on 15-Jul-2021 15:14
In this series of articles, I have gone into the details of how the exams are developed (...as far as I know at least), and how I think you can improve your chances of passing them. And now that you have, enjoy! Enjoy the rest of the day, and soak up the rays of a job well done! Second, party! Third, tell everyone about it! Especially us techies aren’t good at boasting about our achievements, but passing these F5 exams, I would definitely call an achievement.
An evangelist for anything software designed and security, and a self-described massive network geek, Alex is an F5 trainer and consultant at ABCT.net. While certified and highly skilled and interested in all things F5, he's just as happy pulling cables in a data center and designing scalable systems as he is messing around with the latest cool kids toys our fine industry has to offer.
Once the celebrations are over, you should also receive your mail from F5 to confirm that they have ratified your results – assuming you haven’t tried to do something nasty. With this, you can then look online to check your passing score, which will give you an indication of how close you were (https://certification.f5.com/). Keep in mind the MQC (Minimally Qualified Candidate) metric that F5 uses – no matter if you have barely passed or easily passed, you have passed! And when it comes to telling people about it – they really don’t care. As another wise colleague once said; “boast about the fact that you made it, not about how closely you almost didn’t pass.”
Badges are also a useful feature. On the same site, you will be able to find them and you can show them to the world! Most exams nowadays have it, but if anyone ever asks you to confirm that you indeed have this exam, you can send them the badge, which links to the F5 page that confirms that this certification is still valid. Too many people have been boasting about certificates that they don’t actually have, or are no longer valid. This validation system is a great way to confirm from the source that you still have the accreditation.
Not to say you have to change your job, but as we have now seen, these certifications are worth their time and money and if you were thinking about looking for something better, now might be the right time to do it! Of course, good managers will recognise potential before it leaves the building and will happily give you the work (and hopefully pay rise) that comes with it. In my case, the F5 certifications helped me to leave my 24/7 helpdesk job and move into presales, then training, and nowadays running my own business. Even if you don’t immediately want to change or take on the new skills, you can still take pride in the knowledge that you know your stuff.
And why not take this further? Which exam are you looking at next? I’m aware that there’s lots of other exams to be had, but if you are enjoying these, why not try some more? Each 300 level exam gives you access to more opportunities and options. Going for a 400-level one will only expand on that, with the added bonus that you can do less exams every time when renewal comes up. Talking about renewals; in order to keep your certification valid, you need to renew them roughly every two years. Though with the recent lockdowns, F5 has extended the validity of most certifications so that nobody would be uncertified due to not being able to sit the exam.
F5 has not “extended the validity of most certifications so that nobody would be uncertified due to not being able to sit the exam”. We extended the “grace period”. The difference is subtle, but it is critical. Certifications expiring during the pandemic will still expire and, once expired, they cannot be used to satisfy the prerequisites of a higher-level exam/certification. Extending the grace period simply gives candidates more time to renew those certifications without having to go all the way back to exam 101.
ALSO, taking a higher-level “exam” will not renew any prerequisite certifications. Achieving a higher-level “certification” will. Again, it is subtle, but can be important. Passing exam 302 confers the F5-CTS, BIG-IP DNS certification, which in turn will renew/extend the prerequisite F5-CA, BIG-IP; HOWEVER, taking and passing exam 301a does not result in a certification and, thus, does not renew/extend the F5-CA (it makes you eligible for 301b, which if passed then confers a certification and renews the prerequisites).
Personally I find the 2-year renewal period a bit short, but I get why they do it. The technology changes so rapidly that in order to keep up, you should keep yourself up-to-date as well. Funny enough, when it comes to recertification, I have found that it takes much less time to prepare for them than I did for the original exams. This year I recertified my 402 and 202. For neither of them did I actually spend more than half a day on preparation – maybe a day at most. Remember, you don’t have to know the facts, you need to understand the scenarios and the rough F5 environment. As long as you keep getting exposed to F5 systems, recertification shouldn’t be too difficult.
Alternatively, when it comes to recertification time, why not go for that higher-level one? Depending on which exam you have done, you can do a higher-level exam the next time around and it will automatically renew your previous exams (check the F5 exam policies for an exact overview of possibilities - https://support.f5.com/csp/article/K90101564 Again, as long as you are being exposed to F5 systems, you will probably find this easier than you might think!
If you ever thought about moving to a different place or country, these exams can also help for sure! Because of their international recognition, and a chronic shortage of good F5 engineers worldwide, there is always a job going somewhere that will interest you! Having lived in many different places myself, I can honestly say it’s the best way to expand your knowledge and understanding – brave the unknown! Get out of your comfort zone, pick up new things and try new ideas. If anything, use the certifications as a proof to yourself that you apparently DO know something. Even though we techies often don’t value ourselves that highly, clearly we have done well – so trying something new might not be such a bad thing after all. The trolls (ahem) of the exam development group have tried to make you fail, but in the face of danger, you laughed and came out victorious! Congrats and whatever you try next – go for it!
I’d only add that, having been a practicing engineer who achieved a lot of certifications, I really wanted our program to be something people could be proud of. It is not easy and achieving it will likely require more work and effort than most of the any other certifications you may have. Most of the “complaints” I get basically all say the same thing, “it’s too difficult to get your certifications, why can’t you make it easy like everyone else?” To them I say, “why would you want something that anyone else can get?” Achieving an F5 certifications, especially the F5-CTS or F5-CSE certifications, is really an achievement. You should be proud of your accomplishments; I know we are.