Life is full of paperwork. As kids, we drag home endless school forms for everything from permission to ride a different bus to graduation paperwork. We fill out mortgage forms, military enlistments, juror forms, and marriage licenses. Life is paperwork, and we get pretty desensitized to the simple act of putting words on paper and handing them off to whoever is supposed to get them.
But some paperwork is sweeter than others. Some is exciting, thrilling, and makes you feel damn good when you do it. I was recently privileged to fill out some of that GOOD paperwork when I applied for my Certified Wireless Network Expert (CWNE) certification.
I won’t go into how I studied, or recommend what you should do to get to the point where you’re able to apply- many of my excellent CWNE fellows have already done that. But what I want to share is what getting this far means to me. I can tell you that crossing the finish line absolutely will have different significance to each of you individually. I’ve seen some who are very discreet about their top-level certificates, and others who find a great sense of identity in them. Here’s where I am, now that I’ve taken the journey…
I’m older than some in the CWNE demographic. My CWNE won’t get me a better job with my current employer (I’m a wireless network architect and next step up is my boss), and I’m not looking to find another job. I’ve been doing wireless for longer than many folks reading this have been working any job. So why did I go after the CWNE?
Many moons ago, I had CWNA and CWSP when both were new. I went off to school for both, got certified, and used what I learned. I used THE HELL out of what I learned. That knowledge has contributed to the unqualified success of the many WLANs I have designed, administered, and troubleshot. “Old” CWNA and CWSP, combined with my other network experience, work ethic, skills learned in college and a 10-year Air Force career, got me to where I am today in my networking and Wi-Fi careers. But I got busy with many other things, and let both CWNA and CWSP expire, because they couldn’t “get me anything”, or so I thought. But the more I went to conferences, watched new products roll out with new features, and see one 802.11 standard give way to the next, I realized that I needed to get back to basics because those basics had changed since I learned them.
I do know A LOT about wireless networking. And technology-related politics. And reading situations and adjusting to them when one solution isn’t right for given circumstances. I’m doing good in my career but realized that I could be doing better, with more confidence. I’ve been around the wireless world and back, but the ground under me had changed through the years- and THAT’s why I went back to CWNP and worked towards CWNE.
I did learn, and reinforce much of what I already knew, by going through CWNA, CWSP, CWDP, and CWAP (in that order). I was humbled when I failed CWAP the first time- I don’t fail tests. Ever. But I did this time, and studied that much harder to pass it the second go round.
Then when it was time to apply for CWNE, reading over the application and writing the required essays gave me time and reason to reflect. Yes, I proved my “book smarts” on the certification exams. But spotlighting my experience through the essays and required non-CWNP certs gave me insight into myself: I have actually earned the title of Expert. A lot of people rely on me to wear that hat and to properly discharge the duties that come with being an Expert. I was reminded of that as I wrote up my experiences and realized just how much I have accomplished so far in wireless. The CWNE process has formalized that recognition for me.
And it feels pretty damn good.
Now here’s the rest of the story for those keeping score at home. Being an Expert is different from being a Know It All. Any one of us in the CWNE community can likely bubble up a topic or two they feel weak in, and have no shame in admitting to such. The day I have nothing left to learn will actually be depressing, because every day I pick up some new tidbit of wireless knowledge and look forward to that.
And now that I’m a CWNE, I have continuing education requirements for keeping the title that I’m rapidly coming to enjoy. CWNP recognizes that the WLAN world changes, so CE will help those of us with ANY level cert to stay fresh with what we know. And when I turn in my first CE paperwork, that will feel good in it’s own way, too.