Well I am sad to say that I did not make it as a CCIE yet. My second attempt at the CCIE Lab Exam in London ended with a fail.
Mobile Lab Experience
I will first describe my mobile lab experience and then go through some of the things that I think went wrong and what I am going to do about it for my next attempt. (Yes there will be a next attempt!) I cannot give up now I have come to far.
So I sat the exam at the mobile lab in London. For those of you that do not know what a mobile lab is, bascially Cisco will ship to one of their offices a few containers containing Phones for the voice lab, laptops, monitors and the required switches and routers for connectivity back to wherever, in the case of the London Lab it was Brussels.
My lab was at the Finsbury Circus office of Cisco and there was a room set aside for the week, some tables were pulled together and on the tables were the laptops and screens / keyboards etc. For information the keyboard was a US layout Logitech K120. This is the keyboard that I also had in Brusells and I had purchased one beforehand to get used to it.
The whole setup was quite cramped and you were very close to the next candidate, with not much desk space and the monitor was very close to your face. The monitor was a bit smaller, 21″ I think so I did feel like I was constantly shuffling windows around.
Also the chairs were solid chairs with no adjustment, so it was not the most comfortable 8 hours of my life.
Compared to Brussels where you are very well spaced out and have a good sized desk and a comfortable chair.
There were no coloured pencils and all that was on offer was a blue biro, myself and another asked for some coloured pencils and all we got was a pencil and a red biro.
Apart from that the exam was exactly the same as before, the response time in particular the Doc CD was very good.
So once we were all settled the proctor said go and we were off.
The troubleshooting section waits for no man and the clock is ticking already so at 8:30 in the morning you have to be sharp and ready to go, it took me about 20 minutes to get going before I cleared one ticket, I was being very strict and only putting 5 minutes to each ticket the first time around. Once I had been through all the tickets I had answered one. I had made lots of notes of where problems were and what the problem could have been but I was not going to be stuck on one ticket.
The second time around I finished a 3 point ticket very quickly and from then on for the next half hour I was clearing one about every 5 mintues. With 30 minutes left I had only managed one more and when the time ran out with me just finishing another.
I had not really logged exactly what tickets I had really completed by that point and had certainly not verified each one along with the restrictions.
This cost me badly as I only got 27% for my TS even thought I felt like I had fixed 8 tickets.
Looking back I am sure I broke restrictions on at least 4 of them and probably did not fully complete another.
Lesson Learnt #1
Fix the troubleshooting tickets quicker and then verify the solution along with the restrictions.
The configuration section was as expected with the usual Layer 2 and Layer 3 setup and then a collection of tasks from the rest of the blueprint. I did spend longer on Layer 2 and 3 setup and did not have full reachability by lunchtime, however I had wanted to make sure everything was solid before I progressed, as in my previous attempt I had gone too fast and had to go back and fix a problem with Layer 2 that I had mis-configured – this cost me over 40 minutes so I made sure this time I did not have that problem.
However I still did not get 100% on the earlier sections and did not get enough points to pass the configuration section.
I have come a long way since my first attempt in April and I did feel ready to pass this time, however the TS did throw me a bit as I had expected to have completed all the tickets within time and also have time to verify, as it was I was configuring right up to the last few seconds, you then you have to go straight into the config for which you have to just forget the TS and clear your mind and start in config mode.
I was a lot more organised in the configuration and verifying as I went, I also had a TCL Script ready to go to verify full reachability, this is something I did not do on the first attempt, it did pick up a few networks what I had mis-configured.
I did a lot of config in notepad which I really like as it is very easy to see typos on multiple lines of configuration.
Despite all my negative comments about the setup of the mobile lab, this did not in any way have any bearing on my result and that was purely down to my performance on the day.
There are still some topics that I am not yet an expert on, and the CCIE lab can find these weaknesses and really ruin your day!
So to summarise, although I felt like I was ready for the CCIE Lab Exam I was not on reflection an expert in all areas, and as I do not just want to pass the exam I am doing this to fully learn all the technologies and to become an expert it was a fair assessment of my performance on the day.
At the time of writing there is not a seat in Brussels until June 6th so I have provisionally booked a date in March in Dubai.
For now I am going to focus on slowing down in TS, reading through the tickets, and paying very close attention to the restrictions of each ticket.
There will be a lot more blog posts from me as I do a lot of deep dives into some technologies.