CCIE R&S v5 1st attempt

Just a few hours ago I just took my first CCIE R&S v5 in Sydney AUS. After months of preparation not to mention a couple of work and personal distraction it all has come to this day. Arrived in Sydney a day before from Brisbane. Flight got delayed due to bad weather for just an hour. I checked in my motel which is less than 10 minutes away from the testing centre. I don’t wanna spend my money on accommodation since I am just here in my room to sleep. My only problem really is I don’t get to sleep well in my own bed most specially during the first night which contributed to my condition this morning. I am not using that as an excuse but that’s just the way it is.

The motel did offer free breakfast but after looking at what was at the bar, I passed and just spend having proper breakfast in a cafe. I prefer to feed myself properly if i am going to take a grueling exam.

I arrived in the testing centre, the front desk asked me to wait in the kitchen with the other candidates. Today there were 4 of us doing the R&S track, 1 collaboration and 1 Service Provider. Before the proctor arrived, I had the chance to speak to some of them. Two of the guys taking the R&S lab said its their 2nd take, they only took it a month ago hoping they’ll get it this time. Seems like I was the only first timer in the batch.

The proctor arrived, Roman. Nice european guy, he’s pretty much the opposite of what other people would describe about proctors. He’s very approachable and you can sense he wants everyone to pass. He led us to the testing area where we had to pass through 3-4 card accessed doors. My station was waiting for me, it has 2 pcs of paper printed with my name and the code I need to enter for my lab exam.

Troubleshooting

From the beginning I knew the first 30minutes of the exam, would dictate how the exam would look like for the rest of the day. I was right, I immediately got stuck into a couple of tickets and not learning to discipline myself to let go of the ticket and come back to it once the 10minute rule has come up. The next thing I knew I was almost spent more than 20minutes in a single ticket and panic struck me. I scanned through the rest of the tickets, deep inside I know I can figure out what they are but I was running out of time. It is not like the written exam when you’re out you can atleast choose an item and pray, hope that you got that 25% chance it chose the correct answer. The lab is so not like that, it’s either you got it or not. No partial points.

I lost track of time to the point, I didn’t realized I’ve gone past my 2 hour time and have used up my 30 minute optional time. I actually ran out of time without finishing the section, it was really frustrating. With how the CCIE lab is being scored, I already know the result of the entire exam. I just need to finish the rest to gauge myself for diagnostics and configuration.

Diagnostic

Pretty straight forward. I couldn’t give anymore information without giving away the actual questions. Though I would say, this is more similar to the written exam in terms of format. I was able to finish this section with roughly a bit more than 10mins left on the clock.

Configuration

I don’t know where to begin. I knew it was going to be a massive topology. I knew to attack this thing first by going through all the tasks, think through it, write everything first in notepad then start pasting the config. Again! I failed to discipline myself and started applying config directly to the CLI. What a horrible horrible mistake that I paid dearly. If I wrote everything in notepad, I would have track down what I have applied.

There was an entire section in my topology that I wasn’t able to sort out L2, that was probably the final killer blow for me. Spent too much time troubleshooting why it wasn’t working and again the next thing I knew, I was running out of time.

I will admit something, I walked out of my exam 30minutes before the actual finish time leaving an entire section of the exam untouched. I froze, clicked end session which ended the exam. I stood up, left the room without bothering to look for my proctor, went down the lift and walk out the building. I was in such depressing state that after a few meters away from the building I realized I forgot my jacket inside the testing area which I had to return back to get.

Thoughts

I immediately called my wife, texted my boss to let them know what happened even before I haven’t received the official result of my exam because I knew what the result would be like. It is true, you would definitely know if you pass the exam. For me, I knew that I flunk it horribly.

I am not sharing this to discourage anyone from taking this monster exam, infact all the more I encourage you to take it. I wanted to write this now while the emotions are still high and to remind myself how it felt like failing. If you ask me this moment, I don’t feel like touching any cisco device for weeks though that’s impossible considering I work with them everyday. There’s just so much effort, time, resources put into it. I know someone the experience made me a better engineer. Let me recover, get my bearing and eventually I will get back in the saddle.

As they say, a setback is just a setup for a come back.

Late Nights

I am days away from my CCIE R&S lab attempt and noticed that I has been becoming difficult to get some sleep despite things I have in place like excercise, taking magnesium, going to bed early. There’s just something inside me that keeps me up and I am not happy about it. Subconsciously I guess this is anxiety. Anxiety of the unknown.

I have made a personal evaluation of myself so far with what I know, I can honestly say at this point, I am 90% confident about the TS and CONF section of the exam. Like I said I will only know what I know and will only know what I don’t know once I start being tested. Feeling confident about the routing protocols OSPF, EIGRP, BGP and how they operate within an MPLS environment. Its L2 that I think I need practice on, IPv6 as well and remaining bits and pcs of the blueprint.

Brendan Bruchard did say “Competence Confidence” mentality.

Home stretch

I am a couple of weeks away from my CCIE lab attempt, I have neglected a couple of things as I have placed all energy and priority towards this exam. The obvious is I just lost my runningconfig.com domain. I knew if i don’t act on it, someone’s going to take it off me. darn that was a good domain name to have but oh well what can you do.

I think I have pretty much covered a lot of ground as far as the blueprint is concern. Just doing a couple of tweaks here and there and customize a couple of labs. INE workbooks have been a huge resource learning a number of those advanced topics. Almost everyday I get to re-watch the videos just to touch up on things that I might have missed during the previous time I’ve seen it.

Almost everyday I average 3 hours labbing up something either practicing a technology I am not yet mastered or just trying out how certain scenarios would play out. Most nights I would just go to bed defeated getting stuck into a lab that wasn’t behaving as I intend to make it behave.

I started out this journey with the question of even the possibility of passing this beast, but i think now the challenge is passing this exam on my on my first take. I am currently 8/8 for Cisco exams which would include the CCIE written. Funny enough I am actually 2/3 on Brocade and 1/1 on VMWare. The last exam I took was almost 18 months ago. I am definitely on after burners.