From Help Desk Agent To The Cisco Designer – with Iwan Hoogendoorn

by Mirek Burnejko

Iwan HoogendoornThis is an interview with Iwan Hoogendoorn. Iwan is an IT Engineer in the role of Core Network Design Engineer at Cisco Systems.

He’s a quadruple CCIE #13084 (Routing & Switching, Security, Service Provider, Voice) on his way for the fifth one – CCIE Data Center.

Today we talk about his career and his certifications.

In this interview you will find:

  • Why Iwan decided to achieve CCIE Routing and Switching
  • Why CCIE Data Center is his main goal today
  • What is his recommendation for a CCNA who wants to be CCIE and work for companies like Cisco


Mirek Burnejko: Hello Iwan. It’s a big pleasure to have you here. Can you describe your beginnings in the IT industry?

Iwan Hoogendoorn: Hey Mirek, nice from you that your having me around :-). I started working as a Help desk Agent for a Dutch ISP back in 1999 after I graduated to be a jeweller. Two years before graduation my dad gave me his old computer and from that moment on I actually fell in love with technology, but I needed to finish my high-school first. I think its important when you start something you should always finish it, and it kinda became my life motto “Never give up”, which helped me a lot in life and with my studies.

I was lucky that the this Dutch ISP gave me a chance to work in the IT field without having any training or education in IT. This is when it all started.

MB: What was your first certification?

IH: My first certification was MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional). I decided that I should do something about my education if I wanted to stay in the IT and started investigating my options. The MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) track was the certification track then that had my interest the most and I took the first exam in the series of 7. This exam was the 70-210 (Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional). I will never forget this 🙂

MB: Why you decided to achieve your first CCIE?

IH: As I developed my career and tasted a little bit of System Engineering, Application Development, Database Administration/Development and Network management I found that Network management was the one that interested me the most.

CCIE RSI got a job as a first line NOC (Network Operation Center) Agent and I wanted to do more than just looking at screens for red blinking lights and then make a phone call or resolve some tickets where I needed to configure easy stuff. The company that I was working for that time did not want me to support me in my career because they wanted to keep me on that job and did not think I had it in me.

This was my moment in life that I decided that I wanted to do something big, and prove to the world that I am ready for the next level. I ended up with studying for the CCIE Routing & Switching exam and paying for it myself.

MB: Can you describe your professional life after CCIE?

IH: After I passed my CCIE lab exam my career took a spin. People where talking in corners about me, I got phone calls from people from the 6th floor that I never even heard of and I ended up working for very large companies like Canon, Fujitsu and British Telecom.

MB: So you are the expert. Why you decided to achieve other expert-level
certifications?

IH: I don’t like to call myself an “expert”. I am just someone who loves networking technology and there is many tracks in networking that caught my interest. This is exactly the reason that I ended up doing multiple CCIE tracks.

Studying for something is great and gaining the knowledge, but its even greater if you can reward yourself by proving it trough an exam.

MB: You work for Cisco. Does Cisco require certifications from you? Do you
have any benefits?

IH: Cisco is always encouraging people to study and is very strong in supporting Career Development. I don’t really know if Cisco really “requires” certain certification from me, but it really helps doing with my job.

MB: You are working on CCIE Data Center. The biggest question: why?

IH: When I entered Cisco 2 years ago I was hired as a “Data Center Implementation Engineer”.
The Data Center field was new for me, but I ended up learning much about it.

The only way to prove to others (outside Cisco) that I know stuff about Data Center Technology, is by certifying myself. I work for Cisco, I worked with Data Centers so Cisco + Data Center Technology + Iwan = Iwan Hoogendoorn CCIE Data Center #13084.

MB: Many of my readers want to be like you. What is your recommendation
for a young CCNA, who wants to become CCIE and work for Cisco?

If they are already a CCNA I would suggest to look for a direction where you would like to specialize yourself in. If they are like me they love everything about networking, but it’s always wise to choose a direction and focus on that first. I suggest with going the CCNP, CCIE Routing & Switching route, just because of the simple reason that Routing & Switching is really a track that you will benefit from in every networking job you will get.

The most important rule when a track/direction is selected is to always be dedicated and always finish that you started and never give up.

MB: Do you recommend trying to achieve the highest certifications from one
vendor (Cisco, Juniper) or maybe try to diversify our portfolio?

IH: I think it’s good to have certifications from other vendors as well and not only focus on one vendor. Almost all large companies have mixed vendor networks and you may deal with that in the future. In the end it does not really mater if you configure BGP on a Cisco device or on a Juniper device. At end the technology is the same only the way of accessing/configuring the hardware is different.

MB: What are your plans for the future (after passing CCIE Data Center)?

IH: For my career development I am trying to move to the network Architecture field. The next logical step would be CCDE and eventually CCAr.

You can find more information about Iwan on his blog and say hello via LinkedIN.

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

  • Biosio Etim

    I really enjoyed this read. I just got my CCNA and I liked his advice for those of us with CCNA

  • Kester Henry

    I absolutely enjoyed reading this. How does one get hired by these big companies though? Or what if I spend most of my time studying but can’t find a job that gives me relevant work experience, how do I work around that?

    • Iwan Hoogendoorn

      Hey Henry,

      I think its a combination two things that you need to be after:

      – Get a nice job and get some working experience
      – In the meanwhile never stop studying and prove to your employer that you are always motivated and up for the next level…
      – Finish some nice projects and keep track in a blog/personal wiki

      – try applying so once and a while for a job

      – make sure your CV is short (1 / 2 pages)

      Hope this helps …

      • Hey Iwan,
        Thanks for your response. All sounds well with your advice. One question though, why should my CV be short? Won’t that be selling myself short? When I do have a lot of RELEVANT experience, shouldn’t I include it all?

        • Iwan Hoogendoorn

          Very good question … (sorry for my late reply) I recently learned that it depend on the type of position you are applying for.
          If you apply for a contracting position its better to have a long Resume with a log of detailed project description and a lot of keywords (because you will be picked based on that) but if otherwise you have managers that only look at the first page and based on that you either have an interview or you don’t… so it basically all depends …

  • Daniel Rivera

    great history Iwan, I was working as Help desk agent (just receiving callsm not solving tickets) many years ago, and I remember some people said when I was studying for CCNA “why are you studying for something that is not related with your job?”…….now Im CCIE R&S and next CCIE DC….