More Thoughts About Next Steps in Lab Prep


I am one of these people who like to have everything lined up nicely and neatly:  a place for everything, and everything in its place.  I have approached CCIE almost mechanically, assigning tasks and dates to each task I feel I need to accomplish to meet the goal of passing the lab.

The last couple of weeks have been disconcerting, because I expected to finish the NMC DOiT series, and therefore be ready.  Well, I’m done DOiT.  I’m not ready.  The orderliness of my CCIE universe has therefore been disturbed.  I have felt shiftless, knowing what most of my shortcomings are, but not having a good plan of attack to fix the problems.  I have been doing a lot of reading, and playing with the rack some.  But I haven’t felt focused, or like I’m hitting any milestones.

I tried e-mailing the NMC folks directly and posting to their forum, requesting a recommendation of a specific number of DOiT labs to repeat.  I got crickets in response.  I also blogged a query here about the next steps in lab prep, and got back a few good blog comments and unicasts.  Responses nearly all suggested that repeating a particular set of labs would be a good thing.

Taking the “repeat strategy” into consideration, I reflected on my technical shortcomings some more.  I know that my biggest weaknesses are technology-specific, as opposed to an overall strategy problem.  I also know that I’m going to Narbik Kocharian’s CCIE lab bootcamp in a couple of weeks.  Therefore, I committed to re-wiring my rack for Narbik’s Soup-To-Nuts book, which required the addition of 3 backbone routers.  (NMC does not use backbone routers.)  I got that done yesterday; it took me about 3 hours.

I am going to spend as much time as I can over the next couple of weeks working with Soup-to-Nuts.  I’ll attend Narbik’s bootcamp February 18 – 23.  When I get back from bootcamp, I am going to execute on the “repeat strategy” by repeating some of Narbik’s full-scale labs that I’ll receive as a bootcamp attendee.

I also canceled the InternetworkExpert.com mock lab that I had scheduled for next weekend.  There’s just no point in doing it right now.  Why bother with that, when I am going to bootcamp?  I have enough IE tokens in my account to schedule 2 mock labs.  I am planning to take them in late March, the idea being to see what areas I still need to focus on before making my first attempt on 4/29/2008…or if I need to postpone that first attempt altogether, a real possibility.

What will I do if the IE mock labs show that I’m not close, or if I do make my first attempt, but fail?  I’ve given that a lot of thought as well.  While I really want CCIE off my plate, I don’t think it would be wise for me to just hammer away at lab attempts every 30 days, assuming I can reserve a lab seat that often.  No, I was thinking that if I postpone or fail the first attempt, I’m going to do a ground-up re-work of my lab preparation, using Narbik’s materials.  I’ll take another 6 months, nail down the foundational topics better than I have them now, and then do Narbik’s full-scale practice labs.  I feel good about that strategy.  It feels “right” to me to do it that way.  That means that I might end up with a postponed or second lab date in October or November 2008, but I’ve come to terms with that.  My wife is okay with it, too.  We just talked through the whole thing, and we’ve sorted out how to make it work.  She’s been very supportive.

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.


  • Ethan
    I feel your pain. However i am not anyway close to your level in preparation. I am taking the lab on June 3rd 2008. My co worker is doing his first attempt this coming tuesday at RTP. There is alot of material to cover. Besides hands on, knowing the material in the DOC CD is very important as it makes hands on easier. Anyway i too am planning on taking Narbik class in May. Let us know how it goes.
    Good luck

  • As someone who is on the other side, I would like to offer some encouragement. You are obviously making great progress, and I admire your structure and commitment. On one hand, I think that you may have set yourself a tough goal, and you need to reconsider the time frame. On the other hand, momentum and persistence counts.

    You have a young family and you need to take time to be with them. A few more months on CCIE won’t matter in that context. I found that taking time out let me ‘refresh’. I think that the subconscious needs time to absorb the information you are packing in there.

    I definitely recommend textbook reading. Learning first principles is going to carry you through the exam in those areas where you aren’t so strong, and also into the real world.

    Also, you are definitely not a failure if you do not pass the exam the first time (you may wish to consider such a failure learning the exam process since most people expect to fail the exam at least once, I certainly did). As you know, the amount of information, thinking, experience is a vast amount of work.

    As someone who passed nearly seven years ago (gosh, has it been that long), I can assure you that the rewards are worth the effort. Financially our family is in a better position, professionally I get respect and listened to, satisfaction that I achieved a difficult task, and quiet pride that I am one of the few.

    I read your posts and use them to keep my knowledge up to date. Thanks for that work.

    Keep your eye on the prize.



  • Ethan,

    You may not have got any replies to your posting on DISCUSSiT, but your posting had one major benefit for me … that it led me to your site, and I am rapidly becoming a fan. It looks one of the most useful resources for CCIE prep I have seen yet.

    Thanks for posting your findings on each DOiT lab as well – they look really useful. I have been trying to post my thoughts on each lab in the DISCUSSiT to try and get some collaboration going, but DISCUSSiT seems to be a bit dead since Alexei got so busy with other things. DAZZLER has been posting some useful stuff there, but the forum has not really got the critical mass. I sometimes find it more useful to post my questions on NetPro.

    Keep up the good work.

    Kevin Dorrell


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.

Subscribe via Email

Receive complete, ad-free posts in your inbox as I publish them here.