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Gearing Up For New/Updated Certs

I suppose that because I'm an author of certification prep materials myself, I'm probably more inclined than the average bear to regard such folks in a positive light. You could argue that I see the authors who sign up for "day and date books" -- which MUST be ready to put into readers' hands on the same day that a new exam or credential goes live -- as unsung heroes of the publishing industry because I have had to climb such mountains myself and know how much work must be crammed into a blisteringly short sequence of months and days to make these things happen on time.

That's what just happened with the recent announcement of the reworked CCNA exams: new versions of the ICND1, ICND2, and the combo exam all just popped up last Tuesday, March 26. On that very same day, Cisco Press released new study guides and materials for those exams including the new ICND1 and ICND2 Cert Guides, and a new boxed "library set" for the combo exam.

"How nice! How convenient!" readers of this blog post might be tempted to proclaim. Having hit such objectives for numerous cert exams myself for the Exam Cram series, I can tell you there's no other experience quite like trying to nail the same deadline as an official release date, either for software (as with major Windows OS releases, for example) or related certification exams (as was the case with these new Cisco exams).

Why do I say this? Simply because there's an enormous amount of work and coordination involved to pull this kind of feat off successfully, including:

  • Committing to a deadline happens before anyone -- including the authors, editors, tech reviewers, and production staff -- really known everything that's going to change, and thus, how much work will be necessary to document and explain all that stuff.
  • Because the deadline cannot change, the only way to cope with anything unexpected -- including unforeseen topics, complications, and software or system changes -- is to work longer hours to make all the necessary milestones along the way. And there are always unforeseen elements that pop up along the way from starting such projects to seeing them to their successful completions. My team members and I worked a lot of 100-plus hour weeks (that's over 14 hours a day, seven days a week, if you do the math) to meet these kinds of schedule when I was doing this stuff full-time, and I'm sure everybody on the Cisco study materials team for this latest coup can tell a similar story.
  • It's important to remain flexible, open-minded, and positive as the daily grind crunches forward, and to remember that what makes all the effort worthwhile is that interested and enthusiastic IT professionals will be able to get to work on new certs and exams RIGHT AWAY because you worked yours fingers to the bone to make materials ready and available as soon as possible.

That's why my hat is off to all of the people who worked on these projects, including Brett Bartow, the Cisco Press executive editor in charge of the project; authors Wendell Odom, Scott Empson, and others; the hard-working editorial and production staff who put the books and materials together; and even publicist Jamie Shoup, who worked like a demon to get the word out to make sure everybody knew about this magnificent accomplishment! Great work, people.