Experience, Education and Six CCIE Certifications – with Neil Moore

by Mirek Burnejko

Neil MooreThis is an interview with Neil Moore – a real expert.

Neil is a Cloud Strategist and Distinguished Technologist at Hewlett-Packard. Neil has on his account many IT Certifications including two HP Master ASE certifications, and 6 !!! CCIE certifications. Additionally, Neil’s preparing for his 7th and 8th CCIE.

Let’s find out what Neil thinks about certifications.

In this interview you will find out:

  • Do certifications help with senior level positions?
  • Is it a good idea to achieve CCIE, JNCIE and HP MASE?
  • Where should you start and what steps should you take?

IT Certification Master: Hello Neil. It’s a big pleasure to talk with a legend. Tell us where do you work and what certifications do you have.

Neil Moore: First off, I am honored to be asked for an interview. I am a Cloud strategist at HP and have been in the industry for a while, so some of the certifications I have are for companies that no longer exist. The ones that are most widely used these days are HP, Cisco, Vmware, Redhat and Microsoft.

ICM: What was your first IT certification and was it before or after your first IT job?

NM: My first certification was in the time of Novell 286. Back then, the course material was how you would learn about features. I had my first IT job before certifications were common. My first IT job was converting data formats from MainFrame to a format that could be read by a PC database. I find scripts and perl very useful even today.

ICM: How do certifications help with senior level positions, like what you do at HP?

NM: The certifications themselves did not make me a fit for the position I hold today. My business degree and understanding of how business works have become more important as I’ve moved into senior-level positions. The most important part of my job is the experience gained from on-the-job training and certifications that provided me the knowledge to architect solutions that fit our customers’ needs.

ICM: This may be a hard question for you to answer, as you work for HP, but I’m going to put you on the spot: which expert-level certifications are the best on the market? Cisco, HP, Juniper? Or maybe it’s a good idea to achieve CCIE, JNCIE and HP MASE?

NM: I know lots of incredibly smart folks at all three companies and I have not taken the JNCIE to comment on it. It took me about two weeks to understand the dialect difference between Cisco IOS/IOS-XR and HP’s CLI. I have found more value in having multiple vendor certifications, such as the HP MASE and CCIE, that I would not have had just focusing one vendor.

ICM: You are an expert in many technologies: Voice, Storage, SP. Is it a good idea (on actual job market) to differentiate your skills?

NM: I look for skill sets the can be coupled together. For example, knowing vitalization and how it can impact a Service Provider type network. Storage has brought in the aspect of lossless Ethernet, which I see as the big change, regardless if iSCSI, NAS or FCOE become the ultimate winner.

ICM: Cisco started the CCIE Datacenter, SP Ops and new SP track. It’s really hard to prepare for these exams, mostly due to the cost of equipment. Do you think this is a good way to find really the best experts?

NM: I already did the SP track back in 2004. But I am using the SP 3.0 training material to study for the troubleshooting side of the CCIE SP Ops. Remote labs are starting to come out now for SP 3.0, which is good. I’m in a unique position, as I have access to any equipment I need at HP. I can mix my vendors for continued learning even after I pass the certification because the technology and requirements will change over time. For example, I can take the CCIE Service Provider lab book and do it with all HP equipment and then Cisco equipment and then both.

When the CCIE Datacenter labs hit the market I will do the same process.

ICM: Let’s imagine that I want to work in a company like HP or Cisco as a senior specialist. I do not have experience and certifications. Where should I start and what steps should I take?

NM: First, I’d be surprised that a “senior specialist” would not have experience and certifications. But if you asked if you wanted to become a senior specialists where would you start? I think it should be done in phases. Start by making yourself marketable, in experience and education. Then decide the specialty you wish to achieve and have at least two of the top vendors certifications in that area.

The experience plus educating yourself across multiple vendor certifications will allow you to provide the right solution for your customer and achieve your personal goals.

ICM: Cloud is everywhere. What are your thoughts about this “new” Cloud world?

NM: The components of cloud have been with us for a while, now they are converging back together. By first introduction to cloud was in the early 80’s. University Pan American in Edinburg Texas was between my middle school and my house. Back then you could walk into the computer areas and say “HI!”. I remember they were adding a CPU unit to the farm and some hard drives without taking down anything and the processes were added to it what looked like to me real time. Cloud is a re-convergence of Process, Servers, storage and network with Moore’s law thrown in.. really cool times.

ICM: HP has two cloud certifications: HP ATA and HP ASE. You have the second one. Do these certifications help with understanding cloud computing technologies in general? Have you found HP ASE useful?

NM: I have my HP hat on for this one. They are HP specific cloud certifications, the supporting courses help to understand how to use our Hardware, Software, Storage and Networking product line towards HP’s CloudSystem.

ICM: Do you have a preference for real or virtual hardware?

NM: I have a preference for real hardware as it helps me get a feel for how the devices themselves work, time to boot, airflow, power cable location etc. To me, the knowledge goes beyond just knowing how to program them for a certification. It’s not a cheap way to learn the certification, take a look at my power usage graph for when I was studying for the CCIE wireless last year. It will probably be more power this year as I am studying for the CCIE SPops Lab and I have a Cisco GSR 12010 to study IOS-XR. I saw pictures of Scott Morris’s (CCIEx4) lab a couple of years ago, his power consumption has got to be more than mine..

Power Consumption - Neil Moore

ICM: What are your certifications plans for 2012/2013? Does a person with 6 CCIE titles need something else?

NM: I am doing the CCIE SPops and CCIE Datacenter. I am also part of the beta program for many new education tracks at HP. The biggest “something else” is now that I have transitioned from an Architect to Strategist and what that entails. This role requires thinking behavior changes and looking at the whole picture. The best analogy I have is that I was gears in the machine before. Now I am working on the clock.

ICM: Thank you so much. What is the best way to find you?

NM: Linkedin Works. When I get requests for videos that merge HP and Cisco technologies, and I have the equipment, I create a quick how-to at YouTube.

[This is part of the Interviews with IT Pros Series]