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Cisco aNCE Program: Assessment Center

It’s been two weeks since my last post about the aNCE program and I am back with more news and information about the next stage, the assessment centre.

Upon successful completion of the previous interview (Stage 2) you will be invited to take part in an Assessment day, which is held at the location of the job post you have applied for.

The Assessment Center is the final stage before being offered the aNCE position so it’s worth making sure you are well prepared before attending the assessment day. The recruitment team will provide you with all the relevant information to ensure the best chance of success before the big day, just ensure you are well-prepared.

The assessment centre blueprint could change at a moment’s notice, but the following information I have provided is based on what I prepared.

  1. Logical test
  2. Technical presentation
  3. Managers interview 
  4. Group role play 
  5. Individual role play

  • Logical test

    This is to assess each candidate’s problem-solving skills. Mine was approximately 10 questions and was completed within 15 minutes. The logical test is done on paper and once completed it is passed to the assessors.

This stage is pretty self-explanatory, I am no stranger to these types of tests so I approached this one as I have done any previous test.

  • Technical presentation

    You will be expected to give a presentation on a specific technology without using presentation software. Cisco will provide you with a list of technologies you are allowed to talk about before the assessment centre. You are only required to pick one technology from the list and you must be prepared to talk about the technology for approximately 15 minutes. When you have delivered your presentation you must be prepared to answer any questions the assessors may have.

As mentioned above, Cisco provided me with a list of technologies I could choose from and it was my job to present one on the day. Even though I was fairly confident with the technical topic I had selected, I spent a good few days revising to make sure I was 100% confident.

The documentation received before the assessment centre pointed out that it was forbidden to use PowerPoint software however visual aids such as a whiteboard flip chart were permitted. When I carried out my presentation I used the whiteboard further explain my topic and I feel that this worked very well. My presentation lasted about 15 minutes and then I was asked some technical questions by the assessor to further test my knowledge.

At the end of my technical presentation, I received some good feedback and I was also asked how I felt I performed. I was confident in what I was presenting and although I was slightly nervous I managed to keep it together and deliver a good presentation.

  • Managers interview

    You will have the opportunity to meet your potential future manager on the assessment day. This is a good chance to express why you are the perfect fit for the role and you should also have some time to discuss any questions and concerns you may have.

I was excited to sit down and talk to the manager about my motivations for the role and to find out more about Cisco. This interview wasn’t technical, it was slightly more personal and the manager wanted to understand more about what made me apply for the role and why I would be a good fit for the role. I enjoyed speaking to the manager who was really nice and very laid back.

  • Group role play

    So that the assessors can see how you work within a team you will be expected to take part in a role-play activity. You will be given a scenario and you may find yourself challenged by the objectives and the time set but this is normal and it gives the assessors a chance to see how well every individual reacts under pressure.

Coming from the job I had just previously come from I knew that this was something I wouldn’t struggle with. I tend to see myself as a good team player and I believe I demonstrated this on the day. The role play lasted approximately 45 minutes and I played the role of the NCE. The assessors played the role of the client and I and the other NCEs had to notify them of a vulnerability in their network and suggest possible solutions to the assessors (clients). The clients were difficult to deal with and challenged us with some difficult questions however we worked as a team to find suitable answers based on the information we were given.

The group role play wasn’t the easiest I’ve done, not because of the other candidates but because of the lack of information we had and the time to come up with potential solutions. At the end of this exercise, we discussed what we think went well along with the things we felt we could have done better. So although challenging, I feel like I did a good job at this task.

  • Individual role play

    You will play the role of an NCE and the assessors will play the role of the customer. You will be given a scenario and asked to provide technical solutions along with justifications for your answers. The assessors will then ask you to troubleshoot a made-up scenario so that they can see how you approach troubleshooting.

At first, I was rather nervous entering the room and this was because I had two assessors for this exercise. My nerves soon calmed and we had a general chat before starting the exercise. In this exercise, I was presented with a customer topology and asked to make recommendations on the technologies that should be used. I was asked to justify why I would use particular technologies and I was asked about any potential implications of using them.

I believe this section was put in place to see what I understood about networking and technologies as I was asked about my background and certifications before the exercise started. I completed this exercise and was then given another scenario which was focused more on troubleshooting. The troubleshooting exercise took around 15 minutes and I was able to solve the issue with a few prompts from the assessors.

At the end of this exercise, the assessors give me good feedback and asked me how I felt the exercise went. I told the assessors that I felt the exercise went well and they agreed. I didn’t try to talk about the technologies I didn’t know enough about and I made this clear to the assessors, other than digging a ditch for myself.

Having completed all the above exercises on the assessment day I can confirm that I have been successful and I have since been offered the aNCE position starting in early 2017. This is like a dream come true for me and I am looking forward to starting my career with Cisco.

I will soon start the aNCE role by spending the first 6 months in Krakow training and I will continue to share my experiences with my blog followers.

I would like to hear from anyone who has applied for the aNCE program starting in 2017 and from the previous cohort that has completed the 6 months of training in Poland, Krakow. It would be nice if you could also share your experiences below 🙂


Kelvin is a Cyber Security professional with years and experience working with organisations in different verticals, both large and small. He enjoys contributing to the Network Wizkid knowledge base and he also creates technical content. Kelvin enjoys learning new things and often does this by working on achieving new technical certifications. He holds many professional certifications and academically, he has achieved a Bachelors and Master's degree in both Computer Networks and Cyber Security.

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