On Friday, April 2nd, I completed a five-day virtual training on Cisco's Certified Network Association program. (Implementing and Administering Cisco Solutions - CCNA) Before I need to state that I will not provide any information on the course material. The truth is you probably can learn it all from the Cisco Official Cert Guide. This post will mainly reflect my experience attending instructor lead training versus doing the self-study route. When I signed up for the class through United Training I was super excited but nervous at the same time. The last time I took instructor training was about eight years let alone IT-related.
How was the virtual training?
Overall I did have a good experience and learned a lot. By the end of the week, I was mentally exhausted. I was mentally exhausted every night when I got home. Training started at 9 am and lasted until 5 pm. We had the standard hour lunch and small breaks in between and the training kept me fairly engaged but by day five I needed a mental break.
Why did I take the instructor lead course?
Honestly, my manager and department were able to provide me with the training. I knew I wanted to continue learning throughout this year and lucky to work in a place that encourages continued training and development. Even if I am not directly working or supporting network switches and routers they always encourage us to learn new systems and technologies. So I took the opportunity to sign up for the Cisco CCNA training plus I wanted to see the difference from instructor lead to self-study.
It was perfect timing too because my son's elementary school opened back up after a year being closed and at the same time we put my daughter back into daycare. If not I do not think I would be able to take the course at home. So with the kids in school and daycare meant more time for me to focus and concentrate without interruptions.
Why not do the self-study?
I did the self-study route for the CompTIA Network+ certification in 2019 and this time around I wanted to experience instructor lead training. I was thinking of taking a Linux+ or Security+ training since I passed the Network+ but my heart was calling for networking and I decided to go with Cisco's CCNA training first. I do not think one form of training is better than the other and they both have their advantages but the instructor lead training does cost a lot more and I will let you know my recommendations throughout.
How was my experience?
First things first. It took me about two days to get accustomed to the live virtual format. Most of the day the trainer presented the content with the students using the chat function in Zoom to communicate and ask questions. It was a bit awkward for me to type into a chat window in an instructor lead training when we have a live trainer available to talk to. However, the trainer did provide us the opportunity to use our microphone but by default, we were muted and could not unmute at will. From my perspective, only two people used the microphone and I was one of the two that used the microphone. Having this kind of training by chat was not a great experience for me and I was not a fan. The content presented was good but that part of communication and interaction is not for me. I gave it a chance knowing that this is the world that we live in due to COVID. If this were in-person training it will be a different experience.
The reason why it took me some time to get used to the format was when I had to ask a question or respond to the trainer. By the time I tried to type something decent that would be understandable we were on to the next lesson or lab. The trainer did great to answer all of our questions and by day two we had a formula in place to let him know that we were typing a question. He did a good job providing us time for questions and did well at answering our questions. He also did not hesitate at all to review a topic or subject. Again the chat function was a bit awkward for me to get used to but by the end of the week, I got used to that form of communication.
What is included with the class?
The course includes a Cisco online student guide with questions at each lesson and labs. The course did not include the Cisco Official Cert Guide but the student guide works well and is available to use offline by using the Cisco eReader application. Not a big deal but I would prefer it to be available through my eReader application like iBooks or Google Play Books choice. Did I mention they included labs? They were great!
I would recommend you get them if you are looking for some labs to practice and learn from. I am not sure why I did not think of this before but through the class, I found out that one can purchase the Cisco labs separately. Why do I like them? Because the format of the labs and the student guides are easy to read and navigate plus it is Cisco. The only thing about the labs is that it is timed. Which is a good thing because it encourages one to use the time wisely and do labs. If you purchase it directly from Cisco you have only 90 days to use the labs. I was thinking of purchasing another vendor's labs but if my labs expire and still not ready for the exam I will buy them again or go with another lab environment. Another reason why I like the labs is that they include scenarios and quizzes. Well, they call them Fast Labs but in all, it is a quiz and they provide you with the tools on how to complete the task. What does not come with the course is an official Cisco practice exam but I did receive one through United Training who assisted me with registering with the course. That practice exam does provide a nice timed exam online.
What about the trainer?
The trainer has a lot of experience and certifications. Although I do not recall him providing his experience and the industry he worked in. What I can recall was that he has his CCNA, CCNP, Linux+, Security+, and much more. The presentation slides were clear and easy to read and good. They did not seem as though they were created by him but by Cisco. Most of the training was were pretty engaging because I am naturally curious and excited to learn about Cisco systems but one day the content was a bit dry. I cannot remember what the subject was but thinking it was about headers, packets, and trailers. I still have trouble understand that part even after studying it several times.
One thing I have learned about myself is that if someone reads verbatim the slide I disconnect right away.
I need to learn Python?
Now that I am done with the instructor lead training I still have some self-studying to do and recommended we learn a programming language. He suggested learning Python. Something that I have heard through the community online.
I am excited to learn a programming language. I originally wanted to be a web developer when searching for a different IT career path but feel the love of networking. I officially started learning Python last week and using the Microsoft free Python course online to help. I like their format and how they get right into the content but will look into other training online through Cisco's net academy and w3school.com. I tried watching some videos on python but get disengage quickly. For now, my preference is to read and understand the language straight. I feel like this skill needs to be done and not just watched so I have a book in OReilly books titled Introduction to Python 2nd edition by Bill Lubanovic. So far so good and with the combination of the other online learning sites, I hope to better understand and be able to utilize the language effectively.
If you have any recommendations on videos for learning python for beginners please leave them in the comment below.
What is next?
I still have plenty of Cisco labs to do and redo from the class. The trainer even said it is recommended that we memorize the commands. So I have been retaking some of the labs several times to drill the Cisco commands.
My goal is to take the CCNA exam by end of summer no later than early fall. I still consider myself to be a newbie to this all and my hopes from or after I take the exam is that I can gain some experience with Network Support in my company. we know that experience weighs just as much if not more than a certification and by doing so one can better understand the operations and day-to-day task of a network technician. A certification just validates that you are capable enough to understand the content and they do help provide opportunities to grow in IT. Plus I would doubt they want just anyone messing around the command line on their switches and routers. I know I would not if I was the hiring manager.
In conclusion, if you are debating if you should take the instructor lead training or do self-studying. Personal I would save your money and utilize it towards purchasing the Cisco labs and other videos online that will help you study at your own pace.
After my training, I learned a lot but still have self-studying to do and to practice for the exam but if you like the interaction with an instructor and trainer then maybe that is the best for you. Just think about where you can utilize your time and money wisely. Also, check with your company to see if they offer any reimbursement for taking the class. If so then go for it but some companies may not be willing to have you all day in a live training if there is nobody else to cover for you.
In all, I hope I provided you with some options to think about and that you will make the best decision. As always keep on learning every day and it is never too late to start.