My journey to Cisco – The aNCE program

Posted on April 30, 2010

I had a series of articles on the old version of my website on the Cisco aNCE recruitment program – Cisco website link – I didn’t think it was useful to copy them here but finally it looks like quite a few people are still interested in this.

What is the Cisco aNCE program

Cisco aNCE program is a 8 month long program based on the Cisco model of education (Education, Exposure and Experience). The idea is to shape the participant to the Cisco way of thinking and working giving them all the trainings required to evolve in their role (soft skills and technical skills). For European markets the program is ran in Brussels (Diegem to be very precise) for those 8 months, after there is a relocation to your delivery country.

From the Cisco website here is the description of the aNCE program

The Associate Network Consulting Engineer (ANCE) course is an extensive training and work experience program that provides you with the training to be a capable Network Consulting Engineer. It is an ideal career for people who can combine great technical expertise with good communication skills. In the Cisco Advanced Services team you will work with the latest technologies and work together with the best technical experts in the industry.

It’s not a pre sales job but more of a post sale, as part of the advanced services division of Cisco. Advanced Services (formerly known as Cisco Services) is the service division of Cisco, it’s mostly composed of highly skilled engineer that work for the top companies in the world to help build, expand and maintain their network. The job is highly customer facing and can have a significant amount of travel depending on the customers (but most accounts have very little travel).

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What does the training phase look like

First of all be prepared to drop your life for at least the first 3 months and the last 2 months, why? Because the program is really intense, days are long and most of the time you have “homework”, especially for the career certifications.

From the Cisco website here is the plan

Phase I the first 3-4 months where you will spend 100 percent of your time training to acquire the technical experience, trouble-shooting, process, professional and other skills to perform as a Cisco ANCE in the new millennium. Professional skills include; teamwork, inter-personal, presentation and consulting skills. It is expected that you will pass your Cisco Certified Networking Associate (CCNA) and the written Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) examinations during this period.

Phase II is a variable set of exposure and experience rotations for approximately 2 to 6 months. The set of rotations will be determined by your target position/organization in AS. You will work on complex and in-depth networking problems requiring strong analytical, problem solving, and engineering skills. During this period you will receive education/exposure/experience in various technologies and AS processes.

From my experience it was slightly different, the first 3 months are the same, lots of work on soft skills and technical skills. We had trainings from Mandel, Matchett, Kepner Tregoe and Global Knowledge alterning trainings technical / non-technical so you don’t go insane.

The Phase II was different for us, we had a 4 months TAC rotation where we were split between teams depending on the skills required in our delivery teams (in my case it was IOS XR / CRS) during this rotation we still had to work our presentation skills through the Toastmasters Club. Once those 4 months were finished we went back in training for some soft skills, Cisco internal tools and CCIE bootcamp. Depending on your delivery manager you could have an extra week or two to study for CCIE (that was my case)

How did the recruitment go

This is probably the most interesting part for most visitors. My recruitment was done over a 3 months period so you have to be patient, note that you can’t get any information’s from Cisco so don’t try sending emails you won’t have a reply.

Step 1: The application

I did my application on the 4 december 2007 and the application deadline was mid-january 2008. The application by itself is quite straightforward, the basic stuff (name and so on), your education background and some motivations what would make you successful at Cisco, … all that attached with your resume.

The fields are basic text so you do not need to put some large explanations be concise and straight to the point. By the way don’t lie you could have questions on that at some other stage of the recruitment process.

Step 2: The BAQ

On the 8 January 2008 I got and email from Cisco

Thank you for your application to Cisco. We are delighted to inform you that you have been progressed to the first stage in our selection process. This first stage requires you to answer a personality questionnaire, which will take approximately 40 minutes to complete.

Looks good! The BAQ is a Business Attitude Questionnaire it’s there to profile you, it’s 300 questions that you will evaluate from A to E and when they say it takes 40 minutes, it really takes 40 minutes!

At then end a report will be sent to you (in pdf) and it’s amazing how close the results are to your profile. Even if you don’t get further in the process the results of this BAQ is definitely useful.

Oh and by the way, don’t try to cheat you could have the same questions multiple times or turned in different ways so it’s really hard to false the results.

