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.