be a manager with a decent WiFi cert, and it would suffice.
Then my role and team changed, and I became a lot more motivated to grow. CWDP was next, and I knocked that out in 2018, sans boot camp (though I really wanted, and still want, to take one). At the tail end of 2018, I squeezed in a CCNA R/S bootcamp with @mrncciew himself (Rasika!), and in February of 2019, I knocked out my CCENT, the first half of that cert.
Also in February, I was fortunate enough to attend a CWAP bootcamp at WLPC, led by the esteemed Peter McKenzie. If you have not attended one of his classes, let me be the millionth person to recommend you do so. In my class alone, there were several CWNE whom were sitting it because Peter is just that good.
A couple months past WLPC, I passed my CWAP-I had but one cert left to go. To be honest, in my head, my thinking was 2019 for CWAP and 2020 get CWSP as a boot camp at WLPC. But there were a few chats along the way that changed my thinking.
First, I was fortunate enough to grab ten minutes, at WLPC, with Keith Parsons-just to talk about a myriad of things, certifications chief among them. He said he expected I could complete things before the end of the year, or certainly in time for WLPC 2020. Until that point, I really had not give it a thought.
Then I got a bit more serious. I had been talking with several folks within the community, though I reached out to a few I trusted and knew better than most, and asked for them to help steer me the rest of the way through things. One was that vendor SME I mentioned earlier, the other was Chris Avants. Any time I had a question, felt stuck or just needed a nudge, they were there. It’s also worth stating, having this kind of mentor, especially starting early on, helps immensely when it comes time to submit for your CWNE….
So, with just CWSP left…I decided to self-study and take a shot at it. I gave myself a bit of a break at the beginning of the summer, and by August, I felt ready enough to sit for the SP…and I passed. It was time to prep essays and all that fun stuff.
So I got to my writing, and lined up the various documents needed to show the prerequisites in order to submit for CWNE.
Then WiFi Trek happened, and the long-awaited CWNE application revamp became officially a thing. That e-mail I had in draft became kinda null and void, and in speaking with the fine folks at CWNP, I was advised to just hold off a couple days and submit via the new form. So, late Sunday night, September 22nd, I was able to do so. I say able to do so, because in order to submit your materials via the new form, all three of your recommendations need to have submitted to CWNP, and only then can you do your thing. (This is where having those mentors comes in handy…folks that have worked with you and guided you for your journey are absolutely qualified to vouch for your application).
So, I submitted everything I needed to submit…and I waited.
I’ll admit, I suck at waiting. The first few days, I hit refresh on that CWNE application status page probably a dozen times a day, maybe more. As week one bled into week two and then three, I did begin to check less frequently-in all honesty, they tell you the process can take a month or longer, depending on how busy the boards are and all that…so I admit I was kinda silly checking so often and so soon…but I couldn’t help myself!
Soooo….by the beginning of week 4, I had stopped refreshing it that much-maybe once a day, if that. In my head, I figured, my luck, I’d get the e-mail/call on Tuesday the 22nd-not because it had been a month, but because I was flying cross-country that day, and it would just be kinda funny that the bit of news I so badly wanted, would come to me when I was offline for a prolonged period of time.
I got off the plane, no emails. Didn’t think much of it.
Sat down in my hotel room later that evening, and the OCD in me kicked in-I needed to close a bunch of browser tabs, just because. Then I came across the CWNE status page, and was like, hmm…have not clicked it in a bit, let’s just see. And that is when I saw this…
So….sure…I don’t have my number (yet)…but I am super excited that everything I did paid off. I had a lot of help along the way, from my boot camp instructors, the various friends I’ve made through those boot camps and WLPC and elsewhere along the way. I wouldn’t have done it…couldn’t have done it…without each and every one of them (that list is long, but I trust they all know who they are…).
So while this particular journey is nearing it’s conclusion, until those numbers come in…it’s not quite completed. That said, it’s as good a time as any to pick that next area of learning and focus on that…could be wired networking…could maybe go vendor-specific…could finally crack open Python like I want to…but I’ve decided I can’t just stop now. I went a long time in my career without a single cert…and in the last three, I’ve tackled a lot of them-five thus far just in 2019. Not trying to become a slave to the certs…it’s the knowledge I crave more than anything else.
Looking back, I’ve done a lot of personal and professional growth in the last 5-6 years. Not everything went well, not everything was a smart move, but many have panned out. 6 years ago, I was an overweight, out of shape manager with fading technical skills. Now, I am 125 pounds lighter, an architect in the WiFi world and am able to say I am one of only ~340ish CWNEs around the globe. I totally recognize there are plenty of folks, with and without those letters, who are smarter than me…but I am more inspired than ever before to continually learn and grow and be a better me than I ever thought I could be.