Saturday, August 15, 2009

Story of CCIEN #21500


His words....

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.

Thank You’s
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.

Proctor comparison
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.

Lab comparison
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.

The Wait
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.

Story of CCIE #23707


His words...........

Obviously I cannot go into many details here, but I do want to share my story in hopes that others will benefit in some way. It is long, but will probably be my last for awhile :-)

First of all, CCIE has to be something you really want. There are many reasons to go for it: better job, more money, etc. That is fine, but underneath it all, you must have the desire to be a CCIE. I made many career choices and mistakes before getting somewhat settled in this industry, so don't ever think this task is too big for you. The industry needs people that have the desire.

I first heard of the CCIE exam about 6 years ago when I started out towards a networking degree. It was never in my mind that I would go for it. It was only for the Elite. My degree consisted of a couple Cisco classes, and that was enough for me at the time. Shortly after the degree, I was doing technical support for Nortel Networks and really starting to dig the L2 and L3 technologies. I mean I LOVED IT! THIS WAS MY BAG! Nortel did not have much rep (or a declining one at least) in the industry and I decided to focus on Cisco networking. I got my CCNA near the end of my tenure there.

The desire to be CCIE started after I was CCNA, when I started going for CCNP. I peaked ahead at the CCIE blueprint and thought to myself, "this is stuff that I can handle, and stuff that I want to learn." I knew CCNP was not required, but I took that path because I knew it would be good preperation towards that goal. It took me one year to get my CCNP and the day I passed my last exam I was already making notes on the blueprint and scouring the Internet for lab tips :-)

I started my blog a few months later because I really had no focus as to what I was doing. I didn't have any workbooks or anything, I just had the written guide, dynamips and my 3550/3560 switches. I played around with my own labs and blogged ideas. Mike Down at IPexpert found my blog and gave me good deal for some rack time and for the Blended Learning Solution. This was the turning moment as now I felt I had a real path to follow. I passed the written shortly after (about 6 months in) and then joined groupstudy and the onlinestudylist.

Around this time, so many people were passing, I felt like time was slipping away! I decided the best thing to do was ignore all the stories and rumors and focus on my own path.

I did all the volume 1, 2 and 3 labs in order. Took me about 6 months doing a couple every weekend, sometimes 3 or 4. Actually I jumped ahead to Volume 3 at times because they were graded and I wanted to see how I was doing along the way. Any issues or new technologies I ran into, I would break down to small scenarios and lab them and blog about them.

On my way to work I would listen to the audio bootcamp. I probably listened to each track twice. After Volume 3 I bought an IE mock lab and did both Assessor labs. If not anything else, these gave me confidence in my last month of preperation. I did well on all of them and the things I missed were mainly because I did not follow the questions properly. I spent my final week watching the VODs with Scott Morris. I watched ALL the videos in the final weekend, probably about 25 hours or more :-)

The day of a lab I had huge headache. I popped some excedrin and some tylenol and refused any caffeine for fear of worsening it. I got to the lab a little early and there ended up being about 10 people there, 4 for R&S. My mind was a wreck, I felt like crap. The one thing that kept me going was my belief in my preperation. I knew what I had to do. If it's one thing you will learn about taking the CCIE lab exam, it is to trust your preperation.

The procotor explained the deal with the open ended questions (to curb cheating) and to be honest, they were very simple. No tricks. He said one or two lines should be enough but you have 30 minutes and no documentation. I finished them in a few minutes with the only bottleneck being my slow typing skills.

I started reading the lab. It was almost 1 hour before I logged into a router. I kept a level head throughout. I heard stories of people saying they were so confident when they left, but the still failed. I understood them now but I did not want to be that way. I could see how this lab could defeat me. After 5 hours I was done, but I stayed until the end verifying everything 1, 2 or 3 times. Pinging everything, saving all the time.

One hour I left, I finally broke for a Mountain Dew! Boy did I need that. I was finding minor issues still 30 minutes left in the exam, I fixed a few but I really had to talk myself into relying on my configurations and instincts. I could see several ways of doing things and I had to pick one. I really think I saved at least 10 points in the last couple hours of verification. Do not leave early!

