The journey to CWNE is not a straight path. It takes preparation, determination, and patience with a lot of studying. This is my summary to CWNE #210.
Deciding to tackle the CWNP certifications towards CWNE is a task you do not take on lightly. In 2015, I had decided to create a personal goal of fulfilling my Wi-Fi dreams of becoming CWNE. While the certifications were not required for my job at my employer I was wanting to complete them for myself and to have the credibility of a CWNE.
In December 2016, I received the confirmation email of becoming CWNE #210 and was filled with a lot of joy from the sweat from the hard work.
The CWNA cemented a foundation in Wi-Fi and proved there was much to learn in this space.
I used the CWNA study guide from Sybex which helped me pass the exam the first time. The book covered all the topics and provided more information beyond the scope of the exam.
During this time, I had also begun doing a Wi-Fi podcast to help me stay on track by constantly talking about the topic. The Clear To Send podcast has definitely helped me stay focused on Wi-Fi topics. I believe that teaching others is a way to also help yourself really understand the technology.
My CWNE Timeline
The requirements for becoming CWNE are straightforward and outlined on the application PDF.
CWNE requirements as of January 2017:
- You must pass CWNA, CWAP, CWDP, and CWSP and they must be current.
- Have three years of experience (verifiable) Wi-Fi administration, Security, Protocol Analysis, and Quality of Service
- Have three endorsers
- Meet listed achievements such as a published book, white paper, recorded instructional presentation, updated blog, etc
- Write three essays (each over 500 words but not longer than 1000 words) which speak to your knowledge in Wi-Fi
- Thanks Scott McDermott for the correction!
- Hold two valid non-CWNP certifications
After completing CWNA, the next task is figuring out which professional level certification to go with next. My recommendation is to knock on CWAP. The analysis portion will arm you with the knowledge to pass the other exams with a little more ease. Analysis requires you to know more about design and security which is why I recommend this path. Within the CWAP you will dive into the frames and know more about frames than you ever wanted to.
When I first started tackling CWAP, I had tried to rush myself into passing before CWNP made the exam changes. Rushing is definitely a recipe for failure as I didn’t pass on my first attempt. What made things worse is that I couldn’t review fast enough for a second attempt before the exam changes.
Without giving up, I ended up purchasing the CWAP Study Guide by CWNP. While the book was much thinner, it did contain enough information to pass the exam.
I highly recommend capturing many wireless frames to help solidify the topics for CWAP. I lived and breathed in Wireshark during my CWAP. Anytime I needed to troubleshoot a Wi-Fi issue I always opened Wireshark just to see what was going on.
Something I always remember was when I solved a slow Wi-Fi issue due to a client constantly sending out CTS-to-Self frames with large duration values. I wouldn’t have seen this if I hadn’t gone through CWAP and applied what I learned.
My decision to go with CWDP next had to do with the work I was doing with my employer. At the time I was doing quite a bit of design work so it was only natural that I took this path.
When I looked into book resources for learning CWDP I learned the book for the previous exam version was much bigger than the new version by CWNP. I decided to pick up both for the purposes of learning more.
The CWNP book is what I used to study for the CWDP and the previous version, by Sybex, I use as reference.
I left the CWSP as the final professional level certification to tackle. This was in part of security being one of my weaker areas.
After reviewing the objectives I knew there would be quite a lot of terms to be familiar with. One of those being 802.1X and the security methods.
When you study for the CWSP be sure you know each of the authentication and encryption methods. Know what the difference is between them and which ones should and should not be used. What helped me learn the topics really quickly was building a Wi-Fi lab and experimenting with each method.
At home I have an Intel NUC which has VMware ESXi installed. I deployed a FreeRADIUS server and learned how to setup 802.1X with different access points and with a Cisco WLAN controller. Then during the authentication process of a device I would capture the wireless frames and analyze them.
If you take this route you will remember the topics much easier.
In parallel to my CWSP studies I began working on my CWNE application. Why do it in parallel? It made it faster to apply after passing the last required exam.
The easiest task to do here is find three endorsers who can attest to your knowledge in Wi-Fi.
My three endorsers were:
- A CWNE
I recommend you at least find one CWNE to endorse you. You should really find a CWNE to guide you through this process when you are early on into your CWNP studies. I’ll talk more about this later.
A requirement of the CWNE is having the experience. Get exposed to working on Wi-Fi networks in areas of administration, design, analysis, and security. You may even be able to volunteer your expertise to non-profits who do not have the funds or capacity to do Wi-Fi networks properly. Look out for Episode 61 on this topic.
If you haven’t already, start a blog talking about your Wi-Fi experience. Talk about the subject as if you were teaching someone. You can see some examples on my own blog.
Other ways to get experience is to have published Wi-Fi articles. I have a few on Network Computing.
If you have questions about whether something is eligible you can contact CWNP and get verification.
You’re required to write three essays that show your knowledge in Wi-Fi. A simple way to approach this is to look at the three professional level certifications. You can write three topics on Design, Analysis, and Security.
I don’t recommend writing three essays on the same topic. For example, you write three essays all on Design. That only speaks to your design knowledge.
You will want to show that you’ve been able to learn from the CWNP certifications and have applied that on a project or in the workplace.
Reach out to a CWNE and ask for guidance. You may even want them to review your essays to provide any input and recommendations for improvement.
Early on in my Wi-Fi career I had indirect mentors. What I mean is I followed some of industry experts by reading their blogs, listening to their podcasts, and engaging with them on social media.
What I wish I had done when I first started was actually reach out to specific individuals and ask them to become mentors. These are CWNE’s who have the time to provide guidance to someone starting out in the CWNP path.
First you must be a good mentee. I always always always emphasis on doing the research first. Try to find the answers to your questions. And then when you have hit that wall you can approach your mentor with the results you found and ask for the push towards the right direction. A mentor will never give you a straight up answer. They are there to guide you.
A good mentor will be someone who is approachable and has the time (many CWNE’s are very busy with work travel and family). They provide guidance, input, recommendations, and experience. A mentor does not give you all the answers. They will encourage you along the path and push you to do better.
I want to thank one person specifically who has guided me throughout my CWNE journey and that is Francois Verges. He was patient with me, reviewed my essays and provided valuable input. Thanks Francois!
Resources Used During CWNE Journey
- Official Study Guide
- Sybex Study Guide
- Open-Mesh access point
- Mojo Networks access point
- Intel NUC
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