The story of my third attempt
As you may already know, I passed the CCIE R&S lab on the 12 of March 2013. I wanted to write about my story just after I passed the exam but I really needed a break so here is the story of my third attempt; the last and the successful one.
I arrived in Brussels one day before my exam, on the 11th of Mach, it was a Monday. I needed to take 2 planes to get there, one from Denmark to Frankfurt and then one from Frankfurt to Brussels. I didn’t have any delay on the first flight but things got worse in Frankfurt because it started snowing a lot. My second flight was 2 hours late and I arrived quite late in Brussels, around 20:00. I was staying at the same Hotel (NH hotel, besides Cisco). When I got in my room, I was feeling alright until I got to bed. On my second attempt, I was really nervous during the night and I only managed to sleep around 1 hour. This time it was better but it was really hard to fall asleep; however I slept better than on my second attempt. I woke up at 07:00 and went for breakfast. I tried to eat not too much but just enough to get the sufficient energy for the exam. I was quite nervous but for sure less than on my second attempt. At 07:45, I walked to the Cisco building and there was so much snow outside. It has been snowing all the night. I heard that all flights in Frankfurt were cancelled this day so I was lucky to take the exam that day and not on Wednesday. When I arrived at the Cisco building, the proctor came to pick us up. We were less people than the last time. I asked the proctor if I could keep my watch as I like to use the Stopwatch fonction to time myself, even if the only time that does matter in the one chosen by the proctor. The proctor had a look at my watch and said that it was alright. Then the fun began with the TS section. The topology appeared on the screen and I started straight away to have a look at it, trying to understand it as quick as possible, looking at the different routing domains, IPs, etc. Then I started to read all the tickets and visualize the part of the topology related to each ticket. Then I started with the first ticket. For each ticket I asked myself what was the problem and what could be the different reasons causing this problem. This time I changed my strategy and decided not to leave all the 3 points tickets for the end but instead leaving only one 3 points ticket for the end and I think that it was the right strategy as I had sufficient time to spend troubleshooting the last 3 points ticket. When I was finished with the tickets (expect the 3 points one), I decided to verify all the tickets and ask myself on every tickets: “Did I break any rules in the TS guidelines?”, “Did I picked up the best solution to solve the issue?” Once I had verified all these tickets, I started to troubleshoot, the last one, the 3 points ticket. I couldn´t solved it 100%, I wasn´t able to get the topology stable so I thought, “ok, if I miss 3 points, then I can still pass the TS, even if I miss another 2 points ticket”. I was feeling quite confident on the TS this time but you can never be sure at 100 %. By the way, I was finished with all the tickets (expect the last 3 points) within 1 hour 15 minutes, and I would advise when training for the TS to aim finishing around this time (1 hour 10-20 minutes) so you get time to verify everything correctly and also spare time if something goes wrong. Then the countdown timer ended and the configuration section started.
As I started the configuration section, I was quite nervous this time because I knew that the TS went well and I really needed to do well in the configuration section if I wanted to pass the lab. The L2 section went pretty well. After I got layer 3 connectivity, I verified if I had connectivity on each device by using “ping 255.255.255.255 repeat 3”. Even a small mistake was getting my heart beating like crazy as I thought, “I cannot fail again, I don´t want to go to this process anymore :-)”.
Then I started with the L3 section and in the middle of it, the proctor said that we had to go for lunch. I felt that on this attempt I was slower than on the previous one regarding the configuration section but my speed was still alright. I was also verifying everything carefully. The lunch was really nice; the food was freshed and really tasty. One might think, that for 1500 $, the food should be quite good! During lunch I was thinking that I was a bit short on time and I that I needed to accelerate in order to get enough time to verify at the end.