I watched a movie after the lab with my Dad who was in town that weekend. I got home at 10 or so and checked my email. The score report was ready. I was SHAKING. I had to re-type my ID and crap a few times to get it right. First thing I saw was "submit critique" or something like that. Then I saw "Congratulations..." or something. I didn't believe it. Then I saw "PASS"...I still didn't believe it. Then I saw #23707. It was official.

What a relief. It was wonderful journey and I learned so much. I met a lot of great people that I never expected to meet. I look through my blog archives and see how dumb I was! Just another noob, a little wannabe Cisco networker, a tiny little soul on the path to who knows where, a CCIE to be :-)

Story of 25143


Read his full story..

Oh where to begin…Lets see Ill start by when I passed my CCIE written back in November 2008. I took December off for obvious reasons and told myself on New Years that I wanted to CCIE by the middle of 2009.

Ok, That’s nice but where do I start? Well I initially looked at IPexert and work paid for the blended learning solution. I watched Scott Morris and listened to his audios for a good 2 weeks. Than I started the mini –labs really without a plan but to dive into to see where I was at..and did I need some work J but I quickly found that *** didn’t really have a guided approach with LAB1. So I went to Internetwork-expert and boy did I love the beta 5.0 vol. I signed up for the CCIE 2.0 program and was on my way (Still in Jan). At this time I had built my own rack at the house which helped a lot..Dyanamips was just a lot of work because I had to change the initial config every time (Im just to lazy).

For the next 3 months I really focused just on the LAB1ver5 labs…I watched every COD and open lecture series by far was the best. I really feel that Brian drives the technology into you….He just goes so fast sometimes that I have to re-wind the darn thing. When he would do each lab I would follow him on my own rack….this helped out a lot since I need to be in there doing/learning at the same time. So I have this plan layed out with each technology that I want to master week by week and than review every other week those technologies. Sometime I would skip around and sometimes not…For the last 4 months I hit the labs hard and than went back to learning the technology when I didn’t understand it. You HAVE to do this or you will not learn what it is your typing J enough of the story....


I went to go take the lab in RTP on JULY 20th 2009 . I woke up the day of the test and as you all know posted a blog, and than did some typing just so my hands wont be numb before the test. Went downstairs and waited for the bus, which took us to the location of the Lab. They took us into the lobby where we BS’d around with all the other guys and Howard telling us they hit their quota!! J Everyone had different reactions to that comment. I could care less because I was already focused on the LAB that nothing really bothered me. I was not nervous at all since I kept telling myself that you understand each technology and if a question throws me off than just move on to another…don’t think twice. We went into the lab area put our stuff away and than Howard talked for 5 min and said go. I sat at the computer and looked at my first question…and than did all four. I reviewed them reading every line 10 times just to make sure there was nothing fishy. I took about 15 min on these sections. Than moved to my lab.


When I was going through the lab I just kept hammering things out….I couldn’t believe how fast I was moving. I re-drew my diagram but not that great so used the ones they gave me since they would do. I skipped a couple questions but was done with Bridging/switching and IGP in 2 hours. I verified this section, than reloaded my lab. When it came back up I ran my TCL script and verified my routes. I did ask Howard about 2 questions during this time just to make sure they weren’t looking for something. You have to remember if the LAB doesn’t specify you don’t need to do it (or you don’t have to have full reach ability). You cannot think to deep into the questions they are pretty straightforward. So the next two hours I finished the rest of my lab jotting down which question I know I needed to go back and look at (only a couple)…I reloaded my rack and he called lunch. During lunch I ran out into the rain to smoke and came back all soaked with Howard laughing at me J I kind of smiled to because I was finished with my lab and everyone else was crapping their pants. Lunch sucked and everyone was thinking on edge…So I get back to my lab and do about 2 hours of verification and reloaded my rack about 4 more times. You need to have this verification time because I would have failed the whole multicast section because I skipped ONE word that made a difference of how to implement it. So I left about 2 hours early and called my sister who came with me and we went out to party!!! I did call Larry Hadrava (you should know him by know) who I was working with and told him I KNOW I passed this lab…so it was just a matter of waiting.


