Today, I had several chances to think about just how hard it is to take a complex business requirement and apply a network design to it. By that, I mean that between the homework and the case studies we did in class today, there was plenty of opportunity to think about what a business was trying to do (add services, complete a merger, reduce costs, resolve a problem, etc.) and then bring technology to bear on the situation in the most appropriate way. And that is really the core of the CCDE program. CCDE is not about knowing every nerd knob to turn. Instead, CCDE is about understanding what a given technology accomplishes in enough detail to know its pros and cons, but not so much that you get lost in the details.
To compare what I’ve gotten out of CCDE so far as compared to CCIE, I got lost in the details when doing CCIE quite often. CCIE was all about the knobs…about doing any sort of weird thing that might come up to solve any strange problem. CCIE study was done in a vacuum. That is, when preparing for the CCIE lab, there was the technology, the practice lab, a keyboard, several consoles, and a list of technical tasks to accomplish. That was it. There was no context. No “we’re going to do this because.” It was just make the lab work, whatever it took. Yes, there was more to CCIE program overall than that (and I learned a huge amount of information going through it), but the emphasis was very clearly on how quickly you could crank out an error-free config.
After a week of CCDE bootcamp, I feel that the CCDE program is just as difficult as the CCIE, but in a different way. Instead of the exam being about how quickly you can belt out a whole lot of configs that work right, it’s about how much information about a business issue you can accurately digest and then spit back a design recommendation for all the right reasons.
Looking back at the bootcamp experience, Jeremy’s format worked well for me. It was a good mix of interactive technical lecture, case studies, and practice exams. And whiteboard time. Lots of whiteboard time, with lots of colored markers. :-) I found my brain engaged the whole week; I wasn’t tuning out due to boredom. Honestly, there was no time to be bored or reason to lose focus. Even the rabbit trails that we went down that probably were deeper than we needed to go were interesting. The class was a mix of candidates from all over the world running all sorts of networks. Jeremy pointed out that the CCDE program is so broad that there’s very few networking professionals that would have worked with all of the technologies represented. That seemed to be the case. The service provider folks had a certain point of view and comfort level with specific acronyms. The enterprise folks had their point of view and comfort levels. Among all of us in the room, we had something to say about everything.
I say all that to say that if you have a chance to attend Jeremy’s bootcamp, it’s time well-spent. I’m early in my CCDE prep, and I thought that perhaps it was too early to do a bootcamp. Now that the week’s behind me, I instead feel that I have a much better idea of how to attack the program. Jeremy puts a great framework around what to study, how deeply to get into certain topics, and how to recognize important issues that help decide which technologies to apply to a given situation. I’ve walked away with a well-populated Evernote notebook and copies of all Jeremy’s practice exams, case studies, and slides. Since there’s not much official guidance out there for how to study for the CCDE other than “read this big pile of books,” Jeremy’s bootcamp offering effectively translates to a CCDE curriculum.
Next on my list is getting a personal CCDE preparation roadmap together. I’ve got work to do.