How Juniper Certifications Make You a Better Engineer – with Liz Burns

by Mirek Burnejko

Liz BurnsThis is an interview with Liz Burns from Juniper.

Liz is a Sr. Manager responsible for Technical Certification Programs.

Juniper recently completed a survey of over 7000 Juniper certified networking professionals.
Let’s first look for results:

  • 98% recognize greater benefits from their investment in Juniper products
  • 96% said Juniper education was highly applicable to their job
  • 50% realize multiple areas of performance improvement in individual performance
  • 80% of managers realize up to 40% improvements in the job performance in their certified engineers

Let’s find the answer why Juniper certifications can give you so much value.

In this interview you will find:

  • What is the best path from JNCIA-Junos to JNICE-ENT?
  • Do we really need “Design” certifications?
  • How Juniper wants to improve multiple choice exams in the 2013 timeframe?

IT Certification Master: Hello Liz. It is a pleasure to have you here. Tell us something about you and your role in Juniper Networks.

Liz Burns: Hello. Very happy to be here. I am responsible for the Juniper Networks Certification Program globally. My team is responsible for developing and delivering (thru Prometric testing centers and Juniper locations) all Juniper networks technical certifications – basically the JNCIx credential.

I joined Juniper about 1 and ½ years ago. I have over 15 years experience in managing IT certifications programs – previous managed and grew the Sybase, i2 Technologies and EMC certification programs. I am fairly passionate about certification!

ICM: I am a big fan history of certifications. Tell me what was the first Juniper’s certification.

LB: Our first certifications were earned in Q3, 2000. So the program is almost 12 years old. However, it started to really “take off” in 2007. Our growth has been significant in the last three years.

ICM: I’m trying to be objective, but I love JNICA-Junos, materials for this exam and the voucher idea. Do you have plans to move this idea and materials to other JNCIA tracks.

LB: I think you are talking about our FastTrack program. This is an ongoing program focused on our Enterprise routing and switching customers. The FastTrack portal provides free study guides for JNCIA-Junos, as well as JNCIS-SEC and JNCIS-ENT. Individuals are encouraged to study the materials and then take the practice tests.

Upon passing the practice test you will get a 50% off voucher to attempt your exam. When candidates go through this process we see a fairly high success rate.

ICM: Let’s imaging that I’m starting my career. Should I go to CompTIA (Network+), Cisco (CCNA), Huawei (HCDA) or maybe to Juniper and JNICA-Junos? Do you think JNCIA-Junos is good for newbies in the network world?

Juniper CertificationsLB: Given Juniper’s market penetration at this point a JNCIA-Junos would be a “must have” certification for any network newbies. I have read that most networks these days are multi-vendor – no longer just a Cisco shop. What you need will be driven by what technologies the company you are working for/hope to work for have in house. Those seeking employment should definately consider getting an introduction in multiple vendors.

ICM: One question about you renewal process. At this moment I must pass a higher exam in the actual path to renew my exam in a technology track. So, if I have JNCIA-Junos, JNCIA-E and JNCIA-FWV I must pass three higher exams (or again each JNCIA exam). Seems reasonable, but isn’t that to hard to maintain?

LB: At Juniper our criteria for renewal/re-certification is not the “easiest” approach – but rather the approach of most value to the candidate and their current/future employer. There are actually two options for re-certifying an existing certification (which must be done within three years of the last certification/re-certification). You can either re-certify at your current level in your current track or certify at the next highest level, in your current track. So, per your example, if you had a those three JNCIA certifications you would need to recertify each one by taking the same or next highest level exam in EACH track. It makes no sense to us to re-certify someone on Junos (JNCIA-Junos) when they have passed only the JNCIA/S-FWV exam. That exam has nothing to do with Junos and says nothing about a individual’s current Junos understanding etc.

The Juniper Networks Certification must mean something or it is of no value to any of the people who work so hard to achieve it.

ICM: Few our readers think about the JNCIE-ENT certification. What he or she should do to achieve this goal. Can you simply describe THE BEST path from JNCIA-Junos to JNICE-ENT? Let’s create an expert in a simple step-by-step guide.

LB: The best path is to leverage the Juniper Networks approved training, gain experience and get access to rack time for practice. For JNCIA-Junos and JNCIS-ENT you can use the Fast Track materials (as discussed above). For JNCIP-ENT we offer a robust curriculum. Please see the Juniper Networks Certification website. We have also just release a JNCIE-ENT boot camp for people who are preparing to take the JNCIE-ENT exam.

ICM: How many engineers around the world have JNCIE certifications? Is there anyone with all three JNCIE certifications?

LB: We have a number of triple JNCIE’s. Most are within Juniper itself but also among our partners and customers. We do not publish the actual number of certified.

ICM: Where should I train? I’ve heard many good words about Junosphere. Can you tell us in few simple words something about this solution and can I train there other technologies than routing and switching?

JuniperLB: Junosphere is not training but rather a platform for practicing live rack time. Individuals can now purchase blocks of time on Junosphere with their credit cards at reasonable rates. Go here for more info. Comprehensive training is available from Juniper and our authorized training partners. Go to the Juniper Education Services website for detailed information and availability.

ICM: Cisco has in their offer a design track, Huawei is going to add its own. Do you have plan to add any kind of design certifications?

LB: We are discussing this for 2012 but no definite plans to announce. I have a question for your audience. What do you mean by a “design certification”? This is a bit of a “trendy” thing. I would like to better understand EXACTLY what type of job people who want a design certification are looking for/already in. What do you want to gain from a design certification? What would it address/subjects? If we launch a design certification we want to make sure it addresses a real market need.

ICM: Tell me about your plans to 2012. Your system was refreshed a few months ago. Any big changes in this year? Will we see new expert-level certifications?

LB: We are taking a short break from big changes!!! Our last two years have been very positive but disruptive. No new JNCIE’s this year.

ICM: Me and thousands of people have problem with choosing a good IT certification. As you know, we can find almost 2000 certifications on the market. Don’t you think the certification world is too big?

LB: Hard to say. I like the thought that people have choices when looking for a certification of value to them. As I said above – if you want to work in networking you must have a Juniper Cert as most companies will now have Juniper equipment in their shop.

ICM: What do you think about system implemented by Red Hat? A lab from the first level.

LB: Works for Red Hat! However, I do not agree that a lab exam is required from the first level of certification. We will definitely be looking to leverage Junosphere to put performance type items into our multiple choice exams in the 2013 timeframe.

Juniper has implemented a comprehensive exam security program to protect the value of the Juniper certification so many work so hard to achieve. We are able to identify when people short cut the exam prep process and will revoke exam results or ban repeat offenders from the program. Please see details in our exam security policies here.

ICM: The hardest question at the end. Why Juniper is better than other vendors from your point of view? 🙂

LB: Clearly I believe in the Juniper approach to networking and our commitment to innovation. This company has integrity and wants to change the networking landscape. However, that is my opinion. Your readers will need to decide for themselves.

[This is part of the Interviews with Vendors Series]