How Ready Am I? How Might I Have Prepared Differently?


A charitable soul commented this:

Along with reading your blog on a daily basis I also read CCIE Pursuit’s and IE’s blogs, it’s interesting to see where you are both up to and the differing strategies which you are employing in relation to tackling the lab. CCIE Pursuit currently rates himself at a readiness of 2 on a scale of 1-10, how would you rate yourself?

I’m not ready to take the lab – that I know. Maybe 6 out of 10? There’s an outside chance that I could pass today, if I got all topics I happen to know well, and if my mistake count was low. But the reality is that I don’t know enough about several topics, all across the board. I can figure out almost any task and make it work, given enough time. The problem is that I’m a hack with certain tasks. If I’m sitting at the lab trying to “figure out” some problem or another, that’s probably a bad thing, because there is a finite amount of time allotted to lab completion. 8 hours is not a long time.

To get me from 6 out of 10 to 10 out of 10, I have to get smarter about my weak areas. There are commands and procedures I have to know much better than I do, so that I can quickly complete tasks that today I find challenging.

Have you seen the comments which one of the Brian’s from IE made with regards to lab preparation, namely that they are now recommending regurgitating the 1st 10 of their labs over and over to get the core principles down and to help with increasing speed. With hindsight would you tackle your lab study approach any differently than what you have done?

Oh, yes. I would have done my lab prep much differently if I could do it all over again. I decided to go the route of using a training vendor lab workbook, like probably most all CCIE R&S candidates. That part was fine – you almost have to use a workbook to have a structured approach to your studies, guided by people who’ve been there before. I am using NetMasterClass.com DOiT v2 lab workbook. DOiT is a good workbook; I’m happy with it.

So what mistake did I make? Well, what I decided to do was to start with each DOiT lab, and work it through, beginning to end. So I started with DOiT Lab #1. It took me about 15 or so hours to complete that lab. Then I soldiered through #2, then #3, etc. So, in each lab (especially the early ones), I went through technical overload, trying to understand what were essentially all-new concepts. If I could do it all over, I would NOT start off with full-scale practice labs. Instead, I’d concentrate on a specific technology, master that technology, and then move on to another technology. I’d work on smaller labs, and then move up to full-scale labs.

The approach that I have taken, that of doing one full-scale lab after another, has made me a good lab strategist. I think I know HOW to take the lab. I know how to manage my time. I know what order in which to do tasks. I know how to use Notepad to minimize mistakes and maximize the benefit of copy ‘n’ paste. But the big catch is that I’ve become a “jack of all trades, but master of none”. I know a lot about a lot of topics having worked through them in these practice scenarios. However, I don’t have the benefit of having spent focused, intimate attention on specific technologies. That familiarity-yet-lack-of-intimacy with the blueprint technologies means that I can get stumped by a seemingly easy task.

Case in point. I took IE mock lab #2 a few weeks ago. I got stomped, and that was a relatively easy lab. Why did I get stomped? I was at least generally familiar with every task they had set before me. I’d done most of them before in practice labs. So what was the problem? I just didn’t know many of the tasks well enough to complete them in a timely fashion. I was doing way too much of “Oh, yeah. I sort of remember that. Uh…hmm. I’ll have to look that up, because I don’t remember all the commands to make that go.” I ran myself out of time because of that. In the case of not being able to bring up an authenticated PPP link to a backbone router, I lost the points for other tasks because of the dependency on that link. Big ouch.

As I said, I got stomped on that mock lab – and you wouldn’t believe how many points I earned in the last hour because there were tasks I was able to FLY through, knowing how to do them well. That demonstrates that an intimate familiarity with all of the core technologies is vital to success on the lab. I think of it like this: I’ve got this house built, but the house is shaky, because the foundation is missing some bricks. So now I have to shore up the foundation with the missing bricks. I have one more NMC DOiT scenario to finish up. After that, I’m going back to gain that intimacy with all the core technologies – to install the missing bricks into the foundation. I am going to read and read (and read), mostly from the Doc CD. I’m going to do practice labs that are focused on specific technology tasks. If I could do it all over, I would have used DOiT to focus on specifics first, then stepped up to full-scale practice labs later.

About the author

Ethan Banks

Most people know me because I write & podcast about IT on the Packet Pushers network. I also co-authored "Computer Networks Problems & Solutions" with Russ White.

Find out more on my about page.

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Most people know me because I write & podcast about IT on the Packet Pushers network. I also co-authored "Computer Networks Problems & Solutions" with Russ White.

Find out more on my about page.

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