“To be or not to be, that is the question…” shakespeare

Have you ever had a discussion with your co-workers about the value of technical certifications?  I have had that discussion many times with others and I have to say, the answers are always different.  Some will say they are just a waste of time, others will say it depends on the certification and others will say it should be a requirement to fill X or Y job role.  If you were to ask me, “Is it worth it to become certified in X?”  I would have to say that I fall in the camp that says “Yes”.  And yes to answer your question, I do hold a few certifications.  Feel free to check out my About page if you seek further details, as I am not a braggart.

So what certification shall I choose to discuss?  Well one of F5 Networks certification offerings of course!  I recently earned the “F5 Certified System Engineer” certification provided by F5 Networks, by passing the LTM (F50-511) and LTM: Advanced (F50-522) exams.  Woohoo!  It was fun to pursue, I read the manuals several times, tinkered with things, blew things up and in general learned a ton over the last few months.

I was driven towards obtaining this certification for several reasons.  Of course, as I type this article I am asking myself, is my judgment clouded?  I think it could be… BUT, let us take a look at a few facts and I will let you decide.  Here are few numbers for you, that I have obtained from our good friends over at F5 Networks.  A special thanks to F5 Networks for releasing these figures by the way!

Fact #1 – Currently there are around 2,400 people that hold the “F5 Certified Product Specialists” certification.

Fact #2 – There are around 1,200 people that hold the “F5 Certified System Engineer” certification.

Those numbers are Worldwide numbers by the way.  I guess it goes without saying, that I feel very fortunate to be one of those 1,200 and that feeling is actually reason #3 on my list.  So without further delay, here are the top 5 reasons I can think of as to why I feel that obtaining a certification from F5 Networks is a great thing:

Reason #1 – I’m “The F5 Guy”, I have to do my best to live up to my name!  Hehehe…

Reason #2 – F5 Networks is the leader for Application Delivery Control systems.  Their name holds weight with companies utilizing their products and a certification from them does as well.

Reason #3 – I like the challenge and the feeling of personal accomplishment.  In short, it is a bit of a moral boost.

Reason #4 –  I think it sends a clear signal to ones current employer that I take my work seriously and that I will do my best to learn everything I can about the technology that they have chosen to run their network on.

Reason #5 – I think it is excellent for the learning process.  Hours of reading the manual and hours of hands on experience is the idea I think.  I would even go so far as to say, I don’t think you could pass any of F5 Networks tests without having put in many hours of study in the manuals and the console.  For some I would recommend months or perhaps a year of daily application and study before attempting to take either test.  Know the manual, know your stuff from hands on experience and you will do well.

Now that you know my reasoning, I would like to pose a question to those of you in the community.  What value do you see in certifications?  What drives you to pursue or not to pursue certifications?  Feel free to post a comment or two, you do not have to register.  You do have to enter an e-mail address, but I don’t keep track of those.  We can all thank the spam bots for even having to do that!

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22 comments so far

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  1. Just a quick note:

    I’ve always been a personal advocate of certification… it really drives a deeper understanding of the technology. It’s not a replacement for experience, and having experience validates your certification. It also shows individual initiative. There are plenty of fish in the IT sea, and it’s in your best interests to do everything possible to separate yourself from the pack.

    My personal experience with F5 certification:

    Recently, we made the decision to relocate. That meant hitting the job market. As a network engineer at a very large enterprise, I worked daily with the BIG IP platform (gtm and ltm). During that time, I made the decision to leverage that experience and certify. With a good bit additional reading and being blessed with access to hardware (LTM VE makes this easier now), I passed the BIG IP Product Consultant exam fairly easily.

    So I interviewed for Network Engineering positions with 3 very different organizations, and surprisingly, all 3 were interested in one thing: my F5 expertise. I’m not saying that the certification is the reason I was interviewed and ultimately hired, but it was certainly noticed and discussed at all 3 organizations (which range from pioneering online retail & cloud services to local government and the entertainment industry). Very diverse applications, very pointed need for engineers versed in F5.

    At the end of the day, why not certify? What reason is there not to expand your resume and learn in the process?

  2. i am preparing for jobs, i have 5 years of exp in networking butrecently for past 6 months i ve been introduced to LTM. i understood the concept and the functionality fairly but i donot what kind of questions do they ask when doing interviews on LTM.
    any sample questions or what need to focus can help me. thank you
    i request u to send me some docs or questions if u have to my email.

  3. Hi everyone.
    Glad to see this topic here, because I’m getting ready to try the BIG-IP certifications.
    I’m from Brazil and all these things are new to me, because I worked in MAINFRAME is another world.
    But I’m studying a lot, it will be a great challenger for me.
    If you are a help to me, I’ll be happy.
    Sorry my english ….

  4. Hi F5 Guy,

    Have you take the new exam and certification of F5? The entry level certification is F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator (F5-CA) it requires to exam 101 and 201 Exam. What are your thoughts?