That’s when I got the results. FAILED…I was so shocked I couldn’t believe it. Looked a the lab report and it said 0% in CK…I called BS..The next day I posted to Cisco and requested a re-read. (I will post what I said at the bottom). That is when I was denied a re-read for no reason. I replied back and was denied again L….Pissed at this point because of no explanation I replied back and stated “I paid to much for this lab and the equipment to get denied without explanation” something like that. 2 Weeks later and I finally get a response back saying that they will review my questions. Not 2 hours later I was CCIE…

Story of Dmitriy Litvinko

Congratulations Dmitriy Litvinko

His story ....

Started to prepare for the lab in November 2008 but after 2-3 month of long hours I had to stop because I was burned out ... took month off and started back in February. Purchased the INE Moc Lab workshop (lead by Anthony Sequeira) in June. It’s a great class for final preparation before the lab. Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet in person with the other instructors (only know them by their voice and now thanks to facebook can add faces to the voices) but you guys are simply the best. When I came back from the Moc Lab workshop I scheduled my lab.

A long time ago I started using NMC as my training material and their awesome ShowIT engine but their labs are way too off-course (redistribution is a killer). Then last year in November I learned about and purchased their product. This is when I said to myself .. after investing so much money, you CAN'T stop. I have been motivating myself through out my long journey to help me stay on track. My son Ryan was born on August 20th 2008 and I had to dedicate my self to pass the test before his 1st birthday (actually if I wouldn’t, my wife would kill me .... another motivation . It was hard with a little one (crying and feeding often) to get normal sleep but a BIG thanks to my wife and whole family who gave me the opportunity to study and concentrate on what I need to do.

So, no personal life since November ... Sorry a bit off topic ... Going back to Preparation ...

I don’t know how many books I read (none of them cover to cover) but I do have a big library at home of almost all CISCO books that could help me with preparation. I am not going to list them all (but if anyone is interested i can post that) but i found that 1 book which i dont see a lot of people mention (CCIE Practical Studies, Volume II (CCIE Self-Study) by Karl Solie and Leah Lynch (Hardcover - Nov 17, 2003)) to be great material (with configuration examples and theory in one). I watched 10 day CoD and did all WB-I (few times). WB-II i did almost all labs (may be 17 of them) and 8 labs from WB-III. I took the Moc Labs 1-6 and all scores were ranging from 62-70. Not a great score but it showed me where i make the most mistakes and to work on those areas.

Week before the lab i did no configurations. I decided to relax my brain and just review my notes, browse configuration guide and command reference. During my preparation i didn’t goggle any topic until i searched the whole DocCD for answers so i was pretty comfortable with DocCD and finding stuff there. 3 days before the lab i did 1 WB-III lab just to do some typing (finished 4 hour lab in about 1.5 hours).

2 days before the lab i got sick and that wasn’t a good way to start. I am still stick but it is over.

I stayed at Wingate and i don’t know what to say but i think i was not lucky .... wireless was not working, and internet in the room was not. Good thing i brought my notes with me and some stuff on PC.


Open Ended Questions .... well they are nothing to worry about if you ware prepared for the lab. Read them carefully but don’t overthink .... I had to read each question at least 2 times to make sure i understood it. Level of questions .... Well i can say they were CCNP level difficulty.

Lab ... Well difficulty comparing to INE i would say about 7-8. Diagrams are not the best but can work with them. I drew my own for layer 2, mcast and BGP. IGP i used their diagram which i found to be very very poor. Questions are less vague than INE's but they do throw a monkey wrench once in a while ... I had to read questions multiple times to make sure i understood the requirements. They are pretty straight forward with telling you what they want. Pick the easiest solutions to implement. VERY IMPORTANT .... read the lab Do's and Don't as i had some that i had to go to proctor to clarify. Proctors answer to all my question ... Umm .... it's what Anthony tried to do during Moc Lab workshop (to be evil proctor), is look at you, smile and tell you ... Read the question . everything you need is in the question ... 5 times, the same answer and ... Hmm ... he IS RIGHT :-) what i am looking for is in the question. You are TOLD what to do and if you are NOT told then is there still a question?

