Why now, is the best time to go for DevAsc
So, you are sat at home, for the first time in weeks you’re on top of your emails. The network is stable and user issues are at an all-time low. You tilt your chair back and take a sip of tea as you contemplate, what shall I do now?
We find ourselves in a challenging period, but without our daily commutes and less office-based distractions we may also find ourselves with time on our hands. Now is a great opportunity, to start thinking about our personal development.
Maybe you will start to play with network automation, possibly dabbling in docker or even just dusting off that Python for Dummies book you purchased on Amazon last year. But what if just the idea of getting started in this new world of network programmability seems daunting?
Why has Cisco made these changes to their certification tracks?
Susie Wee’s and Ryan Rose’s blog posts go through why these new certifications are relevant in this day and age. But Julio Gomez (EMEAR Programmability Lead at Cisco) summarises the need very well: “The DevNet certifications validate the skillsets of various industry professionals across a wide variety of job roles. The new offerings will help unleash the full capabilities of the new network by educating network infrastructure engineers and software developers in application development, automation, DevOps, Cloud, and IoT”.
Like most, you’re probably looking to start at the very beginning and get DevNet Associate under your belt. It’s a simple path to certification, comprising of only a single exam. Associate is aimed to really get those entry level skills nailed down and give those who pass a strong foundation when it comes to the fundamentals of network automation.
Unlike traditional Cisco exams, the DEVASC exam has little to do with Cisco CLI commands, instead focusing on scripts and APIs. Specifically, how we interact with APIs at a code level, foundation level constructs and concepts as well as Cisco specific API knowledge. This maybe a departure from what many of us are used to, but much of the content will be strangely familiar.
So, you’re ready to get stuck in?
You may be wondering what can you expect from the exam and how should you best go about preparing for it. When I speak to my colleagues, I describe the exam as having a focus on understanding and interpreting various Python scripts that will usually have some form of API interaction.
The most common scenario you will face in the associate exam is: “Below is a snippet of Python code, read this carefully and understand its function”. This will then be followed by something like “what function is performed when the code is executed?” or “why won’t this code work and what error will occur?”.
I personally enjoy the style of these questions greatly as even if you don’t understand it at first, by spending time reading the question, it does start making more and more sense as time passes. This is fundamentally testing your logic and problem-solving skills interspersed with Cisco technologies and API constructs. This ultimately means it’s very difficult to score highly without a solid grasp on the fundamentals.
Because of this, there are minimal questions that require pure memory recall. Memorising command syntax or hard facts such as IOS logging levels are not the focus of this exam. Overall, the questions are extremely fair and have received positive praise on social media, with some exam sitters even stating they found the exam fun to attempt, even if they didn’t achieve a pass!
To prepare, I highly recommend getting hands on first and foremost! The exam leans heavily on Python, so the best way to gain knowledge here is to start writing code. It’s much easier than you think. Download an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) of your choosing, such as Pycharm, and start manipulating variables, playing with loops and using packages like requests to start making basic API calls.
And guess what, there’s a wealth of learning labs available on the Cisco DevNet website to help you get started with Python and APIs. I would personally start here and navigate to the ‘Coding’ learning labs.
If you require an application or tool to make API requests against, then look no further than the DevNet Sandbox, which provides plenty of always on instances (such as a Meraki Dashboard, DNA Centre etc.) that you can make use of ad hoc to aid with your training, alongside many more reservable instances.
Cisco also provides dedicated DevNet Associate training content, either in the form of the DevNet Associate Fundamentals Course, or the Developing Applications and Automating Workflows course for the exam.
There are also a multitude of third-party training providers that have recently created content to help with preparation. All the providers you know and love have now made this content available to consume; such as CBT Nuggets and Pluralsight.
So, what are you waiting for? Now is the best time to start your DevNet journey!