Sometimes I was shaking when typing on the keyboard and that made me a bit slow. The L3 section went well apart from the fact that I got a task which was worth many points and that I was not able to get it work. It was really annoying because I did configure everything but I wasn´t getting the expected result. I did spend quite a lot of time troubleshooting it and then I decided to skip it. It can be really hard to skip a task or a ticket because as a network engineer we all want to solve the issues that we are facing but in the CCIE lab exam it is really important to learn to skip quickly and come back later. I went through the rest of the sections and I face some small issues in some tasks where I got the expected result but I was not 100 % sure if the proctor/script will accept it. I finished with all the tasks done and I had 1 hour 20 minutes left for verification. The verification was crucial for me as I did correct some small mistakes, especially in the Layer 2 section. I had still one big problem; the task with many points worth that I couldn´t get to work. With 30 minutes left, I decided to troubleshoot it again but after 20 minutes I was still unable to get it working. So at this moment I thought, “if I cannot make it work, I will probably fail as I will lose a lot of points on this task and I may have done some mistakes in other tasks”. 10 minutes left, I check the tasks which I was ensure about the solution and 5 minutes before the end the proctor said, “guys, save your configs, you have 5 minuts left”. I thought, “that is crazy, I am not able to solve this task, how it is possible???, I have to solve it!!!”. After saving all the configs, one minute before the end I look at the task again and I saw suddenly my mistake by doing a show run on the device and I thought, “wowww, That is it, I am so stupid to forget something like that!!!”, 30 seconds before the end, I added the missing command and verify, it was working!!!! I though at his moment, “oh my god, I cannot believe it, How can I forget something like that”. 10 seconds before the end, I save my config on this particular device and it was over. Of course even if I got the expected result on this task I wasn´t sure that everything was configured 100 % correctly but at least I knew that I had a good chance to get the points (many points!) for this task. The proctor picked our sheet papers up and I thank him, saying that I hope not to see him again, before leaving the room : -)
Globally, I was quite satisfied as I was walking back to the hotel. I was also completely exhausted. I gave everything I had during 8 hours with a concentration of 120 %. I started to call my family to tell them how it went. I was quite confident that I would pass the TS section but I was a bit unsure about the config section. I started to remember the task that I was not 100 % sure and thought, “maybe I should have done it this way, or add that, etc”.
Now I needed to wait for the result. I was so exhausted that I considered not going to the exam again if my result was a fail. I didn´t know how long I will wait for but I guessed that I will wait until next day in the morning like last time. I was walking in my room back and forth and I decided to relax and take a shower. I was still thinking about the exam and the mistakes thant I may have made. After the shower, I tried to relax watching TV. After a while I decided to check my e-mail but the Internet was so slow that I wasn´t able to connect to my VPN, but suddenly, I was able to connect and I saw that I had an e-mail form Cisco!!! I thought: ”What? How can it be possible?” My heart started to beat like crazy and I thought, “That is really fast, only few hours after passing the lab exam!”. At this moment I knew that the result came so fast was because I either completely fail the exam or I got a good score. I logged straight away on the Cisco exam portal and I was so nervous that I typed my creditentials wrong the first time. My eyes were focusing on the fail or pass word. When the web page came up I saw a pass and my number and I started to scream like crazy!!! That was one of the best feeling I have ever had, I couldn´t believe it. I was refreshing the page every 2 minutes to make sure that it was real. Then I started to call my family and friend. That was incredible, I was so happy, such a great feeling, indescribable. I couldn´t sleep that night but this time, it was not because I was nervous but because I had achieved something incredible, something amazing which I have been “fighting” like crazy during 14 months dedicating all my spare time and my holidays to it. Now I got my life back, I am free 😉
That is it! This is the end of my journey for the CCIE R&S! It has been Long, Intense, Hard, and Stressful BUT it is worth it! Will I do it again? Well, it depends! I have never imagined that I would have to study that much. I think the hardest part of the process is the sacrifices you have to make but also being able to keep the motivation at all the time during the journey. After I passed the exam I took 2 weeks holidays and I went to see my family and friend in France. It was so good not to think about the exam anymore and get completely disconnected. During my holidays, I was thinking about my journey and many times, I thought that it was crazy; where did I get all this motivation, energy and willingness from? I am not this kind of person who gives up easily, I love challenges and I will “fight” until I am successful, but I must admit that the CCIE lab has been for sure the hardest challenge I had to face until now in my professional career.
Passing CCIE R&S lab is not only about being a better engineer and get a number. It is much more than that, it makes you push your limits to the maximum psychologicallyand physically. Going through this process gives you an internal strength that able you to handle any kind of challenges that you will face in your professional life. It also gives you a strategy and a structured approach that you can apply to many things in life.
I am now very proud to be a CCIE and I wish my best luck to everyone training for it.
Lastly, I will like to thanks my girlfriend, family, friends, company, INE and the INE’s online community for helping me in achieving my goal and supporting me throughout my journey to the CCIE
I will make a post soon on which training strategy as well as which planing tools, I have used during my CCIE journey.
Thanks a lot for reading.