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I am going to wrap-up my bootcamp experience with Narbik Kocharians in a Q&A format, as there’s been a lot of interest in the CCIE candidate community in this series of blog posts. If I don’t answer a question you have, please unicast me, or post a comment to this article.
I’ll tell you right away that I was very happy with my bootcamp experience. So, I don’t mean to sound like a Narbik flag-waver exactly, but I must confess that I am a fan of both his lecture-style and prep material. Nonetheless, I’m trying to stick with facts here, such that you can make an informed choice about how to spend your money if you are considering attending his bootcamp.
Who is Narbik Kocharians, and why might I want to attend his CCIE R&S lab bootcamp?
Narbik Kocharians is triple CCIE #12410, with specialties in R&S, Security, and SP. Narbik has been a high-level Cisco instructor and independent consultant for many years. He draws from both his real-world experience and deep technical knowledge to help prepare CCIE candidates for the lab. He owns the company Micronics Training.
Note that Narbik offers a bootcamp focused on the CCIE written exam as well. I did not attend the written bootcamp; I only attended the lab bootcamp.
What will it cost me to attend Narbik’s CCIE R&S lab bootcamp, and what do I get for my money?
At this time, Narbik is charging $2,000 for the Pasadena, California, USA bootcamp. Check pricing for other sites here. For $2,000, you get the following:
- The intro lab e-book “Soup-to-Nuts”. Soup-to-Nuts is the “CCNP-to-CCIE” lab prep book, designed to get you from the CCNP level closer to the CCIE level. Narbik wants you to have completed Soup-to-Nuts or have equivalent knowledge before attending the lab bootcamp. You will receive this via e-mail once you have registered and paid for the bootcamp.
- Narbik’s lengthy series of advanced technology-focused lab workbooks. These workbooks teach you how to use a technology, not how to do stupid router tricks. You will receive hardcopies of all of his advanced lab prep workbooks, which is several hundred pages worth of material.
- Narbik’s cell phone number. During the bootcamp, you can call him for support if you are working on labs late and run into a problem.
- 24-hour access to a rack that meets the specification for Narbik’s workbooks. Currently, this is 9 routers that need at least 2 fast-ethernet interfaces and 1 serial interface a piece, plus 4 switches – 2 3550s and 2 3560s, plus a router to act as a frame switch. The rack is off-site, not in-house. You will access the rack via telnet across the Internet to a remote console server. The rack will be yours and yours alone during the week of the bootcamp.
- Narbik will stay in the classroom with the students from 9am until 9pm, at a minimum. I know I was there around 9:45p or 10p one night, and Narbik was still there with the rest of us.
- Free retakes of the bootcamp for as many times as you can attend, until you pass your lab. For real, free retakes forever until you have your digits, and Narbik told me to post that out here so that everyone was clear on his policy. Obviously, you will have to get yourself to Pasadena, California, (or Dubai or Sydney), you’ll have to provide your own rack (or pay to rent one), and bring your lab books, but Narbik will not charge you to retake the bootcamp.
- There is a workstation in the classroom that you could certainly use, but I recommend that you bring your own laptop. That way, you can go back to your room and study, work on the rack, keep your notes centralized, etc.
- Food is not included, although the training center Narbik uses for classroom space does provide free soft drinks and snacks for the students. Narbik is considering having lunch and/or dinner brought in for future bootcamps.
Where should I stay if I come to the bootcamp?
Like most of the other students in the bootcamp, I stayed at the Comfort Inn on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena just down the street from the training center. (Scroll down in the PDF I linked to for address information.) The Comfort Inn was within easy walking distance of the training center and included a surprisingly good continental breakfast as well as Internet access. Compared to other nearby lodging, I found the Comfort Inn to be the least expensive, at around $80 a night.
The Comfort Inn made Internet access available via either wired or wireless (your choice), but access was a little spotty. I had better luck than some of the other guys, but even my Internet access flaked out on me one night. I happened to be using the wired connection. I know a couple of the guys were complaining that they just couldn’t get the Internet connectivity going at all. There was an Internet kiosk with 2 workstations available in the lobby.
I had no complaints about the room itself. The room met my needs more than adequately. If you really wanted to go cheap on your food, the room has a microwave, and small fridge/freezer. The freezer was its own unit, not one of those little metal shelves that sometimes they shove into the top of a refrigerator that get frost all over them. Note that there is a Vons supermarket a few blocks down the street. If I’d wanted to, I could have bought frozen dinners at Vons, stored them in the freezer, and then nuked them in the microwave, right in my own room for super cheap eats during the bootcamp.
If you want to go out for food, there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance or a short drive, everything ranging from Subway or Burger King, to Thai places, sushi places, Italian places etc. “Old town Pasadena” (just a couple or three miles down Colorado Boulevard) has lots of interesting places to eat plus night life, although frankly you’re not going to have much time to think about that sort of thing.
What is Narbik’s nationality? Does he have an accent that makes him hard to understand?
Narbik is of Armenian descent, but he grew up in Australia. He has been in the US for many years (22 years, I think, but I’m pulling that from memory). He has a mild accent, but his accent is not a problem in any way. If you are a native-English speaker, you will not have any trouble understanding him.
Are Narbik’s lectures boring?
His lectures are anything but boring. If you are a serious CCIE candidate who already has hundreds of hours into preparation, you will find yourself paying close attention to Narbik’s lectures. Narbik moves fast. He does not say the same thing 6 different ways to get one point across. He makes his point, and then builds on it. And he keeps building. His lectures are like watching a building go up in fast-forward. Narbik pours the foundation, puts up the framework, gets the roof, walls, and siding done, then he goes inside the get all the pipes, electrical work, sheetrock, etc. in place. When he’s done lecturing on a topic, you’ve got a finished house. Now, you’re going to have to do some lab work to maybe paint the interior walls the color you want or hang pictures in the hallway, but you got everything needed in that lecture to move in. I have sat in perhaps 15 classes during my years of IT work. Narbik is easily in the top 2 or 3 instructors I have ever had when it comes to concise, clear instruction.
Narbik does not use PowerPoint at all, nor does he use an overhead projector. Everything is done on the whiteboard. While Narbik lectures, he uses the whiteboard to draw a network diagram, make a chart, or otherwise illustrate what he’s saying. I should also mention that Narbik knows an awful lot of IOS commands, with all of their options and what those options do, right off the top of his head. Over the bootcamp week, I watched him write out on the whiteboard dozens of raw IOS commands from memory and explain how each of the various options applied to different situations.
What’s the split between lab time and lecture time during the bootcamp?
Narbik shoots for about 60% lab, and 40% lecture. I believe he hit that mark pretty close.
That’s all I’ve got right now. I’ll add more if I think of more, and/or if questions roll in from blog readers. But for now, I have to get some rest. I took the red-eye back to the east coast, and I didn’t sleep much.