Path to Professional Respect
For Cisco’s Tina Shakour, professional respect is a key advantage to having her CCIE.
You could say that CCIEs are common in Tina Shakour’s team at Cisco Systems. As an systems engineering manager for Cisco’s Government and Education group in Northern California, Tina is one of four managers with the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert title—all of whom report into still another CCIE. “I think that once you’ve earned the CCIE you’ve proven that you can focus on a task that is outside of your job assignment— sometimes against all odds,” says Tina, who was actively encouraged and supported in her quest for CCIE by her manager.
Though the certification may be common on her team, achieving it is not a foregone conclusion. “Once you’ve gone through the lab two or three times [and failed], your confidence is shaken,” says Tina, who passed the CCIE Voice lab after nine months of studying and three unsuccessful attempts. “It’s a very humbling experience . . . Everybody said how hard it would be, but I didn’t realize the depth that was required until I took it. I came out of the process with a whole new respect for other CCIEs.”
"I would say internally, having the logo after your name, gives you a degree of respect—almost immediately."
And for Tina, that respect is reciprocated. “I would say having the logo after your name, gives you a degree of respect [from colleagues]—almost immediately...You get more attention. I can’t prove it, but I still feel it.” And nowhere perhaps is that feeling more important, than in Tina’s line of work. “What happens for women in technology, especially in technical sales . . . you have to go the extra level to prove that you’re technical. A lot of the time, you get mistaken for the account manager,” says Tina, one of a comparatively small number of female CCIEs. “[Getting the CCIE] gave me a lot of bragging rights, frankly. That had a lot to do with my determination to pass.”
That, along with other reasons: “Seven or eight years ago, I lived in Ohio and I was working for Uunet. There, people who had a CCIE were looked upon almost as gods. It was sort of the pinnacle of technical ability. When the Voice certification was announced, that was when I finally got moving on achieving my certification.”
As a Systems Engineering Manager, Tina gets the chance to apply her expert knowledge on a daily basis. Her team supports accounts for the State of California, California State Universities and University of California systems, as well as local governments. A typical week for Tina might consist of visits with Director and CIO-level customers, participating in coaching or development sessions with her engineering team or meeting with SE Managers at key channel partners. She also spends a significant amount of time tracking the performance of her team on key Cisco initiatives. No small tasks, by any standard.
So with the road to CCIE behind her, does Tina Shakour, who currently has three employees of her own working toward expert status, plan to recertify? “You’d better believe it,” she says. “I’m never letting my certification lapse!”