Anthony Sequeira has Open Lecture Series about Skipped Tracket List which is GOLD in my opinion. I had been using this method on my own since i started studying in february and this helps me to see my overall progress. Do not spend more than 5 minutes on the Non-Core task, simply move-on. I was finished with IGP and BGP by lunch. Then came back and finished the rest with 2 hours to spare. Spent 1 hour and 15 minutes to verify everything and save configuration and 45 before the end i left.

This was a long and hard journey .... i couldnt have done it without the help of my family (my wife Susan especially) for helping me to dedicate 9 month of my life to this. INE team ... you are simply THE BEST ... Keep up a good work

Oh ... always wanted to tell Scott Morris that one of the other motivations i had was his quote which i love ... "Knowledge is power, power corrupts, study hard and be evil" ... absolutely brilliant.

Story of Zakir

Congratualtions Zakir

His Story.

With the blessing of the almighty Allah, I managed to pass the CCIE exam in my first attempt at Sydney, Australia! What a relief. It was a wonderful journey of 9 months of dedicated studying, spending large portion of the time on the Cisco devices, spending thousands of dollar on study materials and lab equipments, many hours of frustration, only 4/5 hours of daily sleep, travelling 16+ hours to the lab location, suffering from the Jet Lag, attending the 8 hours of lab exam and finally a 5 digit number beside my name.

So how it started? I decided to go for the CCIE when I started to work for an ISP here in Canada. But that time I was only CCNA. So I took CCNP, CCIP certifications to build up a good foundation for the CCIE R&S exam. As a part of my CCIE preparation, I went through several books (Doyle, Odom etc.), workbooks (IE), mock labs, Cisco documentation, various forums like groupstudy others. I spent thousands of hours on equipments. I was lucky enough to have my own rack of equipments.

Finally, when I planned to book my lab exam, I was unable to find any seat in USA (as I live in Canada). This is because Cisco recently announced to start the new format of CCIE R&S lab exam from October, 2009. So finding no other ways, I booked my lab in Sydney, Australia. I made a 16+ hours journey to Australia and reached there just before the exam day.

On lab day, I was in the Cisco building about 1 hour before the exam time. There were 4 other candidates... we all were waiting for the proctor to show up. The proctor was late, so our exam started at 9:15. The first 30 minutes was for the OEQ (Open Ended Questions). The OEQ questions were really really easy, very basic questions. No need to give any extra afford for those. Accoring to the proctor, those are marked manually by the proctor, and all they look for is the specific answer, they won't care about any spelling mistake or grammer. I was able to finish the OEQ in 20 minutes and started my lab immediately. I used the first 45 minutes reading the entire lab, making task tracking sheet, adding aliases/some common commands which I often use. After reading the lab it looked like a piece of cake to me comparing to the IE labs. I was able to reach "the golden moment" (full connectivity) before lunch. I was also able to do some non-core tasks before lunch. After lunch it went pretty smooth. I only visited the Cisco documentation site only once for a single task during the lab. When I finished my lab, I still had 2 hours left in my hand. So I fully utilized it by verifing every single task twice. In the whole exam I rebooted my rack twice - 1st time just before lunch and 2nd time at the end of the day.

After the exam I realized I have a good chance to pass it. And it didn't take very long. I got my result within 2 hours of finishing the exam. I was completely speechless to see my certified status along with the 5 digit number.

To tell you the truth, I was completely restless for the last 1.5 years. I used my vacation days either for studing or for the exams. So it's time for me to relax for a bit until I start my 2nd track.

So what's next? I am planning to attend the CCIE Service provider lab this December (after 4 months) as I feel like i am already 70% prepared for it. I also want to start playing with the "Security" track.

Finally, I would like to thank my family, my friends, my colleagues and everyone who helped me directly or indirectly along my first CCIE journey.

The key thing is... if you want something really bad you will get it… Motivaton and patience are the key factors… Always remember: "Winners never Quit & Quitters never win!!"