The Most Important Wireless Certification – with Gregor Vucajnk

by Mirek Burnejko

Gregor VucajnkGregor Vucajnk is a real expert who works with big wireless and mobile projects around the world. Amazing specialist and a person who seriously thinks about wireless certifications, especially about one company.

He is (as he tells about himself) vendor neutral, but has amazing experience with Cisco, Aruba, Ruckus Wireless, Aerohive and many other companies. Why this “vendor neutral” mind in the wireless world is so much important? Which one wireless certification is needed for all wireless experts? Let’s find out.

In this interview you will find:

  • What is the biggest income generator for Gregor?
  • Why he works with products from Aerohive and Ruckus?
  • Why Gregor thinks about the Certified Wireless Network Expert certification?

IT Certification Master: Hi Gregor. It is a pleasure. Tell us something about you.

Gregor Vucajnk: Thanks for the invite. I am an independent WLAN professional, a contractor. I suppose I am a rare bread as I specialize in 802.11 only. Its, comparatively, a niche market in networking but getting stronger by the day.
While I do tackle projects in all 802.11 verticals, my biggest income generator is carrier and metro WiFi market. Depending on the project I do different things. Acting as an advisor for the end client, helping them choosing the technology most relevant to their case, helping them with discussions with VARs, etc.
On the other side I am helping integrators with specifics such as overall architecture, radio network design, deployment workflow, site surveying, network verification, penetration testing,etc. I also do some pre sales when needed.

ICM: We are here to talk about the most important wireless certification. First, tell us what was your first and the last wireless certification?

GV: Hmmm. While in high school I did a sort of CCNA certificate. It was not official and at the time I did not appreciate the difference between official and not.

My first official certification was a WiSE certification from Ruckus Wireless, but at that time I was already deeply involved with wireless (working with vendor technology that has no certification paths – Ruckus Wireless, Ubiquity, etc).
The last one would be ACWA, a wireless certification from Aerohive. I must admit though that I am not the best certification collector. While I read and do labs from the various study guides, I often do not take the time studying for exams. I guess I will have to pick that up.

ICM: To be honest with you. Before our interview I haven’t heard a lot about certifications from Aeorohive and Ruckus. Why these vendors?

GV: Well, it was a big of a gamble to be honest. In professional WLAN arena you have the overall market leader in Cisco with the something north of 50% market share, followed by Aruba at around 20%. As the WLAN market is growing exponentially, the players like Ruckus Wireless and Aerohive can take quite a bite of the pie, especially as they have innovating technologies. With extremely fast growing verticals like carrier networks these, often patented and unique technologies call for professional services.

So wireless certifications like these do give you an edge.

ICM: Which one was the funniest and the most valuable for your career?

GV: The most valuable at this point is the Ruckus wireless certification. With carrier market booming and with Ruckus owning proprietary technology this is a very sought of certification. A word of caution though. The certification itself is not carrier vertical centric but an overall use of the technology so background knowledge of outdoor deployments and carrier network specifics are mandatory. Just doing the WiSE exam is not enough.

ICM: Tell us something about your biggest project. Did you use you knowledge from preparation to your certifications?

GV: All of metro deployments and carrier deployments are big. Big and demanding. One of the most difficult thing is working together in a huge environment of a carrier that may employ many thousands of people.
So in projects like these you are working with literally hundreds of people, from project managers and management on one side to first line support on the other side with everything in between. Knowing how to cope with that is extremely important. So it’s a mixture of soft skills and technical skills that are required. As for certifications, yes, they definitely help. It is more of knowledge that the wireless certification itself.
If a professional is not current with his knowledge and does not have the hands on experience, no certification in the world will help him doing his job.

ICM: Why in the wireless world CWNP has that amazing power? Other neutral vendors like SNIA (storage), LPI (linux) are not as much popular as CWNP.