  5. I too was wondering about the new exams. I have been working with F5 LTM for about a year and have many years network experience.
    I am a contractor and have already found that just having F5 expereince in a bank on my CV has opened doors and think getting certifed might be even better. I have had many cerst in the past and many now lapsed as ultimately no longer necessary.
    You previously listed how many people were qualified in the old exams. Do you have any figures for the F5 CA(particulalry UK)

  6. I have not taken the new exams yet, though I hope to do so before long. I was involved in the process of the creation of the new program, though a NDA prevented me from saying much at the time. F5 Networks collaborated with numerous vendors and clients to craft a certification path that I believe will answer the needs of the community very well.

    I do not have any recent statistics but I will ask the nice folks at F5 Networks to see if they mind sharing the latest information they have regarding this.

  7. StevieM3, I think that certifications are an excellent way to show that you have a certain level of understanding with a technology. I believe that over time the community will seek out those that have F5 Networks Certifications in the same manner that they currently list Ci$co certifications on job postings. Couple this with a strong work ethic and I think there will be many doors opened for you. I also highly suggest that you engage the community when you can through F5 Networks DevCentral!

  8. Hi Gus. The new F5 certification scheme has been released more than year ago and the exams have been available since last quarter of 2012 but I think no one is giving any interest. I am just wondering why?

  9. Passed 101 & 201 exams very recently. Questions were fairly ok, although bit confusing like Cisco MCQ’s. I think 90 min is little bit tight for 80 MCQ’s(201) as few questions need more than a min to think(well atleast for me). Pretty much every question is from blueprint topics only. Good luck guys :-)

  10. Congrats P1222, I am now preparing for 201 exam.

    F5 Guy,
    Since F5 exam and certification has no dump/cheating policy. You Reason #3 will more fit in this new F5 process.

  11. Hi Guys, I’m taking the 101 exam in two weeks so I have a question for the people who already have taken the exam… the questions included are only from the blueprint ?.. I mean, the topics included in the blueprint is enough material for study ?

    Thanks for your help !

  12. Please let me know the cost of the exams 101 & 201 each respectively

  13. Exam Cost is around 135$ for each exam

  14. Is it possible to pass the first two exams 101 and 201, with no experience with F5? I wanted to get into it to add to my NW job exp and CCNP, but know little about app delivery. I am on the mindset that it can get me in the door to get hands-on exp with it and continue certifying as I move along. Also if equip is needed, what is the minimum for at least the 201 level or, better yet, the 301/302 level? I was thinking the 201 can open a door for me.

  15. you can pass 101 by hair’s breadth cause most of it is fundamental of network and F5 technology ( passing score is 69% )
    Yep 201 can do.

  16. Hi everyone,

    I am planning for F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator (F5-CA) ( 101 & 201 ), please let me know the best book & author name. Thanks in advance.

  17. @benniehanas. For 101, I would say roughly 75% Network Fundamentals and 25% Application Level and F5 Related stuff. So if you can ace the Network Fundamentals portion you can pass the 101 Exam. For 201, you really need to know F5 BIGIP. Regards.

    @teepan123. Have you taken both exams?

    @Bharath. There are no official books for the certification. For study guides and tips you may visit F5 Cerified Profesionals group in linkedin

  18. I need a top F5 Engineer immediately to help with a customer issue (location is Orange County, CA, but phone support would be first step). Will gladly pay T&M to help with this customer sat issue. If you can help please call Sean at: 949-400-8851. Please don’t call beyond 11/12/13.

  19. Hey guys, Im trying to take the first test, Application Delivery Fundamentals 101
    I have CCNA and other certs, so I’m familiar with stuff, also studied all F5 university materials.
    I purchased some Q&A also, but it seems those are more from LTM nd GTM.
    I will appreciate if anyone can help me understand the Q&A samples of test so I can just go nd set an apt. for my test.
    I know if I pass the first one It’s so easy to pass the next ones till level 3 for me but the need some push nd help for the first test 101 ;)
    Thank you so much
    My email : [email protected]
    No. (240) 257 2926

  20. Hi Everyone,

    In a couple of weeks I’m taking Administering BIG-IP v11.x and Configuring BIG-IP LTM v11.x in NYC. I’m fairly green when it comes to using the F5 but I do have access at work as I’m tasked with being the backup for my company. Has anyone taken these classes and if so, how were they? Also are the entry-level exams included with these classes like some other training (i.e. Microsoft or VMware)? Just trying to get an idea of what to expect. Thanks in advance!

  21. Hi All,

    I’ve taken F5 771-201 exam yesterday (this is official name of TMOS administration exam). Unfortunately, i’ve failed. All test dumps you could find in Internet are compleately incorrect. ALso, i want to notice that some questions looks very strange, so be prepared :). Carefully learn connection persistance topic and vlan failsafe, also learn hotfix installation process and qkview output file name (yes, name, and also file location). There was 5 or 6 questions about F5 support cases. Good luck! My two week starts now :)

  22. @AntonLyam.

    1.) first mistake is trying to use a brain dump / test king. What value do you expect to get from a cert you obtained fraudulantly ?

    2.) any reseller will provide you with an LTM image you can run in virtual box, at no cost to you for 90-days. (2) VIPs and 4 real servers is all you really need. (basically 2 real hosts which can also be VMs.)

    There’s really no need to cheat on these, they are basic fundamental Admin knowledge. And if you have no idea how to build out a simple LTM lab, then you have no business on the console or GUI of any of these products.