Step 3: The phone interview

On the 1 February got a new email from Cisco

After reviewing your results, we are very pleased to inform you that you have been successful and we would like to invite you to take part in a telephone interview.  The telephone interview is the penultimate stage in our process and should you be successful you will be invited to an assessment centre between the months of January and April depending on your location.  Please make sure that you make a note of these dates, as should you be successful at Telephone Interview, you would need to attend one of these. All travel arrangements will be made for you closer to the time.

You need to speak quite good English, in my case I had an English speaker with a strong Indian accent you should be prepared to handle that. The interview was roughly 30 minutes with questions such as “Give me an example of a situation where you failed” or “Tell me how you build trust with a customer”. I won’t give more details because it would give you time to prepare for such questions but there is a large pool of questions available so you will probably have different ones. Also note that if you don’t have an example it’s not a problem just say it and you will have another question instead.

As usual do not lie, those questions will come back at the assessment center and the people interviewing you know when you lie! Just stay calm, I would suggest to stay standing up because it changes you voice, speak at a normal pace, think before you talk and don’t hesitate to ask the person to repeat.

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Step 4: The assessment center

On the 14 of February got a phone call this time from Cisco wouhou passed the phone interview, I’m going to Brussels. I got an email very shortly after our phone conversation

Thank you for applying for the Associate Network Consulting Engineer Program at Cisco Advanced Services.  We have received applications from graduates from all over Europe so congratulations for reaching the assessment centre stage.

The assessment centre will take place from 8am on Tuesday 4th March 2008 at our offices in Diegem, Belgium.

The assessment centre is an opportunity for us to meet you, understand more about your skills and experiences, and for you to find out more about the Network Consulting Engineer role at Cisco. The day will be intense and challenging but we hope you will also find it informative and rewarding. You will be sent further details over the next week to provide you with information about the assessment centre.

Following the assessment centre we will be inviting successful candidates to an interview with their future team prior to making offers to join Cisco.

Now this is a tough day it’s somewhere around 10h intense with multiple exercises. Expect at least

  • HR interview
  • 2 technical interviews
  • Group exercise
  • Presentation exercise
  • Troubleshooting exercise
  • TAC lab visit

The whole day is an exercise, as soon as you get in the Cisco office the assessment has started (you’ll have coffee with some Cisco guys if you’re a bit in advance) at midday you’ll be eating with all the assessment crew. At all those moments people are trying to discover you and evaluate if you’d be a good Cisco product.

Don’t try to push yourself in front, I remember at some point we had Cisco Director eating with our group (4 people) we were talking of totally random stuff nothing Cisco related, it was pleasant … Until … Another guy came to our table, a candidate, he straightaway monopolized the conversation and tried to push himself in front with some facts on how Cisco does business and so on. Guess what? This guy wasn’t selected. It probably was not the only thing that pushed him out but it didn’t help.

Lets talk a bit more about the exercises.

  1. The HR interview
  2. There is nothing much to say about the HR interview, it’s a normal interview with a manager. It’s really relaxed I didn’t feel any pressure and it was more of a two way open conversation. You may want to have a look at Cisco’s history to know how it was founded, where it started, who’s the boss, the figures (roughly) …

  3. The technical interviews
  4. That was really challenging! A few days before the assessment center we got an email with subject we would be discussing during the technical interviews (OSPF in my case). Just remember you’re at Cisco some of the guys working there actually wrote the RFCs for some protocols.

    The first interview is more of general technical stuff, we didn’t even speak about OSPF, we spoke about proxy arp and general network concepts (OSI layers, how ip works, how arp works …). I messed up a bit on proxy arp but the rest was ok. The tech guys are not there to bring you down, they’ll try to bring you on the right path by asking oriented questions so listen carefully to the questions they ask. As usual THINK BEFORE YOU TALK.

    The second interview is more of a challenge, there we talked about OSPF, I mean really talked not just the basics we went in details on that and remember some guys in Cisco wrote RFCs well the guy I had in interview had. Don’t even think of bullshitting him, he know what he’s talking about.

