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Sunday, December 23, 2012

This story is how the Cisco CCIE program was born

Courtesy - Stuart Biggs

I'm Stuart Biggs, a Tech Lead for Cisco voice, video and software development. On July 19, 1993 I became the first human on the planet to become a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert by being awarded CCIE #1025 Routing and Switching.

Once upon a time... that's how a lot of stories start out - right? Well, this story is how the CCIE program was born:   On or about August of 1992, I went to Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan to train them on the AGS, AGS+ and MGS devices as well as IP and X.25. They were rolling out X.25 in a major way. I believe it was called the 'Compass' project. In any case, they wanted a bit more 'hands on' with the hardware as well as a better understanding of IP and X.25. So I flew to Dearborn. We had a week long session where I would draw a network architecture on a whiteboard, break a few cables (before they came in), mess with jumpers on some or all of the AGS+ boards - then give those folks all day to get things going so it matched the diagram on the whiteboard.  They apparently loved it - and I guess word filtered to upper management that they really liked this experience.

Previously, I had been involved in a 'high end' course at 3Com called '3-Wizard'. It was a good course. It dealt with protocol level details that basically related to their '3+Share' file/printer sharing software - somewhat like Novell did in those days. It was based on the Xerox set of protocols - not IP. The problem with that course was that everything they asked on the written could be gleaned from the course materials - and there was no lab. So in my opinion, it was a bit 'lightweight' in terms of content.
  So after my trip to Ford - probably around October of 1992, we put together a team with the sole goal of creating a 'base' of expertise on Cisco products who generally could maintain their own networks - or at least help us maintain them. Back in those days, we may have had up to 100 support engineers - but probably more like 60-80 or so. This was before any of the Cisco buildings along Tasman Drive were built - and even before the light-rail along that same road.  One of the goals of this team was to create a course that would focus on expertise on Cisco products in a real live environment. We wanted to fill in the gaps that the 3Com course left out. The written exam was an afterthought - just to set a bar for admission to the lab exam. Before I forget to mention this fact, the original name of the program was going to be 'Cisco Top Gun' - but as that famous Tom Cruise movie with the same name had recently come out, we figured there may be some legal issues in using that name - so we chose 'Cisco Certified Internet Expert'

 We created a lab - it was a bit adhoc - but matched the technology of the early 90's - FDDI, Ethernet, maybe a bit of X.25 as well as IBM SNA and 1 or 2 routing protocols, oh and I can't forget - Token ring. Those were the ingredients of the day.  So we created a written exam and used that as the 'filter' to folks going to the lab. The first person outside of Cisco to take the written was a guy named Terry Slattery. He's a very nice guy who till this day still holds his CCIE certification (#1026). I was the first lab proctor and messed with the cables, jumpers and all manner of things in order to break the lab setup for Terry. Back in those days, it was pretty easy to mess with a cable or fiddle with jumpers on the various boards or interface cards. So I drew a network on a whiteboard - much like the earlier days with Ford - as to how the network should work and walked out of the room. Terry quite handily sorted things out thus becoming the 2nd CCIE in the world - 1st outside of Cisco. I am amazed as to how well this program has grown. Next year - 2013 will be the 20th year of this program - and people still take notice when someone says they're a CCIE!
  Oh, and what is really amazing is that by some random chance, my employee ID # is the same as my CCIE # - 1025. Totally unplanned by the way. We decided to start CCIE numbers at 1024 (2 to the power of 10) and awarded that to the original lab - so I got 1025.  Team members:I did not do this myself. There were loads of other members that helped out. Some are still at Cisco, some are not - but here are the ones I can remember: John Bashinski, Joe Pinto, Brad Wright, Scott Edwards, Agnes Moran, Matt Burns and Lembit Marder. And others I apologize to for not mentioning...

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