What a roller-coaster ride the last few months have been. At the moment Im just as relieved as glad to have the digits. I’ll be lying if I say I dont want to go again, but for now I’ll be happy to enjoy some free time. Im looking forward to some “bored” moments.
First of all I have to say thanks for some devine intervention. After the first attempt thinking I passed but failed I realised that I need a bit of help. I needed things to go right, I needed some favors and that is how things turned out on the second run. From day 1 everything went according to plan. Thanks Dad.
Thanks to the best supporter in the world, my best lady for all her patience and understanding. I owe her big time, more than buying something shiny can make up for.
It would also have been very difficult if it was not for my current job/managers. I think it definitely counted in my favor that my first line manager and his manager were both ccie candidates who went big in management. I think they understood what the CCIE lab requires. Every leave application was approved without any questions, a tremendous help, I genuinely appreciate this. Also for the use of company equipment, some devices that were supposed to go into production. I definitely owe my colleagues a beer for making life at work harder for them. After passing the written one manager said that the company would support me as much as possible and I can say they went beyond my expectation.
The day I got back home from the first attempt, I looked for seats and was lucky to pickup the Dubai date. In fact I was still in brazil when I start looking for dates. I was quite fortunate to get the dubai date as I booked it within a few hours of it being dropped. I knew that if I could just maintain my level of preparedness for the second attempt and just focus a bit better I could make it. I came up with a plan to just review what I have already done, so everyday after work I reviewed vol2 labs 1-20. I would read the question, think the solution/configuration through, check the solution guide, whether I had the same idea, look whether I missed anything important then move to the next question. It took on average 3 to 4 hours per lab. If I wasnt completely sure about my solution, I would setup a simple scenario and do some testing. This worked well up until a few days before the attempt. I started to think that I need to practise some labs, as I havent done labs for almost a month. I then did the IPexpert sample mock lab, which I am very glad I did. I missed a line in an ACL, or in another question I didnt match the same routes the question asked for. I also lost two questions due to changes I made at the end or reloading the devices. Im glad I made these mistakes, because I made a decision at the end of the cisco lab to look for this type of errors. Again, Im very glad I made those mistakes in the mock lab. This was the only full lab I did before the second attempt. I also worked through the “Lab debrief” of the CCIE RS practical labs shortcut book. I would highly highly recommend working this book. Even if you dont read everything, at least work through the Lab debrief. If you look carefully, there are some differences in the way common tasks are done in this book. I would suggest using this book’s (Cisco) method. After arriving at the hotel I had two days to recover from the traveling, luckily only a 9 hour trip this time, so I started doing some IE vol3 labs. Although I didnt have that feeling you have after getting off a trampoline, which I had in Brazil, I was very tired the day of arriving and the next day. This was mainly due to the flight being during the night and not getting proper sleep on the plane. In this two days I did lab 7 to 10. It was good to get some lab practise, which I feel helped. The core lab is a good concept, but I would not recommend fussing to make your redistribution work as in the SG. One main reason is that the core labs do not have to be graded, so corners are cut. In the cisco lab, there will be very clearly stated how the redistribution should be and should not be done. The redistribution makes sense, as it also has to be graded. After the two core labs a day, I went through Michael Zuo’s notes. Good reviewing material.
Dubai is hot, very hot, as in desert hot. They say the weather is better in the winter, but I dont know, I think it will still be hot. Two things I will always remember from my trip to dubai: The crane forest and the heat. I had planned to take photo’s of the area to make the scenery a bit more familiar for the next person but got caught up in the moment and totally forgot about this. The taxi drivers all know where the “Dubai Media Center (DMC)”, “Dubai Internet City (DIC)” and “Knowledge Village” are. All three are located close to each other. Cisco Systems are located in building 10, DIC, the driver might confuse DMC with DIC, just something to note. The taxi drivers are mostly from either pakistan or india and work 12 to 14 hours a day with no days off, so to tip is not a bad idea. The 15-20 minute ride from the Ibish World Trade Center hotel to cisco cost about 45 dirhams which is about $10 usd. The hotel is located close to the highway. Apparently you get traffic on the way into the city, but Cisco is located on the way out of the city if I understood correctly. Once you get to the cisco building, if you look like you are lost the building reception would ask you “Cisco exam?” and point you to the 12th floor, after which you get into the elevator and then straight back out because it only goes to floor 4. They will confirm that it is indeed level “twelve” while giving a three finger signal, you get it. Once you walk out on the third floor there is a sign on the right that says “CCIE lab” and “use next door” which points to the kitchen/canteen area. If you are lucky someone will be there already and open for you. Else I guess the next step would be to go to the 4th floor where the Cisco reception is. Once the proctor arrives you go to the lab, no tour or the usual run down, just “Bags there, start time, end time, ok…” Thats the signal to start. He did mention that if any hardware errors are found to let him know as soon as possible. You only get the time back it takes the proctor to fix the problem and not the time it takes for you to determine that it is a hardware problem. I would suggest having a strategy for this as well. If it takes you 15 minutes to determine it is a hardware fault. You go to the proctor to let him know. You go back to your desk and continue with another task, read the lab again, whatever. 15 minutes later he comes back to let you know its fix. At the end you get 15 minutes extra. Use it to your advantage. Lunch was 5 hours into the lab. I would recommend taking some snacks with if you writing at Dubai (and Sau Paulo) as the lunch is not much. At lunch the proctor cleared some common misconceptions regarding the lab and grading. Lunch was a bit short, only 20 minutes and the lab ended 10minutes earlier. Personally I would have preferred a 30 minute break and finish on time.
