Catch-up 2007 and 2008 if time permits...

Let's see where were we? As the turn of the year came around I changed jobs. I left NBC/Universal Orlando and began my new job at SunGard Higher Education. Well... like all new ventures this one was to be very demanding and as such I was bound to meet the new challenges in front of me. This tpyically means delaying any serious study until I have got a handle on the current job... The current job included immediately getting to know two College Networks, the Corporate Network, the Colocation facility, a fairly elaborate VPN System, and finally any of the other networks that came along and you know they did... come along... So goes the story of my CCIE journey. Work before play as always. I finally was able to get away in March of 2007 to go to visit the world-reknowned Heinz Ulm. Heinz is a bit of an eccentric CCIE instructor. We call him "The Evil Bastard" in a very sentimental way... He's kind of like a torturer who dissects you and your flimsy short-comings all the while try to make you finally beg for mercy or something like that... Heinz is fundamentally a nice enough guy... even on his birthday and only a few people know that riddle... :) He loves his students and they tend to love him back except for one or two I've heard of... Heinz makes totally unique labs for his students that are quite creative and sometimes so much that I think they ought to be included in some sort of design lab... Overall, if you see his labs, he will likely have made you beg you to have him help you out of the riddle... He's like that Spider in the Lord of the Rings... or something like that. Hah! Anyway ole Heinz is worth the money and so is that other "Evil Bastard Mini-Me" in Germany... If you go you will learn a lot and if you learn a lot more between the experience, you may actually pass the lab on your first attempt as many have done before. Heinz has over 500+ CCIE's in about 10-11 years now and the number has probably gotten pretty near 600 CCIE's. If I had to guess, this means that nearly everyone who has ever sat with Heinz for a 3-Week class has since become a CCIE. That is very very impressive. Sorry... I did not yet sit the 3-Week class... And in May of 2007, I went again to the Lab and I failed... Ouch! My ego was burning by then of course. No more super-man. Of course I made it up to myself by completing the CCSP and the Sniffer Certified Master, and re-certifying the CCDP between the 3rd and 4th lab attempts... Work has always come first with me... sleepless nights, long-lost weekends, and yes, I tend to forget holidays... and even what day they are on if a project is on the horizon sometimes... No, I do not have much of a life. However, I do have an impressive resume and a lot of certifications that I have literally "Sold My Own Soul" for in the bargain to obtain them. My own home labs are impressive by now. The power bill makes a nice dent in my own economy... even before the price of gas did. I own enough racks to teach the stuff but lack the power capacity in my house to do much with them. I eventually gave my Catalyst 6000 away... :( True sadness. I also gave away my very own ICS 7750 too... I was one of the world's first Global Product Specialists qualified for the product back in like 2002 or something when I was feebly studying voice and trying to work out dial peers and such things that got dropped from the CCIE RS back then. Life went on... I decided to hit the books but doing full labs and doing them consistently evaded me. Time was never my friend nor was circumstance. I had a lot of great work experiences, I traveled to a few sites to perform CatOS to IOS conversions, upgrade entire networks in the middle of the night and that Easter too as I recall. No rest for the wicked... and I was pretty wicked... Of course, I was learning IPSec VPN Troubleshooting 101 and setting up Cisco Works 2000 LMS 2.6 or something with all the fixuns... Configuring ACS for load balancing was misunderstood somewhere in Wisconsin and so I was called to resolve the issue... no problem. Easy enough. I got to learn how Rancid operated and the CVS File System is just too cool to talk about especially with Webmin... all on the CentOS... My partner at work is a whiz with Rancid or seems to be and his RANCID implementation works flawlessly. My compliments to Chris. Let's see so I took the lab for the 3rd time in May of 2007. People I failed on my third attempt and I was livid. How could I fail such an "easy CCIE lab"...? How? In fact my score was so low it was unbelievable. I never could totally satisfy myself that the score was correct. Not to this day. I did figure out some things I did horribly wrong and maybe I violated an entire section somewhere - it became clearer by my 4th attempt. I've known many people who take a CCIE Lab and complained that it just did not make sense. Well, I put my money where my mouth was and I paid $250.00 for the re-grade. No dice... It was supposed to take 30 days max... I had to contact the CCIE Program to get the results. Seriously. I did not feel they took the re-grade seriously at all. Nope. In fact, I think if they say you fail, then my friend you failed and that is the end of it. I have read people (1 or 2 and maybe 3) inside of all these years who say they passed on a re-grade. I complained loudly enough I suppose. Jeff Buddemeir, the CCIE Program Director, emailed me personally to resolve the issue. Within about 24-48 hours it was resolved. I had failed - no doubt. But I got that rare thing that few of us ever get from a CCIE Lab... not much and not clear... but I got one or two lines of feedback. Nothing technical really but something for me to chew on... And I did. You see I went into 3 labs dazed, confused, ill-slept, and totally exhausted... why not I'm an old-school crammer. It's just me. I do it for