TechHouse570- CCNA Journey Vs Reality

In your IT career and on your certification journey there’s always the path were on to achieve our goals and strive for the best! Then there is the reality of where we actually are and how we need to get ourselves to that next level. Recently I had the opportunity to sit down & chat with A.J Murray! A.J is quite busy as a Sr. Network Deployment Engineer for a VAR, the Creator & Co-Host of The Art Of Network Engineering Podcast, & his popular blog NoBlinkyBlinky where he shares his IT journey & more. This is just some of his many accolades which he’s accrued through his career. So it was a no brainer than to ask the man himself his take on some of the questions we has IT professionals face on our CCNA & IT journey in general! It Was refreshing to hear from a seasoned engineer his path, but also I provided my feedback from a different perspective as someone preparing for his CCNA so here was some popular questions from the Discord, reddit and more from professionals just like you on what they face & how to overcome those challenges!

How long to complete CCNA?

Girard: There’s so many different factors that go into completing your CCNA Journey! For one how much time do you commit to studying, labbing or both? Is this your first time in IT or have you been in the industry for a while? There’re many different things that factor into the outcome.

How do you get a job with CCNA, No experience ?

Girard: Differentiate yourself- Make yourself stand out from other candidates. Passion shows and if they see that drive and hunger, they’re more inclined to want to present you with that opportunity.

Suggestions on a Beginner Networking home lab?

Girard: For me I was fortunate enough to have some extra hardware at my work that wasn’t needed that I used to begin my lab. But for an inexpensive lab you can find switches, firewalls, servers, etc. for reasonably priced on Ebay or other sites. Also, you can purchase full CCNA or CCNP labs with all the gear you need for a little more.

Where to begin in the IT Industry

Girard: For me one of the best analogy i’ve heard to this day is the IT industry is like the medical field there’s so many areas to go into. I always recommend for someone getting into the industry with no experience, start where every icon has started help desk. It gives you not only a solid foundation, but from there you build upon what it is you truly love and go from there.

How to study when you don’t feel like it ?

Girard: Set a minimum of 30 mins to an hr. of dedicated studying but break it up into 15 min intervals or so. So 15 mins of studying, 15-20 mins of labbing and even flash cards to retain some knowledge!

Starting study material for CCNA

Girard: There’s so much content out there to use it’s insane! Some of the things I’ve used that have been the most helpful are CBT Nuggets & David Bombal’s CCNA Course. Cisco’s website also has some great tools and resources. I’ve used them to supplement my hands-on lab.

Which path can you go into IT?

Girard: There’s so many from Help Desk, Network, Servers and more. The path you choose will be decided by you. I’ve always recommended the best place to start is the Help Desk to learn those fundamentals and build upon that.

Which path do you go after CCNA?

Girard: There’s so many different paths it’s endless. Once you’ve completed your CCNA, the next path should be your CCNP. There’s so many different areas to explore so it becomes a matter of your passion and what you love. From Service Provider, Data Center, Enterprise, Collaboration & Security. Each track has its own concentration and will be a perfect segway into DevNet Associate.

Labbing- Physical vs virtual

Girard: For me In my opinion the best way to fully grasp a concept is to apply it physically in a lab! Now everyone has their own opinions and different methods that work for them and may help them learn differently which is awesome too! I’ve always loved being able to take those concepts and power on my switches and apply it hands on to fully grasp what I’m learning. There’s just some things you can’t replicate in a virtual lab, power outages, bad ports on a switch, etc.

How to know when you’re ready?

Girard: It will always vary. Everyone has such a different learning style or way they obtain information it may take some longer to retain that knowledge than others. Some could study for weeks, months and then tank while others may study less and or not prepare as much and pass on the first try.

These are just some of the many questions asked every day in our industry, I know that my journey will differ from someone else’s in different ways! Everyone’s opinion on how long this process can take will differ and that’s ok also. Were all on this journey together and many of us have such incredible insights, viewpoints and strategies to share it can be helpful and the deciding factor between which path you choose and that PASS or FAIL on exam day. So how does a seasoned engineer’s viewpoint differ from someone still on their CCNA path? For those answers head on over to to find out his views on these topics & get some incredible insight!

Best Regards,



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