GV: Indeed, as a vendor neutral wireless certification, the CWNP carries great respect among WLAN professionals. I think it’s because WLAN was never a network of necessity, never looked upon as a mission critical, primary network. It was just a SOHO, consumer technology that was used in some cases in the enterprise but never much relevant. With market pushing WLAN networks to the primary network status, the IT came to respect the knowhow, mostly due the massive failures being made when “wired” network professionals deployed networks using the same principles as they did on the wired networks. The standard itself, the medium, everything is so much different that the wired network that it demands a WLAN specialist running the show.

In the end, the vendor certifications teaches you how to configure the devices but they do not teach you why and they do not teach you WLAN designs.
CWNP took this knowhow to another level. As demanding and technical the certification is, the insights that a person gets from the certification is priceless. IT professionals came to respect every and any holder of CWNP certification. Big market, small pool of certified professional.

ICM: Cisco, Aruba, Juniper and HP have their own wireless certifications. Do you have plans for these vendors?

GV: I love WiFi. As such I would like to own every possible certification out there. I do plan to take Aruba certification of the bunch. I thing there is enough professionals out there working with Cisco, so I will just concentrate on the other 50% of the market for the time being.

If Cisco creates a specialized, outdoor deployment certification, then I am very interested in taking it. If Juniper picks up the pace in WLAN and gets a significant market share, it is also a possibility.

ICM: We wrote an article about the hardest IT certifications to get. CWNE was on the seventh place. Do you have any plan for this certification? Do you think it help in your career?

GV: Yes I do. I am preparing for it, slowly but with a steady pace. Dependent on my workload, I will get to it sooner rather than later.
I do honestly believe that every WLAN professional that works only on WiFi should be striving to get this certification. While it is mostly references from satisfied customers that lands me the work, I do believe that the CWNE certification will be an important addition in my CV.

ICM: Have you ever worked with Huawei wireless devices? They want to start also their wireless certification path. What do you think about it?

GV: I have not worked with Huawei devices directly but I had to work alongside of carrier engineers many times. With femto and pico-cells deployments getting traction, the Huawei certification sounds tempting. I do not want to stray to far away from 802.11 though. As an importance of the certificate, I think it will be valuable to engineers as the 3G, LTE and all future mobile carriers network technologies have a bigger market than 802.11.

ICM: Which one wireless certification is a necessity for anyone who wants to be a wireless magician?

Wireless CertificationGV: ANY wireless technician should own at least the CWNA certification.

It should be an entry standard as CCNA is. With the difference that CWNA goes much deeper into technology specifics, not just configuration knowhow. Then depending on the career path, the professional level CWNP certificates are next.

If the basics are understood, than any vendor specific certification will be a breeze. Caution though. Do not sleep on the certifications. Experience is the most important thing at the end of the day.
It is also advisable that switching and routing basics are understood. So CCNA or other vendor equivalent certification will always be helpful.

ICM: Don’t you think there are too many wireless and mobile certifications? Maybe we should concentrate only on the CWNP system?

GV: CWNP should be a foundation certification for every WLAN pro. Then its about focusing on the vendor at hand. I do think it is very important for a vendor to have a certification path. I think it is the easiest and most affective method of sharing the knowledge and technology knowhow.

ICM: Thank you so much. Tell us where we can find you?

GV: You can catch me on twitter and on LinkedIn. I also have a blog but I have to pick up in writing article.

Gregor Vučajnk is an independent WLAN professional, a contractor. He specializes in Metro WiFi deployments and carrier WiFi but has extensive experience in verticals such as Enterprise, hospitality, high density deployments and government. He is vendor neutral and has experience with most WiFi vendors: Cisco, Aruba, Ruckus Wireless, Strix Systems, Bel Air, Ubiquity, Aerohive, etc. He believes that a good designer and network architect is more important that the choice of technology, unless unique features are demanded for.

Gregor works around the globe for several renowned clients but enjoys his time at home office where he can do some lab work. While he enjoys all aspects of 802.11 implementation, his strongest part and passion is radio access network design.

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