A CCIE Journey Pt. 1 - Certified!
Back on March 15th, 2015 (yes this Blog was posted in hindsight and backdated for emotional significance), myself and a classmate took a drive with my wife to Research Triangle Park in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina to take our 2nd attempt at the illustrious Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Routing and Switching v5.0 Exam. It was my 2nd attempt at the v5 and my classmates 1st (his first attempt was the v4).
We both took the exam on a Sunday and had to take the 4 1/2 hour drive back to Augusta, GA to get to class on time for Monday morning. The entire drive I went back and forth as to whether or not I believe I passed the exam, and around 1 a.m. that night we both received the email from the Cisco CCIE Portal that our Lab results were now posted. So we rushed over to the portal and logged in to see the infamous words:
'Your CCIE status is Certified ( CCIE# 47547)'
'Your next CCIE Recertification due by March 15, 2017)'
No idea what our scores were as there is absolutely no feedback, but that didn't matter. The journey (or at least this leg) was finally over. Every individual's story is different regarding their path to this level, but believe me, each person definitely has a story.
Many have come and asked "What's it like?", "What did you do to prepare?", and of course "That's the direction I'm going too!". I was one of those who hammered real CCIE's with a thousand questions and worked side by side with them, but one thing that I've learned is that unless you are actively pursuing the CCIE and have taken the Lab at least once, it is almost impossible to actually grasp what this certification actually entails.
I used to be one of the naive personnel that worked with CCIE's and fooled myself into thinking I was on there level (if not beyond them) and downplayed the significance and skillset required to attain the CCIE. It's always easy to criticize the quarterback when you're not in the game!
It wasn't until the first CCIE bootcamp did I realize how 'in over my head' I was and how far I had to go. The bootcamp served as a wakeup call and from there I hit the ground hard studying, doing labs, eating, sleeping, and repeat the next day (with or without a shower). I took an entire month off of work to do nothing but labs all day and night to prepare for my first attempt, and truth be told I felt pretty good going in.
My bootcamp was 4 weeks before taking the exam and it was designed to be attended 18 months prior to taking the exam. Needless to say it didn't work out well. I did pass the Diagnostic section, but utterly bombed both of the Troubleshooting (50%) and Configuration (11%) portions.
From that point I went on to a school that coincidentally forced me to attend a CCNP course. I've never despised training or viewed certain topics as beneath me, as you can always learn something, and this CCNP course was no different. Turns out that both the instructor and a classmate (who eventually took the exam with me) were both 1st time failures as well and studying for a 2nd attempt.
This has to be the biggest difference from the first attempt to the second...studying in a group. Even within our jobs it is always better to have other technicians to converse with, even if it's just to give you the reassurance that you're on the right path. I personally give the study group one of the biggest reasons why I was able to pass.
Both of us however, lived and breathed studying during this time. During class we were bringing our laptops in doing labs while bouncing ideas and approaches off of each other. After class we would be in our rooms continuing to study until the early hours of the morning doing the same while still hitting each other up over Google Hangouts. This CCIE was life for a period of time.
The best part of passing is not the passing itself, but knowing that I don't have to study for it any more! After the first attempt all I could think about was how I still have so much studying ahead of me. I just wanted it to be over. This entire process occurred while being a Full Time College student (Western Governors University!), attending a 5 month school for my job, and having a Wife and 4 Kids!
If you are interested in taking the CCIE stop delaying and putting it off. Just start. The biggest hurdles to someone starting seem to be the financial hurdles and rightfully so. The Official training through Cisco can be very expensive but I highly recommend it. Get a second job, save up, invest, do whatever you need but you will have to invest into this endeavor.
There are other training sources such as through INE (https://ine.com) that I've heard very good things about, but for me personally, I'm loyal to Global Knowledge and the Official Cisco training path (Click Here for Global Knowledge CCIE Training Packages).
Best of luck to you in your journey!