How to Gain New Knowledge Without Expensive Trainings (Or The Best Way To Become a F5 Guru) – with Scott Morris

by Mirek Burnejko

Scott Morris is one of my heroes. When I was starting my career I was watching three rockstars. I was reading everything about them. They were my mentors (althought they didn’t know about it). I had a pleasure to speak with two of them: Rick Mur and Himawan Nugroho.

Scott Morris

Today I have a pleasure to speak with Scott Morris, the man who was my inspiration. Althought I switched my journey from networking to cloud computing I still admire Scott and his work.

If you don’t know Scott, you should read about his achievements here !!!

Let’s talk with him.

In this interview you will find:

  • What certifications Scott Morris have?
  • Why he decided to train students with CBTNuggets?
  • How to prepare to F5 LTM certification?

Miroslaw Burnejko: Hello Scott. It’s a big pleasure to talk with a legend. Please, tell us where do you work and what certifications do you have?

CBTNuggetsScott Morris: As you’ve discovered, I’m Scott Morris, and am a senior instructor at CBT Nuggets (among other things!). What certifications do I have? Wow, that’s one that will take a while to get through… Let’s just go with the idea that I get around, and I have the certifications to prove it.

Honestly, I have amassed a serious number of certifications over the years, some driven by my own desires to relieve boredom. Others driven by the needs of different vendor partner organizations that I worked for. But either way, they represent ways of checking off skillsets.

My vendors certifications include Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks, Brocade Networks, ISC2, Palo Alto Networks and a few others along the way.

MB: What was your first IT job?

SM: I suppose it depends on how you look at it! I used to do “consulting” for my parents company when I was in my wee years of high school. They were afraid to let me touch the computer, but when things weren’t working right they were afraid to have me not touch the computer. I wasn’t paid, so I don’t know as that really counts.

Otherwise, I started out in structured cabling in high school and college.

Also in college I started a business with a friend of mine where we built computers and installed them often in school systems. This is when I “graduated” into the world of networking.
MB: Do you remember your first professional certification?

SM: Yup. Novell’s Certified Netware Administrator (CNA) on the way to getting my CNE (their expert-level certification) way, way, way back when…
MB: You have a lot of certifications (almost 10 expert-level). Why so many?

SM: The short answer is because I get bored very easily, so I like variety. The longer answer is that as I learned different things with different vendors and different technologies I also did a lot of consulting work. In doing consulting work, certifications are a good way to gain some credibility.

So it was a method of marketing and proving my skills.

MB: Which one certification was the hardest to pass? Which one gave you the most profits for your career?

SM: The term “hardest” is very relative. The one I worked the most at and the one that led to the most profit was my first CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert) in Routing & Switching way back in 1999. That is also the first certification (or during the process thereof) that got me noticed and recruited by a training company, starting my path down this exciting mixture of training and consulting work!

The test that took me the most number of times to pass (thereby ruining my average) was the CCDE (Cisco Certified Design Expert), which took me three times to finally pass. All exams are both hard and easy at the same time. Things you know are easy. Trying to figure out what someone else is looking to measure is harder. Once you get the “thought process” of an exam, it should become significantly easier.
MB: Is it possible to maintain knowledge from all your certifications? What is your secret?

SM: Hands-on experience is crucial. If I worked JUST in a theory-based world, it would be impossible to maintain everything. And I’ll be honest… I don’t remember everything all the time. But learning through doing, really helps in terms of memory retention.

MB: You are a Senior Instructor in CBT Nuggets. Is it a good place to people who want to achieve new certifications?

CBT Nuggets TeamSM: CBT Nuggets is a wonderful place to come in order to learn things. Certifications are a byproduct of knowledge. If you learn the information, and you know the materials, the test should be simple and therefore you should easily get certified.

If you approach learning with the express goal of passing a test (like many classes I took in college) then you are destined to not remember anything in a short period of time. Then it becomes exceedingly difficult to maintain or demonstrate actual knowledge or skills when it counts – on the job.

One of the strengths CBT Nuggets offers, is in the methods and modalities of learning that are employed. Once you select a course and get hands-on experience by following the instructional videos, learning comes naturally.

MB: As far as I know you work now on new course – F5 Local Traffic Manager. Do employers need people with F5 skills and certifications?

SM: Yes, the F5 LTM (Local Traffic Manager) is one of the most recent courses that I have been working on. And judging by the feedback that I have seen on the course and the number of people watching it, it was overdue!

Medium to large size enterprises, data center operators, and service providers at many levels employ different methods of using ADCs (Application Delivery Controllers) in their networks in order to enhance the User Experience, one of those catch-phrases to describe some of the motivations behind different types of networking.

With F5 being a leader in this field, it makes the most sense to have people with those skills in order to manage the equipment necessary to enhance that User Experience.
MB: What other certifications can help people with F5 knowledge in big organizations?

SM: Networking skills are a must (general things like CompTIA’s Networks+ or any vendor’s starting point like Cisco’s CCNA, Juniper’s JNCIA or Brocade’s BCNE).

Depending on your job or location, you may also need certification in the particularly of what application you are trying to enhance the performance of, like Microsoft Exchange, or Oracle, or whatever it may be. While it’s not important for one person to know everything, it certainly is important to be familiar enough with the entire process and packet flow in order to know who best to talk with, or what help to give.

With F5, just like other vendor’s certifications, once we know how the device actually thinks, our jobs become much easier.
MB: Almost last question. Certifications lose value by brain-dumps. Do you have any idea how to kill dumps?

SM: That’s a tough question, and one that I know vendors have been looking for answers to for many years! The problem is that once you have something that everyone wants, there will always be a subset of people who look for shortcuts.

We can make the tests harder, but that makes everyone suffer needlessly. Personally, I’m up for more hands-on exams and things like computer-based simulations that test a bit more subjectively. But those are expensive arrangements for the vendors to do, therefore making certifications much more expensive.

There are other psychometric-based methods of detecting people who may be less-than-honest in their preparation methods. But to answer the question – I don’t think there are any ways to kill brain-dumps outright. Although it is worthwhile to note, progress is being made at decertifying people who are trying to use shortcuts to get something they don’t deserve to have.
F5 Real World

MB: And the last question. The most important one. Any new certifications on the horizon?

Interestingly enough yes. I am working on getting my F5 Certified Administrator certification as a starting point, and we’ll see what strikes my fancy or piques my curiosity from there!

I also need to update my Palo Alto Networks CNSE to the current version, as well as the plethora of recertification exams that come with having large quantities of certifications.

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

Question to you: Do you use materials from CBT Nuggets?