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IT Certs, are they really worth IT?

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Drawing on 20+ years’ experience designing global networks and contributing to CCIE and CCDE exams,   Systal’s Principal Network Architect Martin Duggan shares his insights  on why Systal has one of the largest certified Cisco teams, and the confidence that IT certs give our team, our partners and customers.
IT Certs, are they really worth IT?

Training and certifications are an expensive outlay for an organisation, so it’s understandable that when budgets are constrained, these areas are typical candidates for cuts, but is reducing spending in this area really a sustainable business strategy?

At Systal we are strong believers in the motto of staff “rising to the occasion and falling back to the level of training” so it’s critical for us to ensure that the level of training is amongst the highest in the industry. This post will provide an insight into what the training ultimately provides Systal, an IT certification for our talented staff members, a Partner foundation as a Systems Integrator and confidence from our clients.

What’s the go-to certification for Systal Staff?

Our technical leaders’ go-to certification is the Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert (CCIE), of which we have 38 certified experts ranging from Enterprise to Security tracks. Systal is a Cisco Gold Partner – the highest partner rating available and we have a combined 1,200 Cisco certifications held across our global team.

Cisco expert-level certifications are seen as the pinnacle of IT certifications and the CCIE has been evolving since 1993, distinguishing the very highest level of experts. Although clearly biased towards Cisco technology, the certification ensures individuals are also expert level with multiple open standard protocols and technology ensuring our CCIEs can offer best-of-breed solutions and echo our vendor-agnostic stance. Cisco has an incredible certification team and a loyal community. Cisco’s team go the extra mile to ensure their tracks maintain relevance, complexity, value and are protected, that’s why we continue to invest in the Cisco track as our number 1 vendor certification.

Here’s a quick overview of the Cisco certification levels:


Entry – This is the starting point for individuals interested in starting a career as a networking professional. This is the space where our apprentices begin their technical journey in parallel to a university education.

Associate – This is where you can master the essentials needed to launch a rewarding career and expand your job possibilities with the latest technologies. This is the space where our junior NOC engineers begin their careers with Systal.

Professional – Within this field, candidates select core technology track and a focused concentration exam to customize their professional-level certification. This is the space where our senior NOC and project engineers develop their technical careers within Systal.

Expert – This certification is accepted worldwide as the most prestigious certification in the technology industry. This is the space where our consultants, highest-level engineers and principal architects reside.

Our architecture team for example is typically CCIE certified with significant experience from enterprise to service provider networking and cyber security. Within the team we have a roadmap to grow our existing number of Cisco Certified Design Experts (CCDEs) for Principal and Business Architecture roles.

Some further detail about the expert-level certifications:

CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert) – CCIEs need to have an expert level of knowledge and understanding of multiple proprietary and open standard networking technologies and protocols, as well as the ability to design, implement, and troubleshoot complex network solutions. The certification is considered to be one of the most challenging IT certifications and requires significant dedication, hard work, experience and expertise.

CCDE (Cisco Certified Design Expert) – Design methodology isn’t just focused on technology; an architect or designer also needs to focus on business priorities to bring true value to a solution. A design is often a compromise and has multiple constraints that are outside of the domain or scope of influence of an IT organisation. To successfully deliver true value, a CCDE can be relied upon to assist organisations in seeing the bigger picture and interface between technical and business domains with their wealth of technical expertise and business acumen. Cisco’s CCDE certification has recently been updated to v3 to enhance the skillset of expert-level designers and architects to ensure the technical solutions businesses demand can meet the business and technical requirements in this increasingly complex world in which we live. The CCDE certification has been running since 2007 with a steadily growing niche community of approximately 500 individuals certified globally.

What do certifications mean to the Systal Team?

Certifications provide an excellent foundation for career progression and are synonymous with delivering outstanding customer service to our clients. We want to ensure our team is highly motivated and challenged within their roles and careers, following certification paths is recognised internally as one of the best ways to achieve this. Our team can ultimately demonstrate their expertise daily, enhancing their own and Systal’s credibility in the marketplace, and providing them with high levels of expertise, job satisfaction and security throughout their careers. Being certified also means staying current in an ever-changing landscape. Attending a course to learn how to configure a firewall 5 years ago holds no long-term value, attending frequent vendor training sessions and passing evolving re-certification exams does, however. We have an aversion to the sink-or-swim mentality that some organisations use during engagements for their staff when presented with new technology. We encourage a mentoring methodology for our team to occasionally step outside of their comfort zones however appropriate to maintain controlled growth.

Being certified also allows our team to be recognised in the wider community. Some of our team run webinars for Cisco, provide blueprints for their certification exams and publish books for Cisco press for example. You could say it’s a case of training hard to race easy.

What do certifications mean for Partner Programs?

Quite simply, partner requirements typically mandate a number of certified individuals within specific tracks to meet varying levels within the program. Partner programs allow Systal to expand our portfolio and enhance our customer service with enhanced access to technical support, sales and marketing support and technical training for our team, it’s a win for us and a win for our clients. You can view our partners here: Partners – Systal Technology Solutions – Global Managed Network & Security.

Why is this important to me as a client?

A business can only be as good as its people and at Systal we are privileged to have an incredible calibre of people. When we provide your business IT systems you are placing your trust in us, we value your trust and of course our own credibility in the market, our talented and competent team will ensure that this level of trust and credibility is maintained throughout engagements providing you with continued confidence in us. You will receive best-of-breed solutions, management and services from Systal as our team delivers accurately with efficiency every time, you can be sure your network is in safe, qualified hands. Talk to Systal about how we can help your business succeed and see for yourself just how good our team is – Contact – Systal Technology Solutions – Global Managed Network & Security.


Martin J. Duggan, CCDE#2016::6 and CCIE#7942, is a Principal Network Architect designing network solutions for global financial accounts at Systal Technology Solutions. He is one of Systal’s key technical leadership resources, helping Systal to be a dynamic and innovative services integrator and provider that offers fast, agile, and tailored support to meet business aspirations and challenges. Martin draws on 20+ years of experience designing global networks, mentoring colleagues at world-class networking organisations and personally contributing to Cisco CCIE & CCDE exam updates. Martin has authored the CCIE & CCDE Practice Labs series for Cisco Press and creates content for multiple Cisco exam tracks.

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