Interview with Hudson Cruz

It’s a Friday afternoon, Friday the 13th actually, but the scenario has nothing to do with bad luck. In “Ilha de Luanda” (Luanda island), sitting by the sea, feeling the breeze and listening to the relaxing sound of the waves and a “fresh one” very close by, I came to meet Hudson Cruz…

Well… actually we weren’t in ilha. I was sitting in the office in Luanda and Hudson was in his office in Krakow… but our imagination is wild! 🙂

I met Hudson in March 2015. This Cisco Systems network consulting engineer was at the time preparing to seat for the CCIE R&S written exam.

In April 2016, a little more than 1 year later, I got the great news that this young angolan man had just become a CCIE, joining Jeriel Atienza and Andre Malungo as the 3rd active Angolan CCIE (if you know any more please let me know).

Regardless of his nationality and where his number is registered, his story is inspiring and deserves to be shared to encourage and motivate those who are going for this or any other certification.

 

First of all congratulations.
Thanks.

Whats your number?
Number? Let me see… I don’t know it off-hand. It’s 52 something… CCIE 52384!

When did you pass the lab exam?
April 13th in Dubai.

When did your IT “carreer” start? Did it start in Angola?
In networking it started right here in Cisco. Before that I worked in programming. I was there [Angola] in a project where I had to go to Unitel [Angola Service Provider] lots of times. I was working for a portuguese company in the middleware they implemented. I was part of support and implementation. Also worked for Siemens Healthcare 2 years in electronics engineering.
IT/networking started right here in Cisco, when I joined 1 year 8 months ago, September 2014. But before in university I also studied a lot of network protocols so it didn’t really start from scratch. I was already CCNA R&S at the time.
I joined Cisco, we had to get the CCNP R&S certification in 3 months, September to November, which was very hard!

And did you pass on the first try?
I had to. The first 3 months in a company, you’re afraid that if you fail they will send you away so I had to pass.

You said that at that time you came to Angola. Were you recruited in Portugal to come work in Angola?
Exactly.

Where did you study?
Portugal too. In Lisbon.

When did you leave Angola?
January 1993, I was 5 years old, still a baby.

Since you left Angola and joined Cisco, have you been visiting? Do you come here on holidays?
Almost all of my family is there in Angola but it’s been around 2 years since I have been there. But I was with my family on new year’s in South Africa.

About your job at Cisco. I think most people that start working in networking, that start getting to know this Cisco “world” and become fascinated. How did you get to Cisco? Spontaneous application? Were you called? Were you recruited at the university?
Spontaneous application. I saw the post on LinkedIn. At the time I wasn’t happy with what I was doing, networking was something I really liked and I already had the CCNA so I decided to apply. Only after applying I saw it was for Poland but… just had to be.

And you are still in Poland?
Yes. Krakow.

Is it what you were hoping for?
It’s just like any other job. It has the good and the bad. We are part of a team, the GDC (Global Delivery Center) that sometimes has work which is not so fulfilling.
But the good things shadow the bad ones. Training is amazing, be it technical or soft skills like how to interact with a customer, what to do and not do when you are having difficulties, it’s excellent. Work ethic too, it’s amazing because no one will give you too much work, they give you enough to do and to do it well to a certain quality standard – which is important for Cisco. So, in terms of the company culture, I’m more than happy. In terms of work, It’ll get better now that I’m a CCIE. New projects, so I’m on my way to complete happiness.

Hudson Cruz

Hudson Cruz

To get the CCIE, was the “push” more on a personal level or from the company?
More on a personal level. They demanded the CCNP. The CCIE would be to get when I felt comfortable. The “push” I felt when I saw other colleagues getting motivated and on the way to the CCIE so I felt motivated because I didn’t want to stay behind.

What was your study plan?
I started preparing for the lab in August/2015. I did a sheet and the following: Everyday during the week I would set an alarm for 4:30 PM and study for 4 hours. Even if I had to work I would leave it for later after studying or the following day. On weekends I would study for about 8h a day, then rest a little, it’s important.

In the final phase of studies I went to Portugal and studied around 12h a day.

How long was this last phase?
2 months studying 12h a day.

How long did it take to pass the written?
Between 1 and 2 months.

Did you ask for time off at work?
Exactly. I took 4 weeks off and after that other 4 weeks of “vacation”. We have a policy where they give you 2 weeks to study and other 2 weeks I had to work and study at the same time.

Were your managers cooperating with your efforts?
Yes yes very, very much. They were very comprehensive because they know how hard it is and the benefits that come from it.