Proctors do vary. Yusuf the proctor at Dubai is tight, water tight. You either get a “Yes/No” or “What you are asking me is a syntax related question, I can not answer you a syntax related question”. He reminds me of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, for some reason. My favourite response to a question on the day was “Am I the proctor?”. It wasnt funny at the time, but when I think back about it, he has a very dry but cool sense of humor.
The look and feel of the two labs were totally different. Im convinced they are designed by two different people. One also spell better than the other not that Im a literature giant, quite the opposite, but it was something different between the two. The diagrams also looked night/day apart. The wording was also slightly different, with a few questions adding some additional info through words e.g “users have been…, or the network manager wants to…”. This lab had one or two questions that referred to a feature within a technology that I havent configured before, but gave enough clues in the question to find it on the doc cd. Again the questions were not difficult to configure. The first set of questions were particularly ambiguous. A big difference from the first lab. The proctor could not really help here, so I went with a guess that the questions follow on each other and if they didnt give specifics, the question is probably related to the previous question. This was a guess, I could be totally wrong, but couldnt make sense of it in any other way. This was a big time waster for something I think did not test anything on the blueprint. Maybe I missed a keyword. Overall on a scale of 1 to 10 I would rate the lab a 7, two or three sections a 5/6, one section a 8, but only due to the cryptic wording.
Random thought: Why dont they put less emphasis on wording and more on configuration? I mean the best question I have seen to date was in the CCIEpractical studies shortcuts book. The question says exactly what needs to be done. I thought hard and long about it but couldnt figure it out.
This time round I spent more time reading the lab the first time. I also took care in getting my crt windows just right. Fortunately the resolution was higher than in Brazil, so I could get 4 windows aligned, the same way I did in preparation. I was prepared to change the font size from 10 to 8, but did not need to do this as the resolution was good. The workstation was sufficient. The keyboard was exactly the same rubbish they have at brazil, some logitech keyboard that does not have a dedicated “Insert” button. This was highly frustrating the first time to have to put num lock on and off when copy/pasting. SecureCRT probably has some function somewhere to change the copy/paste keys, but I havent figured that out. I practised the two days at the hotel on the laptop, in other words without a keypad, so in the lab I left the num lock off so that I could use the “0″ as the “Insert” button and used the normal numerical buttons for ip addresses/acl’s etc. This worked way better.
After the lab if you have to take a taxi back to the hotel, the best would be to go back to the cisco reception. They have the cab company on speed dial and all the details on a pamphlet what you might need to give the operator. Most people have difficulty sleeping the night before the lab, I didnt have this problem, but for me waiting for the results was even worse. I kept thinking “what if”, what if I missed something. What if I didnt check my verification properly. What if something I did broke something else. Very tense moments. I actually labbed a scenario up and made some changes to see if what I did could possibly have broken another. Sigh of relief, it still works. Just after 3am I jumped up at the sound of what I think was a mail coming in, the results email was there. I think it helps to be half asleep or half awake when checking the mail, cause you dont really think what you are doing. I was dreading that moment scrolling down to that section where the PASS/FAIL is written, but as the window opened my eye caught two “PASSES” one for the written and another, it took about 300 milliseconds to realize I passed. What a relief. Open the score report, which only shows the number. Am I seeing right? 21500? cant be, the night before I was looking at recent numbers on groupstudy and worked out that 21500 will be issued somewhere between the day before my lab and the day after. Thats the one that was available that I wanted.