When Andrew Melogy learned that he had passed his Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) exam, the December 2023 cybersecurity graduate admitted that he stared at the screen in disbelief.

“When I saw I had passed, I froze for like five minutes,” he remembered. “I’m sure anyone watching was like, ‘What is this guy doing?’ I think I had built it up so much in my head that part of me thought there’s no way I’m making it. Then you see it, and you cannot believe it just happened.”

Although official pass rates are unknown, some estimates state that 90% of people who begin studying for their CCNA exam quit along the way before even taking the test. Of the 10% who attempt it, only 50% pass.

Designed for agility and versatility, the goal of the CCNA exam is to validate whether someone has the skills required to manage and optimize today’s most advanced networks. The exam covers networking fundamentals, IP services, security fundamentals, automation, and programmability. According to Cisco, obtaining the certification is “living proof of the standard and rigor that businesses recognize and trust to meet and exceed market demands.”

“I felt like I was never prepared for it. You just can’t learn everything. It’s impossible,” Melogy said about the two-hour test that features a maximum of 120 questions divided between multiple choice, drag and drop, and simulation labs, where test takers use a Cisco CLI (Command Line Interface) to accomplish a task. “There are around 5,000-6,000 Cisco commands. Nobody can just memorize those, but you can understand the basics of everything that’s on the test. You’re just going to have to accept that you don’t know everything.”

Melogy estimated that he spent six to eight months of dedicated studying, spanning last summer and his final semester last fall at Montreat College. However, the idea of obtaining the certification was planted in his brain by Professor Greg Sayadian during Andrew’s sophomore year.

“I was trying to figure out different certifications I could get. I looked at the CompTIA Network+ that the Intro to Networking class prepares you for, but as I was talking with Professor Sayadian, he suggested, ‘Why not just go for your CCNA?’” Melogy recalled. “I knew it would be more difficult, but I didn’t realize how much would go into it.”

The oldest of three siblings, Melogy was born in Columbia, SC, but later moved to Greenville when his father was stationed there. Following his homeschool graduation through the Classical Conversations coop, he originally enrolled at Winthrop University to major in Computer Science, but he quickly realized the school and the program weren’t the right fit for him.

“I tried and tried to like computer programming, but it’s just not my deal,” said Melogy. “Also, I think Winthrop has like 5000-6000 students. I always grew up in a really small classroom with maybe twelve other people in my graduating class. So, Winthrop just didn’t really work for me, but Montreat gave me the personal connection that I was looking for. Making friends is relatively easy at Montreat because it’s a small community. I’m very introverted and very shy, so I don’t usually want to go out and meet people, but Montreat helped me come out of my shell and build connections with a community.”

In addition to the community, Melogy found his passion in cybersecurity, especially network engineering.

“I really like taking things apart, figuring out how they work, and then putting them back together,” he said. “Montreat College helped me immensely. The knowledge base of the professors at Montreat is vast. They built the foundation for me and helped me find my interest in computer networking that I didn’t even know I had. They will do everything they can to help you learn more about a subject that interests you. They want you to succeed, and they want you to find a job with their network of people.”

Although Melogy is still searching for the right position, he knows the wait shouldn’t be long with a degree from Montreat College, a strong faith, and a hard-earned CCNA certification in hand.

“My faith definitely affects me in all aspects of life, just in doing what’s right when nobody else is looking. That’s the real test of character in cybersecurity,” he said. “The key is following in the footsteps of Jesus.”