INTERVIEW: How tech-savvy Nigerians can get top Cisco certifications – First Nigerian to pass top IT exams

Hashir Aminu is the first Nigerian to pass the Cisco Certified Design Expert Certification (CCDE) examination since it was introduced by the world networking company Cisco System Inc.

As Technical Leader for IT Service Delivery with Global Service Provider business unit of Cisco in Saudi Arabia, 39-year-old Hashir is also helping service providers of national scale across the Middle East and part of Africa to maintain and maximizes guaranteed high-availability and return on investment in IT.

Cisco certification identifies IT professionals who have expert-level knowledge and skills in network design, network design principles and theory at the infrastructure level.

This prestigious credential recognizes expertise of network designers who can support the increasingly complex networks of global or country scale, by effectively translating business and government strategies into evolutionary IT strategies.

In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ Mohammed Lere, Hashir attributed his success to hard work. He said Nigeria has the potential to excel in IT and called on the government to support young Nigerians pursuing careers in Information Technology.

PT: How many of you took the examination this year?

Hashir: The exact number is never revealed by the governing body, but it’s on a scale of hundreds and hundreds of candidates attempting, with a passing rate of less than 3%.

PT: How do you feel being the first Nigerian to take and pass the CCDE examination?

Hashir: Being among the elite group of about 300 individuals worldwide to attain this certification is very fulfilling. CCDE is the highest certification you can get in Cisco at the moment at expert level. And like I said, the passing rate is less than 3%; so you just have to prepare seriously before you take the examination.

PT: What is next for you now?

Hashir: To continue building on my current experience that has spanned over 16 years, mentoring aspiring IT professionals that are serious and committed, and improving on technologies and solutions that will help countries, businesses and individuals with special interest to my country Nigeria.

PT: What do you do now?

Hashir: I am working with Cisco Systems Inc. as a Technical Leader for IT service delivery with Global Service Provider Business Unit, based in Saudi Arabia; helping service providers of national scale across the Middle East and part of Africa to maintain and maximize guaranteed high-availability and return on investment in IT.

PT: What is the cost of achieving this and other certifications?

Hashir: The cost ranges up to $2000, depending on the certification you are aiming at. The expert level is about $1600 with the qualification exams at $400. Other lower certifications cost less.

PT: Where can a professional with this qualification work?

Hashir: This is an advanced level certification. The CCDE has advanced-level skills in IT Solution, infrastructure design principles and expertise for large networks that span a country or global scale. This could be in a multinational company that has IT installed base spanning the globe or across a country, with thousands of branch offices.

PT: What is the average pay one can budget for such certification?

Hashir: I will say an average of about $4000 because of travels and registration. Training is not part of this budget and some of us substitute training with real world experience; while others require training which will cost almost another $4000.

PT: What is the first step for one who wants to study such?

Hashir: There are different stages on the career path towards IT and Cisco Certifications. I will suggest starting with the “Associate” level, then the “professional” level, then the “Expert” level and finally, the “Architect” stage. This progression reinforces knowledge as you climb the ladder as well as validates your knowledge at some stage, experience and expertise.

PT: Is there any advanced certification that is higher than the one you have now?

Hashir: Yes. There is the Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr); this is the highest attainable IT certification which correlates to so many assessment levels, such as one’s experience, exposure and a board level defense, if candidate’s experience/exposure qualifies for it. There are about 10-20 people globally with this certification. I intend to attempt it next year, God willing.

PT: How would you rate IT in Nigeria?

Hashir: Nigeria has a great potential in its IT landscape. I will classify it as an emerging country with high potential, and the penetration of IT is still below par. Nigeria was ranked as No. 112 in 2013 and 119 in 2015, which means we dropped 7 places within 2 years. United States Ranked No. 7, Finland being No. 1 on the “Networked Readiness Index Rankings” done by the World Economic Forum last two years. This demonstrates the ICT revolution index.

We need to work from infrastructure as well as services points of view. We need to develop in-house talents, attract ICT investors and multinational companies, create reliable and hospitable environment that will nurture ICT. We have to realize that we are hitting an infliction point whereby every home; every company; every city and every country is becoming digital one. For us to be competitive and remain relevant, we have to embrace these changes and put a road map and strategy that will position the country. There are simple steps that are effective and strategic that we can take, despite our economic and development issues.

PT: Many Nigerians want to be like you, what would you advise them to do?

Hashir: I will say they should aspire to be more than me. Anything is possible as long as you are committed. You have to make sure it’s something you want to do and love to do, because at some point, that’s the only thing that will keep you moving. Building a career and starting out in an environment like ours is not easy. I had all my education from primary school to university level in Nigeria and I knew what I went through 12 years ago – challenges with electricity, internet access, peers to collaborate, access to resources and share knowledge, as well as shortage of funds. If your motivation is normal, you will give up and resign.

PT: What has been your motivation?

Hashir: I have strong affinity to technology and computers right from childhood and I continue to build on that, regardless of the odds of where I come from or being the only one pursuing a career in that direction. Secondly and most importantly, my working class parents were very supportive even though they have very little understanding of what I was doing in the early stage; they continued to support me in every way. These days, I will say I have a very supportive spouse who understands me very well and what I am doing.

Source: Premium Times

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