CCIE journey update part 5

My business card hung from the cork wall posted at the exit of the gym. I hated the fact that my business card didn’t have a CCIE on it. Each day, I would exit from the iron palace, and reminded of it. It was a motivating factor for me. I took it down the morning of April 10th, two days before my exam.

I left for Richardson Texas April 10th. I remember sitting on the plane, amazed that I was about to head halfway across the country to take a test. All the time that I had spent behind a keyboard, sacrificing time with my wife, family, and friends. Not to mention the sleepless nights. It had all come down to this moment.

I felt ready. I had done everything in my power to give myself the best possible chance at passing on my first attempt. I knew that the probability of me passing on my first attempt was a mere 5%, but I was ready to defy the odds.

I felt energized and well rested the morning of my test day, April 12th. I had a light breakfast and took the hotel shuttle over to Cisco building number 5.

I was way too early to be there. I took a walk around the building where I stayed waiting for the doors to open.

I entered building 5, where the receptionist greeted me. I checked in and selected my option for lunch. Eight other candidates sat just to the right of the receptionist in a waiting area. I joined the other candidates. No one was talking. Not more than five minutes later, the proctor came around the corner, brought us back to the testing room, and assigned us our lab stations.

We placed our personal belongings in the back of the room. I sat back down at my station and waited for my queue to start. The proctor reminded us of the rules, wrote down the start time and the time we would be breaking for lunch on the whiteboard.

8:23 am – I started Tshoot.

I immediately felt frantic, stunned, and overwhelmed after hitting begin.

I took my pen and paper and began to execute my tracking strategy on it. At the top of my paper read:

Task Points Lvl Time Verified Comments

I then started to read through all of the Tshoot scenarios and began filling in the columns of my paper. My “Lvl” column was my confidence level on a scale of 1 – 3 that I used to rank my self on the scenario. Any “3s” in this column I took care of first. Followed by 2s and then 1s.

For Example:

Task    Points    Lvl      Time   Verified   Comments
1.                    2       3       8:33-               MPLS
2.                    4       3                             DMVPN
3.                    2       2                             IPV6

I was out of sorts while going through the scenarios, but I was meticulous about keeping each question to around 10-11 minutes. I did get to attempt each one. I felt confident in what I had for points at the end of two hours. I decided to move on to the Diag section and did not want to borrow any more time from the configuration section.

10:23 – 10:53 am – DIAG

I didn’t know what to expect in the diagnostic section. I decided that I would read the scenario and the supporting documentation. I then read through the multiple choice options that I had to choose. I was hoping that this would help me focus on what I should be looking for in the supporting documentation.

I finished DIAG with five minutes to spare. I couldn’t continue until those 5 minutes expired so I opened the doc CD and navigated to the relevant information that I thought may be useful to me during the Configuration section and took a bio break.

10:53 am – 12:00 pm – Config

I flipped my scrap piece of paper over and began to write down my tracking strategy. I then reviewed the topologies, read the entire lab, and drew my L2 diagram. I was only able to configure some of my L2 before needing to break for lunch at noon.

Task   Points  Time  Configured   Verified   Comments

12:00 pm – Lunch

It sucked that we had to get up to break for lunch. I felt like I had momentum behind me. We all sat together in a room with the proctor present. Again, we weren’t a friendly group. No one said anything. I took the chance to introduce my self to another gentleman to see if I could enlist some small talk, but that died before it started. I sat there without an appetite thinking to myself: “Ok, execute on phase 3”. I felt good about Tshoot and Diag but didn’t know if I had passed them.

It didn’t take long for lunch to be over. I could feel everyone wanting to get back into the lab.

12:16 – 2:30 – Resume Config

I resumed my L2 config and completed it. I verified that I had same subnet reachability for all of my devices. A great feeling!

I moved on to L3 and other one off tasks. I was feeling awesome!

2:30 – 4:36 – The “oh shit” moment

My feeling of “awesome” didn’t last long. Addmittantly, that was the last time I felt “awesome” for the entire day. I hit a scenario that was ambiguous and indirect. I sat there bracking down the question and the tasks associated to it and began configuring based on what I thought was being asked.

Ok, time check. .. .. 3:30 pm

Wait! I just sunk an hour into one scenario? I told my self I wouldn’t do that. I did the exact opposite of what I had practiced. It was at this moment where I panicked.

I started reading through the scenarios for “easy” points while also going back and verifying the work that I had already configured. I could feel myself completely losing hope and was spiraling out of control.

4:36 – END

I walked out of the test with my head down. I knew I had failed. I left way to many points on the table to not have failed. I made my way back to the hotel, where I called my wife. I told her that there was no way I had passed, and I was emotional about it. I was disappointed in myself, and I felt like I let her down.

I wanted so badly to feel different. I dedicated so much time and effort to this that I wanted to pass on my first attempt.

Final Result

I received my results early the next morning and waited until I arrived home to open them with my wife. Not to my surprise, the results read.

Tshoot – PASS
Config – FAIL

My results were hard for me to stomach. I allowed myself to sulk for the weekend.

Monday morning came, and I hit the gym hard. I brought with me my business card and stuck it back on that same cork wall that I took it down from five days earlier.



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