Ah, the 90s. The heady decade that brought us Whoomp There It Is, Disney’s Aladdin, grunge, and neon, well, everything, also marks an important time period for IT certifications.
Prior to the mid-1990s, there was little industry benchmarking of IT skills. A company might send out a trainer to your company to teach a group of professionals about Microsoft NTE 3.5 or the optimal network topology. When they left, you’d have a line on your resume, maybe a certificate of completion, and that was it. No formalized industry exam, and importantly no way for your current (or future) employers to really know that you knew your stuff.
This all changed in the 1990s.
In honor of the changes to the retiring CCNAv2.0 exam, we wanted to take a look at some crazy facts about Cisco certifications in the 1990s.
- Because CCNA and CCENT are the entry points into the Cisco Universe of certifications, you’d think they were the company’s first certs. You’d be wrong. CCIE was actually the first certification. It was introduced at the 1993 Cisco Networker conference.
- In 1992, the original name of the CCIE program was going to be “Cisco Top Gun.” Yes, like the Tom Cruise movie. While it rolls off the tongue a little better than “Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert,” it didn’t stick.
- Because Cisco was going to call their certification program, “Cisco Top Gun,” it would make sense to tip their hat to the namesake movie. Anyone who has earned their CCIE probably has their plaque prominently placed somewhere in their home or office. Well, in 1992, Cisco wanted to award those who earned the cert a leather bomber jacket like you see pilots wear. Take a look at the jacket here. Jealous?
- You might wonder who has “CCIE #1” beside their name. The answer: No one. In fact, the first ever CCIE isn’t even a person. It’s a room in a building. Cisco expert trainer Stuart Biggs assigned his office lab the first number #1024. That first CCIE number stands for 2 to the power of 10, or 10000000000 in binary.
- So, there’s no CCIE #1. Who was CCIE #1025, the first human to receive the highest (and only) Cisco certification at the time? That was the Stuart Biggs, the creator of the certification program. Coincidentally, #1025 was also his Cisco employee badge number.
- OK. So, the first CCIE was a room in a building. The second CCIE was the guy who created the program. Who was the first non-Cisco human to earn the CCIE? Terry Slattery. His practical exam was conducted by Biggs, who “drew a network on a whiteboard,” told him how he wanted the network to work, and walked out of the room. Slattery thusly became CCIE #1026, and the first non-room, non-Cisco employee to earn the certification.
- The lab room actually got a plaque with its credentials. As of 2008, the plaque hangs in the Cisco building, though “they moved it to Bldg K – ground floor where the elevators are,” according to a note between Biggs and Slattery.
- Cisco announced the CCNA and CCNP certifications five years later in 1998 at Cisco Networkers conference (now known as Cisco Live!). The conference website is actually still up. Go take a look. I don’t know if you can still order VHS copies of the Networkers ‘98 keynote presentations, but it can’t hurt to give it a try. I wonder if they take credit card?
- In 1998, the first CCNP certification was also announced with a four-exam path. It wasn’t until 2010 did Cisco reduce the number to the familiar three: TSHOOT, ROUTE, SWITCH.
As the second version of CCNA retires this week and IT professionals prepare for the third iteration, remember that it wasn’t all that long ago that these certifications didn’t exist. Technology changes rapidly, and industry certifications sometimes struggle to keep up.
Regardless of what happens with professional certifications, you should train daily, learn all the time, and always be seeking out knowledge. You never know when you have the chance to earn a leather bomber jacket for your hard work.
If we missed a crazy fact about Cisco certifications from the 90s (or any other era), leave a comment below, or let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.