CWNE certification: Hints & Tips:
My first step to becoming a CWNE (Certified Wireless Network Engineer) wasn’t technically my choice. Wi-Fi has always been seen as this dark magic that other engineers refuse to touch and because of me being late to the office one day, I was the junior engineer that drew the short straw. I was given the task of writing a quite extensive support knowledge article on a wireless network that was being deployed.
I remember being sat there and googling the word “Wi-Fi” and seeing a mass of material and no idea where to start. Thankfully it wasn’t me just being left in a corner to my own devices. I was placed into the new wireless project team which conveniently for me had some of the best wireless engineers in the industry.
As soon as a I started working with them, they suggested a certification to improve my wireless understanding which would culminate in one of my most notable achievements. The Certified Wireless Network Expert (CWNE) certification, something that I can proudly say I have achieved (CWNE #515).
Having a CWNE guide me through the process and Wi-Fi as a whole, was a huge benefit (and helped with my application hint hint). If you know a CWNE drop them a message or reach out the wider Wi-Fi community, see who’s out there. We’re always willing to provide you with help you need.
Preparing for CWNE
Offered by the Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP) organisation, the CWNE certification is the final stage of their Wi-Fi program. The entire program is vendor agnostic, which is brilliant as it gives you an overall understanding of wireless theory and best practices without the marketing fluff or bias from vendors. Before you can go applying for CWNE, you will need to meet the set requirements as set out on the CWNP website.
Your first stop, studying and passing the CWNA – Certified Wireless Network Administrator exam. This will always be one of my favourite exams. What I learnt in those months, was the most I have ever done for an exam even now and what I covered still lays the foundation for my wireless knowledge. This exam is one I always suggest as being the no1 exam for all soon to be wireless engineers to get them started. It is not a small book by any means (900 pages I recall) and covers a wide range of topics, such as the history of the 802.11 standards, basics of RF, and introduction into WLAN infrastructure.
There is another 1st tier exam that you need to achieve, that being CWISA – Certified Wireless IoT Solutions Administrator exam. Similar in size to the CWNA, there are a few topics that crossover between CWNA and CWISA. However, CWISA focusses on IoT type wireless such as Bluetooth, LTE, and Zigbee. You can do this exam directly after your CWNA, although I found this a lot easier to understand after taking my CWNP exams. This is up to your own personal preference.
The 2nd tier is the three CWNP exams. CWDP, CWSP, CWAP. This is where you start to dig deeper into the topics previously learnt. I will include the links to their specific pages below as the objectives do update with the syllabus, however they will cover the same overall topics I mention.
- CWDP – Certified Wireless Design Professional: The CWDP certification focuses specifically on the design aspects of wireless networks. This includes design requirements, surveys, and validation, and troubleshooting among other topics. This, I found was the easier of the three exams, although it did cement best practice when it comes to wireless design which is fundamental to providing an adequate solution.
- CWSP – Certified Wireless Security Professional: The CWSP exam takes a similar approach and focuses on the security aspect of wireless networks. This covers topics such as security architecture, security standards, authentication, and encryption. An enjoyable topic, one that I hadn’t fully covered while working although much needed in today’s environments to protect your networks and your users.
- CWAP – Certified Wireless Analysis Professional: This I’m not ashamed to say was one of the hardest exams (not just CWNP exams) that I have done but also one of the most interesting. Focussed on the analysis and troubleshooting of wireless networks, this exam encourages you to get out your packet and spectrum analyser and start digging to better understand the RF environment and the packets that you are helping transport. I spent quite a few months revising for this exam whilst padding out my home wireless network to help with said revision.
After completing the above exams, you can start your application. You have just managed to pass one of the first requirements to apply for CWNE, which is to pass and maintain the above exams prior to your application. Well done.
After you’ve done that, you do have a few bits to tick off your list before successfully being able to submit your application and they are as follows:
- Other Certifications: This must be a single non-CWNP exam that you have passed (and is still active), that is related to networking in some form. A few of the topics are, routing and switching, security, network design or radio frequency. Given the range of topics that they allow, you have a good choice of what to go for. I checked this box with my CCNP Wireless Design exam and CCNA R&S.
- Experience: A minimum of three years full time work in enterprise Wi-Fi. For this they require an up-to-date CV, think of it as if you’re applying for a new job. Sell yourself and what you’ve accomplished.
- Endorsements: Three people need to endorse you. These are familiar with your Wi-Fi work having been a client or a colleague for example. They just need to write a paragraph or two about you and your work, nothing crazy. Best to not have your bosses down and if you want to go the extra mile, see about having a CWNE endorse you.
- Publication Requirements: This requires you to have published wireless related material out there in the open world, a way of improving the wireless community. I advise you to get this started as soon as possible. I went with the blog approach and started around the time I was revising for my CWNP exams. I would take a topic that I found either interesting or difficult and write a blog post.
- Three Technical Essays: If you took my advice on the publications and started early, this is what you’ll probably spend most of your time on. The three essays. In no more than 1000 words you need to write essays on enterprise Wi-Fi related topics. It seemed to be a theme with other CWNEs that you choose one from each of the topics in the CWNP exams (Design, Security, and Analysis). I would highly recommend that approach as it did give some structure to what I was going to write. You can conveniently find other CWNEs who have published their essays online for you as a reference which did help immensely.
- Agreements with the CWNE Code of Ethics: One of the final steps but also one you must keep in mind as you go about your working day. The premise is that you agree to a set of principles and in the short, be professional. One that you simply tick a box to say, “Yes I agree”, but one that is required of you even after receiving your congratulations.
After checking, double checking, and triple checking your submissions, and chasing your endorsements, you can get to submitting. It’s a simple process which the web page guides you through, although if you have any issues, you can contact CWNP and ask for advice, which helped immensely. This involves attaching your documents (three essays) and providing links to your relevant profiles, blogs, LinkedIn etc depending on what you intend to cover.
Then you get to enjoy the wait. Pre-warn you, my application took 1 ½ months from submitting to hearing back. You can check the web page on your application status (which I did every single day), but please keep in mind that the people reviewing your application are volunteers and it may take a bit of time.
I remember receiving my email which conveniently had “Congratulations “in the subject title which made life easier. If you’ve done everything to the best of your ability, I have complete confidence that you will pass.