CWNP: Are Neutral Wireless Experts Important? – with Kevin Sandlin

by Mirek Burnejko

Kevin SandlinThis is an interview with Kevin Sandlin, the CEO of CWNP (Certified Wireless Network Professional). CWNP is an amazing company that develops neutral IT certifications for wireless experts.

In this interview you will find:

  • Why everyone should learn more about Wi-Fi?
  • What materials are the best for self-study trainings?
  • Do employers need engineers with CWNP certifications?
  • What other certifications you should pass to become even better wireless expert?


IT Certification Master: Hello Kevin. Tell us something about CWNP and your role in the organization.

Kevin Sandlin: I co-founded CWNP in 1999 and have been leading the organization since then. CWNP is a privately held company based in Atlanta GA. We offer 6 career certifications from novice to expert focused specifically on Wi-Fi/802.11 technologies.

ICM: Can you tell us about beginnings of CWNP. What was the first certification in your portfolio?

KS: We launched the first CWNA exam in July of 2001. Our first press conference was scheduled for Networld+Interop at 9:30am on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Didn’t happen. Since 2001, we’ve launched or upgraded a new certification just about every year. We create all the exam items, practice tests, and courseware, while Sybex publishes the official study guides.

ICM: Who should start with the CWNP certifications? Beginners in the wireless world or maybe experts from vendors

KS: Any networking professional today should, at the very least, learn the basics of Wi-Fi. No matter what area of computer networking you live in, Wi-Fi touches it today, or will touch it tomorrow. Ethernet is not going away, but the access/edge technology of choice is clearly Wi-Fi, and that changes how any networker approaches the network.

ICM: Cisco, Aruba, HP, Aerochive have their own certifications. Even Huawei wants to start its own wireless path. Why we should start thinking about your neutral certification system?

KS: Yes, all their cert programs are great, and very necessary. If you work in a Cisco shop or Aruba shop, you should get those certifications. You must know the product you work with very, very well. That said, if you know a certain vendor’s products like the back of your hand, and you haven’t a clue about 802.11 technology – how it’s supposed to work – then you are at a significant disadvantage to the next guy who comes in, or if your ‘shop’ changes Wi-Fi vendors or adds Wi-Fi vendors or you change shops.

IT pros who are CWNP certified understand the 802.11 technologies that every Wi-Fi vendor implements in their products. How often is any organization limited to one single Wi-Fi vendor’s equipment? It happens, but it’s rare.

ICM: Where we can prepare for the certifications? Do we need any lab, trainings or maybe books will be ok?

KS: About 70% of our audience self-studies using the Sybex official study guides and our official practice tests. The remaining 30% are able to take an authorized training class. Self-study can get you through the exam, but in-class training is by far the more efficient way to go, if you have the budget.

ICM: I really want to talk about your expert certification. We had it on our list of the hardest IT certifications to get. Tell us who should start thinking about the CWNE certification?

KS: Anyone who sees Wi-Fi as their focal point in their computer networking career should seek CWNE. Many need to know Wi-Fi, but it’s not the core focus of their daily job, and it may never be. But to those whose daily life is Wi-Fi, and who love it that way, CWNE is the most rewarding challenge they can take on. CWNE requires CWNA, CWSP, CWDP, CWAP, and a significant amount of experience directly in Wi-Fi.

ICM: How many these experts we have around the world?

KS: 89

ICM: Do employers need wireless engineers with the CWNP certifications?

CWNPKS: No, they don’t, and we’ll be shutting our doors next week. That’s a joke, but I hope my point is made. We’ve been offering Wi-Fi certifications for 10+ years now. We have certified IT pros in 140 countries. Dozens of Wi-Fi hardware and software manufacturers value CWNP certifications for their employees. Wi-Fi is here, and it’s growing like crazy, and every day someone finds a new application for Wi-Fi.

Just a couple of years ago, who would have thought that the cell carriers would want to off-load their data and perhaps even their voice traffic on to Wi-Fi networks? In 2011, ATT has reported that they increased their hot-spot Wi-Fi connections to over 3 BILLION/year. HotSpot2.0 (aka 802.11u) is rapidly becoming a reality. Someone has to install and manage all these Wi-Fi networks.

ICM: Are all these certifications valid lifelong?

KS: CWTS is a lifetime certification. All other CWNP certifications require re-certification by passing the most current exam within 3 years. CWNE requires passing ONE of our professional level exams – CWSP, CWDP, or CWAP – every three years.

ICM: The most important question. Wireless standards still evolve. Do you have plan in 2012 to upgrade the certification system or add any new levels? Design Expert, Architect?

KS: Yes. We’ll be updating both the CWNA and CWTS certification exams, courseware, practice exams, and study guides (Sybex) this year, precisely for that reason: Wi-Fi is constantly changing.

ICM: We want to create the best wireless/mobile expert in the world. Which certifications (additional to yours) he/she should obtain?

KS: Definitely a core networking certification from Cisco (CCNA) or CompTIA (Net+) and a networking security certification, in addition to CWSP. That’s why we require at least 2 other networking certifications for CWNE.

ICM: The last question. What do you think in general about IT certifications, specially for the wireless world. Don’t you think we have too many certifications?

KS: Certifications are our business, so we’re biased. We think 100% of all networking professionals worldwide should have our certifications…all of them. 🙂 Certifications are a solid measurement of knowledge. Obtaining any certification demonstrates that the individual has the guts to go for it, the aptitude to learn it, and willingness to sacrifice time to study it, the ability to retain it, and the humility to admit that they might not know everything there is to know about a subject. Certifications are good. Do we have too many? The market will always make that clear. If a certification is not needed, it will go away.

[This is part of the Interviews with Vendors Series]