Sunday, December 4, 2016

CCIE #52966 R&S - First Attemp Pass

Hello fellow future CCIE's and blog readers ... I've done it and I can't express my excitement in words. I know I have not posted in a while due to personal issues right after achieving my CCIE, however I am starting the blog engine again. In this blog I am going to document some important information regarding my preparation, stuff I did before/during/after the lab exam, and hopefully give some insights / motiviation that might help you during your exam.

Lots of people ask me how do I feel being a CCIE? First off, I feel no different as I am the same engineer I was before I passed the CCIE exam, but the journey of becoming a CCIE has greatly changed my attitude and my day to day behavior on how I approach issues (both personally and professionally). The journey itself was much more important to me than passing the actual lab exam ... and as you go through your preparation keep one thing in mind "Championships aren’t won in the theater of the arena. They are won in the thousands of hours of training ... when everyone else is sleeping. That’s where it’s won. The heart of a champion is a light switch that’s always on – it doesn’t go on and off when someone’s watching – it’s constant" - (Greg Plitt RIP). The passing of the exam was just a general indication of my progression so do not get discouraged if you fail the first time. Just keep trying till you get to the finish line and grab that number.

With that being said I arrived with plenty of time to spare before the exam. The day before my exam I did some light studying as I was more concerned with calming my exam jitters and stress. In order to clear my mind, I spent a few hours hiking as San Jose is known for some beautiful trails. I sat on the hiking trails starring at the landscape thinking "every day with no one watching at five in the morning by myself I trained, because I believed in it. Then I mastered it.. No I remastered it and remastered it, in hopes that one day my training collided with an opportunity to show it off!" and tomorrow was that day ... the day where years of preparation was all about to be left on the field. I was getting psyched up for the exam no doubt!! That night I listened to a few motivational videos before calling it a quits around 2200 hrs. 

The next morning I woke up at 5 am and again did some light studying, ate a breakfast bar and headed to the exam at 7am (which was a bit early). I stayed at the Crown Plaza Hotel and there is a free shuttle to the Cisco building. Make sure to let them know that you need the shuttle when you check in. At the Cisco building I met up with a few people who were taking the R&S exam and other CCIE exams and we chatted for a few. It was good to meet fellow soldiers who were also in the trenches with me. Quickly I realized that I was the only one taking the exam for the first time and that they were all veterans taking it for the second or the third time. They asked me if I was nervous and I told them "No, but I was excited as hell!!" -- in no way shape or form was I nervous. I was ready to conquer this feat which most people consider unattainable on the first attempt. I was out to prove all of them wrong and prove to myself that hard-work, dedication and discipline would slice through the odds.  

Finally the time came for us to be taken back to the exam room. The proctor came outside and explained a few things about the exam and off we went to the back. I had goosebumps walking through the same hallway as many other CCIE's before me. It was almost as if I was going into war (picture me walking in slow motion through a cloud of smoke with bullets flying through the air). The proctor was nice enough to explain all the rules and the exam started at about 0840.  

First section was obviously troubleshooting and this was tough. The topology was pretty big and the first thing I did was take a deep breath and gave the overall topology a good look. Started to predict where problems might happen such as redistribution points etc. I kept meticulous notes on how I solved each problem, how many times I verified it. If I couldn't figure out a problem within 7-10 mins I jotted down all the things I've tried and moved on to the next one. Luckily I had enough time to double-triple check all the questions and make sure I got all of them right. I spent the whole 2 hours on the troubleshooting section and saved my extra 30 minutes for the configuration section (Little did I know that this 30 minutes was going to save me later in the config section).

Next I moved on the diagnostics section, now by this time I was feeling pretty good ... I knew I kicked ass in the troubleshooting section and I was certain that I passed the troubleshooting section. On a side note, can you imagine going through the rest of the exam knowing you failed the troubleshooting section??

Next thing I know it was 12 o'clock and I was tired and exhausted beyond words, so I went to the restroom and literally start splashing water in my face and slapped my face a couple of times and said ...

Wake the f*** up ... you got this ... you didn't come this far to fail now ... you are not going back to Brinley (my 6yr old) and tell her you failed the exam ...

By this time I was more determined than ever and I got a second-wind to get back and give it my best and leave it all on the field .. When I got back I was blowing through config section and the proctor broke up our concentration for lunch. Lunch was held in a small room with bunch of CCIE memorabilia ... I suppose this is to inspire you to pass the exam. Lunch was over in about 30 minutes. 

At 330pm (approximately 1 hr and 30 mins left before all pens down) one of the questions made me go through the global restriction and my heart sank as I realized I did not pay attention to one of the global requirements (the last bullet point) which meant I had to alter pretty much all of the router configs (thank god for find and replace) and had to re-verify everything. I remember telling myself

You are a fast typer ... you got this ... mistakes happen ... it's not about how you got yourself in this mess but about how are you going to get out of it.

My attention span went up like crazy, I could feel my pupils zooming in and I started to pick out keywords from my show commands ... It was almost as if I transformed and powered up -- Super Saiyan Level 3 style (for DBZ fans out there). I found and replaced all my mistakes and verified everything and was done with about 2 minutes to spare.

Once I was done, I met up with the rest of crew and caught an uber back to the hotel. We all had a few beers and some apetizer and chatted a bit about where we worked etc. Finally the email came about 8pm (only ~ 3hrs after the exam was finished) and it said click here to view the results. When I saw the status page, it said "Congratulations on passing the CCIE Routing and Switching Lab Exam!" and I must have refreshed the page at least 50 times to make sure :-). I slammed my drink down and yelled "YESSSSSS" while everyone in the bar starred at me like I just won the lottery. This was one of my happiest moment in life and it was only possible through hardwork, dedication and perseverance.

Final thoughts --
  • Troubleshooting was demanding as expected.
  • Diagnostic section was harder than expected for the fact that there was so much to read.
  • Config was long and arduous as expected.
  • Pay very close attention to global requirements. 
  • Read before starting the exam .. definetly once if not twice.
  • Get there plenty of time before the exam. 
  • Relax the day before the exam, do not try to over-study
  • Do not get discouraged if you don't pass it the first time. 
Front of the exam building

The address listed on show version of some of the Cisco Routers

I must have refreshed this page about 100 times just to make sure :) 
Many more articles to come so ....

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