NWME: Can you tell us about Fast Lane?
We set up in shop in Dubai 13 years back to provide consultancy and training. Ever since, we have expanded within the Middle East and globally as well, with a footprint of 40 locations worldwide. We impart training in the networking area, dominantly for Cisco. We also offer certification training for NetApp and HP.
We are a Cisco Learning Solutions Partner (CLSP), which is the highest level partner authorized by Cisco to offer official technical, product and/or solutions training. CLSP are closely aligned with Cisco product teams and business unit, have access to Cisco intellectual property and is uniquely qualified to create, customize and deliver market-leading training using Cisco certified instructors.
NWME: What does it take to become a CLSP?
This being the highest level, Cisco does have some stringent requirements and we go through audits every year. We have to adhere to all programme requirements, obligations, and restrictions, including staff, metrics, Cisco CCSI certified instructors, and number of course offerings.
NWME: Cisco has warned of dire skills shortage in this region. What is your take on that?
Yes, there is an acute shortage of networking skills, especially in the Middle East and Africa region. The situation is even more extreme when certain technology areas are singled out. For example, the shortfall between supply and demand in advanced networking technology skills (IP telephony, security and wireless) is said to be around 35% this year. We are actively attempting to close that gap and meet the demand.
NWME: Which are the most sought after certifications? And where is the demand coming from?
At the entry level, it’s CCNA and on the higher end there is a strong demand for CCIE. We also see a demand in technology areas related to Unified Comms, data centre, wireless and security. The demand is primarily coming from channel partners and end-users alike. Certification is mandatory for channel partners to scale up partner tier programmes and also create a differentiation in the competitive market.
Yes, we have been delivering training using the remote labs for the past several years, which saves the trouble of sending equipment from location to location. Students can connect to the lab using the Internet, and we have simulated classroom in a configuration that closely emulates a production network.
Remote labs present the ability to leverage and create unlimited configurations and scenarios. Traditional classroom equipment is typically limited to the subject matter, but our remote labs offer students a chance to include components outside the box, for “what if” situations. This has enabled us to bring training to many countries such as Kenya, Nigeria, Lebanon, at affordable prices. We also offer on-site training by sending trainers to customer locations. This helps companies to save on travel budgets.
NWME: What are your plans for this year?
First priority, of course, is to sustain the business growth. We are planning to expand our footprint within the region and the number of course offerings. Our aim is to emerge as an one stop shop for Cisco training needs.