Celebrated Engineer Traces His Success to CCIE
Recently honored as a Cisco Distinguished Engineer, Khalid Raza reflects on how passing the CCIE exam brought him the recognition and career advancement he hoped for.
Khalid Raza isn't sure he would be where he is today if it hadn't been for his first CCIE, received barely a year out of graduate school and shortly after he joined Cisco in 1993. Today, Khalid holds the title of Cisco Distinguished Engineer for his contributions to large-scale routing designs and migrations. Khalid has been instrumental in creating solutions for high-profile Cisco customers, and migrating some of the largest networks in the world. He currently works as a design specialist in the Services and Support organization, a job he loves and one that has provided him with international travel and relationships with Cisco customers worldwide. He recently re-located to Dubai to pursue his interest in Asia Pacific and European business.
Khalid began to focus on CCIE certification almost as soon as he joined Cisco. "It was the most prestigious certification available," explains Khalid. "I knew that the preparation alone would help me in my career, and even then I knew that I wanted to be counted among the best of the best." He spent most of his preparation time in the Cisco labs, continually asking colleagues to give him scenarios and concepts to test. As he anticipated, the preparation helped him with his customer interaction forcing him to gain a deeper and broader understanding of routing and switching technology, and get really clear about technology concepts. "Generally people work in a focused environment and stick with a specific part of technology," said Khalid. "Preparing for the test opens your mind to so many things as well as building on what you already know."
"I knew that the preparation alone would help me in my career and even then  I knew that I wanted to be counted among the best of the best."
Passing the exam on his first try and so early in his Cisco employment brought Khalid the recognition he had hoped for. "I was just a junior guy and then all of a sudden I had something very notable," he recalls. "I think it showed my enthusiasm for achievement and made me stand out. It definitely helped me move faster in my career. Almost immediately I began to receive more interesting projects and better rotations. Promotions followed very quickly."
Khalid had a chance to experience the other side of CCIE certification in 1994 and 1995 when he served as an exam proctor. "It was the experience of a lifetime," he said. "It was so interesting - both from a technology and sociological perspective. I witnessed a great deal of anxiety. People react to the test in so many different ways. I was also personally challenged by the questions I encountered from candidates. Since I changed the lab questions literally every day based on new problems that had come up in the Technical Assistance Center, there was always something new to chase."
A die-hard technologist, Khalid even welcomes the challenge of the recertification tests. "It takes me about a month to prepare," he said. "I like the detail and the fact that it forces me to learn about technologies I may have overlooked in my work." With new experiences in mind, he looks forward to his two-year assignment in Dubai but plans to return eventually to California. "I'll miss my customers," he said.