nearly every written exam I do and I did it for tests my whole life... why on earth would/should/could the CCIE Lab be any different? Well it is different. One needs their wits about them... So from May to December... I worked on my sleep habits. I "learned" to go to sleep at night. I started trying to work 40-45 hour weeks - no more 70-80 hours - I was salary anyway, right? I still tool the after-hour calls for assistance. That was my job, but I kept my week to 40 hours or so and tried like Hell to get my sleep in order. It almost worked. In December of 2007, I sat for the CCIE RS Lab for my 4th attempt. Scott Morris met me in RTP and he invited me to dinner. He recommended sleep at any cost. Scott is a wise man. Don't let him fool you. :) I somehow managed to take his advice. I awoke early that morning and I went to the Lab for the 4th time. It was going to be close. I knew it. I was actually awake and I was coherent this time. I had some faults. You pay a price for playing a Rip Van Winkle for 6 months... I failed, but I knew I failed. My form was good. I did not touch the rack for almost exactly 2 hours after the lab started (a failure on my part - 45 min max for me next time). I had a basic problem that hung over my head like a rain cloud till about 1 hour after lunch. I got it but only after I approached the proctors and I was told... "A lot of CCIE Candidates seem to have that problem"... That's all I needed... Within minutes... I resolved a major issue and fixed two problems with a few keystrokes.... Note to self: Stop Debugging now... :) So... I was doing well by any standards... but I lost site of my own best strategy and as a result in the final 1.5 hours I worked thinks from a different angle... I lost my cool. Don't do this in the CCIE Lab. You need to be in control of your anger, your fear, your self-doubt, and most of all your strategy. Have a plan. Plan the Work. Work the Plan. It sounds easy enough. Well on that cool day in December, I failed. No one messed with my rack. I failed and I failed all on my own... Ouch! But I was wiser for the journey. My time was good very good. Most of my actions were pretty near flawless except as mentioned above. Yep... I had a few things that tripped me up and now I had to combat them one at a time. So... I hit my old Global Knowledge OSPF Class Book from 1998/1999. It was so wonderfully clear for me. I went back and took the CCIE BGP and QoS Certification exams and passed them. Two areas I needed for improvement. I was on a roll. You see I score a solid 70 or even 72 by my count and now I needed to strengthen my weak points. Security was flawless on this lab for me. Bridging and Switching was except for one fatal flaw. It was a flaw in my execution and understanding of a basic technology and I followed the cheese just like any desperate rat might... I took up Narbik Kocharians and booked a CCIE Lab Bootcamp in Pasadena, california. It was just what I needed. The basics. You see like many CCIE Candidates, I wanted the Advanced Labs, like Caslow and Heinz. I wanted the harder labs like those from InternetworkExpert. I wanted to be advanced. I really needed a good double-dose of the basics. So for about 60-hours or more I suffered the basics from one of the most if not the most impressive instructor I have yet to meet in the CCIE World: Narbik Kocharians. The man knows his CLI and he's fun while instructing you to where you will walk away with many little known facts and caveats about the CLI. He's respectful of his competition but does note where they have differed on methodology, opinion, and technical correctness. Not quite like the CoD by IE, but just enough to get the point across. This Triple CCIE is a CLI master and one knows it from the beginning till the end. This triple CCIE is Narbik Kocharians (micronicstraining.com). His class also costs about 1/2 or less what others cost for a week of training and he encourages... no demands you repeat the course. It was worth it for me. So... I now had to re-read and re-do his labs and that's what I've been doing up till now. I just finished working a highly professional team at SunGard to migrate a Data Center Co-located Facilty's entire setup from Point A to Point B and it went off flawlessly primarily to the leadership of our director, the tireless work of my own partner Chris, and the minute details that my two bosses ensured were covered at every juncture. I am now free to prepare for my 5th and final attempt to attain the CCIE RS certification. I also just pass the CCIE RS Written exam last month and the CCIE Written Security Lab this very week. I'm pretty confident I've covered my own gaps. My goal is CCIE 4X and if you stay tuned you will see what I think it takes to do it. I'll be posting tips, tricks, and things related and unrelated to the CCIE Lab but very useful to real world network engineers. Recall I'm a fully functional network engineer and last time I checked a lot of my peers have no problems asking for my advice and my assistance. Which by the way is another good excuse for my delay in achieving the CCIE RS certification by now... Check the Internet, you'll see what I mean. I help a lot of people even at my very own expense. I even hold online and after-hours study sessions for friends who want to learn this stuff. Yep... that's just me. Oh yes, I got a great offer by a local Cisco Partner in Orlando and as such I am excited to say that I start a new chapter in my professional career as an IP Telephony Engineer on Monday... So yes this presents an interesting dilemma for my CCIE RS Lab efforts. But I think I'm pretty much there on any given day these days. If I can stay awake that is... :) Enough for tonight. I gotta wake up in the morning make some progress and report back in by at least Sunday or so...

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