Well I am sad to say that I did not get my digits at my last attempt at the CCIE Lab exam.
Everything was in place I had prepared well, I went to the NH Airport Hotel a day early so had an extra nights sleep. But on the day the TS got me again and I got buried in one big ticket which I could not resolve and I also dropped marks on the tickets I did fix. So must have broken a restriction. I also dropped some big points in my Layer 2 which I am still not sure about what happened there.
- I was so nearly there I felt on top of everything, I had full reachability early in the day all my TCL scripts were working, there were no topics that really phased me. I felt good.
- I arrived a day early at the NH Airport hotel which I can highly recommend. I have not slept well before my previous attempts and my first night was very restless. However after a day of gentle labbing in the hotel I went to bed at 10:30 and had a great nights sleep and was up at 6 feeling ready for day.
- I had a lot more support from friends and fellow CCIE candidates. This I now realise is very important as trying to pass this exam on your own is a very lonely journey. I have met some great people along the way and just bouncing ideas about troubleshooting of each other has really helped me focus on my approach
- The version 5 blueprint looks very good - and I am enjoying now studying DMVPN and I think the format of the exam is going to be better.
- I now know that I need to aim to complete TS in 90 minutes max and to also complete the config section in 280 minutes max.
- I failed! After all the time / money / preparation and mental pressure it all came to an email from Cisco which said fail. This is the hardest part of the CCIE journey and I know a lot of other candidates will empathise with me. On the way home on the train you feel positive, and then start to remember things you may have missed. After the result comes in you are crushed but still positive saying I am going to pass this thing and want tot get straight back into it. After you have given yourself a few days off the study you start to feel very low about it all and just want to give up. It is at this point which a lot of people do - or you just get back on the horse and keep going.
- The version 4 to version 5 change - For me passing the CCIE Lab exam this is a negative point as if I could go back for Version 4 in 30 days I think I could have passed it. This is also a positive point (see above)
- Having to explain to my wife that there will be more weekends where I will be studying. This is another of the hardest part about failing is that knowing that you are going to have to detach yourself from life again for a while in the lead up to your next attempt.
- I did not have enough time to verify my lab at the end of day which I was very annoyed about, I went a bit slower than I should have done at the start of the lab to ensure the foundations were solid. However on refelction I needed to go a lot faster and just get it built and then verify at the end of the day. There is a fine balance between going slow and steady and verify as you go and going faster and seeing things working and verifying at the end of the day.
- The cost, each attempt costs me about £1500 and I have also sacrificed a lot of family holiday time. This is something that any CCIE candidate just has to swallow or get someone else to pay for it!
My schedule for the next few months.
I have already built my virtual CCIE rack using a baremetal ESXi install - currently running 20 x CSR1000v routers, I will be connecting up the switches next week and I will be doing a few posts about this build. Although it is very well documented, there are a few tweaks I had to make which did take me a few hours to overcome - mainly the virtual console access.
I am reading through the DMVPN design guides and looking forward to the new ATC class from INE to cover the new topics.
I need to improve on basic speed. Typing out basic configs in a solid and concise manner. My typing speed has always been good as I learned to touch type when I was 16 and I can easily type at 40 words per minute with my eyes shut. What I need to improve on is interpretation of questions and finding quicker ways of doing everything.
The troubleshooting section needs some work. I was doing very well but did get caught in the lights a few times and just did not know where to do, I had checked everything but the ticket was still not working, I then ended up pecking around for the problem. As a CCIE your troubleshooting strategy needs to be 2 or 3 show and debug commands to isolate the fault and then once the fault is located determining the best way to fix without breaking any restrictions.
I call it a laser approach, you need to find and isolate the problem efficiently.
- Look at the fault and verify that it is as the question says
- Determine your first TS step - ping / trace / sh ip route etc
- Make your first educated move to the next step - do you repeat the ping / trace / sh ip route etc from a different device
- You should now be narrowing in to the fault and need to use the most effective debug command to show the problem.
- The debug should tell you what the fault is, now you need to locate it.
- Once on the problem device and you can see the fault, how do you fix it without breaking restrictions.
I need to do some more work around show commands for specific areas of the config
Instead of doing a sh run and looking - being able to do sh run | sec router bgp and going straight to the right bit of config is essential
I did on a few occasions copy the config to notepad and do a search to find something quickly.
I also need to do some more work on the documentation, as there were a few topics where I probably spent more time studying them, when all the information is there for you in the exam. Familiarise yourself with the technology, lab it a few times and then know where the documentation is. This worked well for me on one particular technology, I had not labbed it for months but a quick look at the documentation brought it all back and the question was asking for a particular change to timers of which I was easily able to take the configuration example and adjust it to the requirements of the questions.
I am disappointed that I did not pass this time, but I am not going to give up!
There are areas that I know can be improved on and I will be working on those over the next few months.
I need to make sure that every day I improve on something. I will be blogging a lot more over the next few months and if you are in the same boat and are transitioning from Version 4 to Version 5 and would like to get together and form a study group I am always looking to meet other CCIE candidates from around the world.