Did you pass the lab on the first attempt?
No. First attempt was in February and I failed. Passed in all sections but failed on the final average, i think. They didn’t put the value in the end.
Now I passed in April about a month ago. But it was hard! Getting back to studying after failing, it’s tough. I had some 2 weeks that I was really down.

And the coleagues that were studying with you. Did they pass?
Yes, they passed. From the 30 people group that joined Cisco the same time as me, we have around 7 CCIEs. Since September/2014.

Did you study together or you were more by yourself?
At the end it was more by myself. They did study group sessions but were a bit more ahead. So I was a lost. After that I decided to do my individual plan.

What tools and resources did you use to study?
I used IOU/IOL, had a VM (Virtual Machine) and some workbooks. First it was IPExpert, I saw all the videos, did all the workbook. Then it was INE, all the videos and all the workbooks. Closer to the end I did all the exercices/workbook of the Cisco 360 program[now Expert-Level Training].

Now, as a CCIE, are you going after the 2nd and 3rd? Are you going to stop for a bit?
Now I’m just enjoying and as I’m working more with Service Providers I will focus on that. Summer is coming so studying… forget about it! I will enjoy summer and when the winter comes, which is really hard here with rain and snow, lots of time inside the house, then I will go after SP. It’s a small step from R&S to SP.

All this time studying what were for you the 3 hardest topics to learn?
Hhhmmm… First one that took me a long time was L3VPN, especially route import/export, how  did it mix with MPLS and the labels, how all parts of the puzzle fit together. It took me some time to understand that.
OSPF has some little quirks and details which also took me some time to understand and sometimes I just had to memorize.
And.. it was that. The rest was really straightforward.

And the easiest?
RIP, EIGRP and Layer 2 topics. Layer 2 was really easy for me.

At a personal level, difficulties and barriers? Wife, children, responsibilities?
Noooo, no wife nor kids and now not even a girlfriend. At the time I had one but she also worked a lot. Now not even a girlfriend so my time is all for me.

Did the studying have a lot of impact to your personal life? Socializing?
Yes it had because I’m a party guy! I like parties and had to cut all off. If I went out and drank too much I knew that the following day I wouldn’t be able to study, I would have a headache. I had to cut all that. I would stay home on weekends, go to the cinema one time or another. Stopped going to a lot of parties and the time I had available I would spend with my girlfriend.

Besides Cisco, any other technologies interest you? vendors or certifications?
Next year maybe I will look more at VMWare because I’m also very interested in focusing more on datacenter in the future. I believe ACI will grow and we are having a lot of ACI project so in the future, after SP, it will be Datacenter.

What do you have to say about the changes coming with virtualization and SDN. Now we even have these topics coming to CCIE in “Evolving Technologies“. There are many people saying that Cisco is loosing market because all is moving to software, running on x86 servers. It’s also being said that CCIE is loosing relevance because of that.
I agree that CCIE is loosing it’s relevance but it’s because there are more than before. Just look at my number it’s above 52000 so there are lots.
About Cisco I think we are following the trends, we are not leaders yet but every quarter our DC numbers are always growing 2 digits so our customer are believing in Cisco.
In the market, lets call it legacy, we continue to dominate above 50% so we are still isolated leaders and when it comes to virtualization we are getting there because every day I see more and more ACI and SDN projects.

Angola. Do you plan to come back?
It’s one of my dreams but it’s complicated now. Not so soon because I have family both in Angola and Portugal and I will have to decide if I stay in Angola or Portugal. In Poland I won’t stay for sure but I’ll decide between these 2 countries.

Hudson, thanks very much and wish you all the best.
Thanks a lot and if you get me any projects the better!

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PS: This conversation was held on May 13 and it showed that with dedication and sacrifice we can conquer the goals we set for ourselves. Everyday we have 16-18h available and what we do with them is in our hands. We just have to learn that we can’t do everything at the same time, something has to be put aside.

I confess , since August/2014 I’m preparing for the CCIE and to this day I haven’t even sat for the written. It’s paid for more than a year and I postponed it 5 times! Like many of us, I did not find yet enough strength to sacrifice the many elements of my life: time with family, socializing, business and more.

I also take this opportunity to leave an advice for the younger (I’m really old), the time they have free, living from their own wage and in their parents house, with no major responsibilities,  it’s not only to enjoy, party and show their fun lives on facebook / instagram / snapchat. It should also be for learning, preparation for the future and to get some financial education.

That’s it!

 

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