I donít have the answer but in this not so brief post I can show you how long it took me and tell you a little about my journey.
Donít read any further if your are looking for technical stuff in this post. If you are studying for some exams then it might help you to focus your efforts so read on.
How many training courses are required to achieve CCIE?
Before reading any further think about how many training courses it will take you to reach your next certification level? Push that number on your stack.
A long long time ago
Back in the olden days working on my Windows 95 laptop in a cubical laid out office, looking pretty dated in the millennium, probably the height of design in the 90ís I would sit studying for MSCE and working on Microsoft NT4 designs for customer across the UK. I would spend my life going from the office onto the motorways of Britain from customer to customer.
There was a guy who sat directly behind me back to back and he was always in the office. So chatting one day I ask what he was working on and where was it based. To my surprise he was working on a global network out of New York. ìBut you are always in the office!î I puzzled. Then he describes how he dials into the customers world wide network and the main data centre was in New York. I thought this was amazing. He says to me ìDo you want to learn about networkingî. and I said ìyesî. and that was the start of my Journey into the unknown.
CCNA ñ Sybex was my friend
I am guessing this was around July 1999, so through the company I was allowed to purchase my first networking book. I believe it was a Sybex CCNA study book. At this point I know the guy had been to Brussels twice to sit a big exam, and the second time he was successful. I also remember one of his colleagues coming back having failed and said to his manager. ìIt was tough I just couldnít type fast enoughî. The manager replied, ìGo and book yourself on a secretarial course then!î. I am thinking that sounds tough and I am struggling taking in information to go and sit my CCNA exam.
November 1999 I passed CCNA and I thought that was me done, the guy then says ìRight now you need to do CCNPî; ìWhat there more ?î. I was still enjoying it so I got the company to pay for more books, I canít fully remember but sure it was Sybex that was the main source and there was little or no Internet resources at the time.
So I plodded on the looking back it must have been the following to make up CCNP.
- CLSC ñ Cisco Lan Switching
- ACRC ñ Advanced Cisco Router configuration
- CIT ñ Cisco Internetwork Troubleshooting
- CMTD ñ Remote access
During this period I did have access to some devices, I believe it was 3 x 2600 routers, possibly only 2 but it was a long time ago.
I had CCNP by May 2000.I was delighted at this and was probably the only CCNP in the Microsoft Practice in Digital.
I had no training courses and no practical experience at all. I read books, played with my routers and ask my mentor question. I could never be let loose on a real network unsupervised.
Now my mentor managed to convince me to go all the way, and by now I knew more about the prestige of being a CCIE and heard things about retainers and big salaries. So with help from my mentor my upper management committed to continue to pay for books and would pay for the written exam.
I continued to study and done some other exams along the way and eventually got around to the written in August 2000. This appeared to be a big deal among my mentors networking peers to me it was one step closer to the LAB. I think because I was not in networking I had no realisation of what taking CCIE lab really meant. Still no formal training course.
Now it wasnít that hard to convince my management to sign up to pay for the LAB and expenses, to be fair I am not sure how serious they were taking me, after all I still had no practical experience. However taking advice from my mentor I had no chance without attending a boot camp, so I needed the company to pay for a two week camp in Bracknell or thereabouts, I think it was tutored by Kevin ????? I cant remember his name. So after arm twisting they committed to it and I started to really thorough myself into my studies.
I now has access to a remote lab with 5 routers, I would dial into Digital over 56k modem and access the lab remotely every night more or less (BK ñ before kids).
Before I knew it I had my Lab scheduled for just two weeks after my bootcamp.
Oh Boy! Did I feel like the odd one out when I arrived at the boot camp, all these guys who had been working in network for years, some had even been to the lab. ìWhat do you do?î they would ask. ìI work as a Microsoft consultantî , I got looks like I was as smouldering pile of poo.
I remember the first few days were a nightmare, I could hardly manage to telnet around the routers properly because I was so used to my fixed lab config and not use to jumping around networks. Two week passed and that was it, nothing else to do but go for the LAB.
The lab was a blur (two day lab in those days), in the morning I could not get my frame-relay to work, so I battered through and put on all the config, I had about 30 minute before lunch and I am sure at that time if I did not have end to end connectivity it was a fail and sent home. I went to my rack and examined the FR serial connection I believed to be the issue, I unplugged the connector, rotated it 180 degrees and plugged it back in. I when back to my console and sure enough IP was coming up. phewÖ At lunch I said to a proctor about the issues and they said, I should have ask them about it as it wasnít suppose to be like that. I was to scared to ask in case I got marked down.
At the end of day one I think there were 10 people left out of a starting 20 down to 4 for troubleshooting. I could not believe it when I got called back in and they said I had passed, I was euphoric, when I got back to the airport I bought the biggest cigars I could find and had a smoke, which was weird since I didnít smoke.
So from 0 to CCIE November 1999 to July 2001 (20 Months and never touching a real network)
- 1 Training Course
- 1 Mentor
- 1 Mentor
As you can see I can still fail exams, but thatís a direct result of the effort I put in.
I write this to try and give encouragement that it is possible to learn lots of stuff without going on a training course, indeed I would encourage people challenge themselves to learn without being taught, this way, in my opinion leads you away from learning not just to pass an exam but to really learn the subject matter.
I now need to set my sights on my next CCIE, although I canít decide between voice or SP.