    Remember that you are being evaluated, not only on tech stuff the guys will want to see how you use the whiteboard, the gestures, the intonations, the way you question etc …

  5. The group exercise
  6. You will be set in groups of 4 (of course you don’t know the other participants) and the 4 people will most probably have different backgrounds and nationalities. In this exercise you’ll have to come up with a proposal for a fake customer, so you’ll have to discuss the proposal with the team.

    There are 4 persons in the room that are there to see how you’re doing (each one is focused on one candidate). Be careful not to cut people when they are talking, listen before replying, don’t stay in a corner without talking at all. It should be alright, everyone is there for the same thing.

  7. The role play exercise
  8. That was a funny one, a guy from Cisco is playing the role of a customer that has an issue. You first have 5 or 10 minutes to read a document describing the customer network and the problem, after you have 15 or so minutes to ask questions in order to understand what the problem is.

    The problem is really tricky most people don’t find the solution (I did but really last minute). The idea is not to find the solution, but how will you try to find the solution, is it a logical thinking path? When you first read the document prepare your action plan and stick to it, don’t jump from one side to another. Oh and most important don’t play a guessing game “the problem is the router”, “the problem is the server” … That really annoys the examiner.

  9. TAC lab visit
  10. Won’t go in details here, the TAC lab manager will bring you through a guided tour in the lab, it’s quite interesting and it’s really there to have a break in the day.

Step 5: The delivery manager interview

Got a phone call on the 6th March, the day after the assessment center telling me I was successful and that I had to go through the last step, the delivery manager interview that would be the next day 7th March.

This call is very informal and it’s in the language of your target delivery team, we talked about photography, a bit of my background and it was done. The call was 30 minutes or so and the manager told me if was ok, I should soon have the definitive reply and that it would be positive.

Finally on the 17th March I got a phone call followed by an email with a formal offer of employment, and here we are I’m still there 🙂

9 Replies to "My journey to Cisco - The aNCE program"

  • Michael
    May 2, 2011 (12:09)

    I recently went through the assessment center as well. My experiences were very similar and receieved an offer shortly after. Do you have any advice going into the program? I hear they make it extremely competitive – each candidate is ranked weekly in the program and information is posted publicly. Did you come across this? Thanks.

    • Remi Philippe
      May 5, 2011 (12:07)

      Hi Michael,
      Congratulations, that's a major achievement!
      The main advice I would have is focus on the cohesion of the group for the first weeks, it's important towards the end of the program (CCIE prep for example) and for your future @Cisco. Concerning the ranking part that was not part of the program when I did it, and to my knowledge it wasn't the case for the last program either. It's highly competitive for sure, but it's all about the Team more than the individual, so if one fails you basically all failed.

  • Laura
    May 3, 2011 (00:07)

    thank you for this informative blog. i have a question about “The group exercise”:
    1. do you remember the excercise? I am also invited for the AC an I am very excited.
    2. what was the question in “The role play exercise” and the answer you found in last minute?



    • Remi Philippe
      May 5, 2011 (12:03)

      Hi Laura,
      I'm not sharing the details of the exercises, that would make it useless and be unfair for the other people. Remember that the aim is not to see if you can resolve an issue, it's to see how you do it. Same thing for the group exercise, it's about who you are in a group so the subject doesn't have much of importance.
      Good luck with the AC, when and where are you going?

  • Zainab
    July 7, 2011 (08:22)

    thanx 4 sharing guy!

  • Steph
    August 4, 2011 (10:13)

    Thank you for all this information.
    I want to participate to this program. I’m CCNA and i live in switzerland. Please could you inform me for the next ance program?
    Thank you!

  • jon
    September 22, 2011 (22:15)

    Hi, Can you tell me how many people failed to pass the programme? thanks

  • Simon
    September 21, 2012 (10:38)

    I had been selected for the assessment this summer, months after my application and the phone interview. They called me on the phone at 4 pm the day before the assessment, pretending there were no more open positions and so the whole thing was cancelled. Nice of them.

  • Kingsley
    May 31, 2013 (13:13)

    Thanks for the insight, applied for the position earlier this year, hopefully the process will begin soon. Its really good to have an idea of what to expect.

    Any advice on current practices and cisco expectations will be highly appreciated.

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