I was enrolled in the Cisco Networking Academy courses in high school, and ever since, I've wanted to pick up my CCNA. Looking back, I don't know that I could have passed it at the time, but for a long while, I avoided taking the exam.
To be honest, I didn't really feel worthy. I knew people who had managed to get it, but I didn't feel like any of them actually knew what they were doing. It seemed that everyone had just slipped through by the skin of their teeth after cramming a few days, then quickly forgotten all of the information afterwards. "What's the point of holding a certification if you don't know any of the material?" I thought.
As far as I'm concerned, if I can't teach someone else about a concept, properly, I don't know the concept, or as Richard Feynman put it, "What I cannot create, I do not understand." After all, even being able to recall a very large body of details is not necessarily indicative of a deep understanding of the concepts behind them.
Somehow, I just couldn't allow myself to take the easy route, no matter how it might have benefited me. My rationale was this: if I have a certification that implies that I'm able to perform a certain task and an employer asks me to perform precisely that task, but I'm unable to perform said task, then I end up looking like a fool and will have to fill the gaps in my understanding on the fly and under fire. To this day, my thinking hasn't really changed regarding this, but I wish that I had taken the initiative sooner. After all, there's no time like the present.
That being said, I took my CCNA exam today. Only hours after finishing the exam, I got the official word from Cisco: my certificate is in the mail.
Now that I have my CCNA, I think I'll look into the CCDA. I don't how much of it can be considered overlapping knowledge, but it seems like the next most useful certification, at this level. Then, once I've gotten that, perhaps it will be time to look into my CCNP. I can't see myself going on to CCIE-level certification, but one never knows. I suppose it depends on what I need for my work.
With regard to how I feel about the test, itself, I have only two complaints: First, the router simulator they use is pathetic. On two different questions, I had to remove some lines of configuration, then paste them back in again to get them to work. This can really throw you for a loop if you don't think to remove what you've added and reapply it. Nothing is more frustrating than having an interface in down/down state for no good reason, only to find that removing a link then adding it back in fixes the problem. When the equipment fails to respond the way that you anticipate, you can waste an awful lot of time on only a few questions. This is definitely not beneficial when taking a timed exam.
Second, I found a question that used one MAC address on a router, but a slightly different MAC address in the answers. It was obvious that two numbers had simply been transposed, but something like that can really cause you problems when you're trying to make absolutely certain that you haven't missed some vital detail in the question. I left a comment about it during the exam, but I have no idea how those comments are conveyed to Cisco. I, at least, did my part.