I wanted to let everyone know that I passed my CCIE lab with a single attempt at RTP on March 31. Most of you do not know me but I'm actually an avid reader of this forum. When I was a newbie just beginning this journey, the help received from this forum was invaluable. Over the course of time, I have not actually been an active responder but thats mostly because someone else usually was able to answer the questions faster than I was.
I want to thank the INE instructors, Brian M, Brian D, Petr Lapukhov and others who helped me through my journey which is now complete in one way but in many ways, it is just now starting.
I want to extend a special thanks to the INE/Graded Labs suport staff who were there to guide me through thier products.
Now for the details which I know many are curious about.
I used the INE 2.0/4.0 program right after I got done with reading the entire list of the recommended books. The only mistake I made during these first 6 months was that I did not build a lab, did not bother to learn about GNS/Dynamips or knew about Graded Labs. My idea was that the theory is seperate from lab and I could compartmentalize the two. This, conservatively, set me back a good two to three months. As I never really reenforced the learning with lab time. Fortunately for me, I pay very close attention to details and have decent enough memory that I did not waste too much of my time. If I was doing this over, I would ABSOLUTALY have IOS available to lab up at least some of the scenarios in the books. I also sat through the 10 day ATC bootcamp and listened constantly to Audio lectures, which I believe belong in the CCIE training Hall of Fame if one gets built.
The next two weeks or so were spent creating my lab. It followed the INE topology but with a few changes. I replaced the BackBones with 2610XMs and I used all four 3550s to keep the budget under control. One change I would make here is that the 1841s should ideally have 256K or more DRAM as they have a nasty habit of crashing especially with NBAR.
For the next four months, I did not teach any classes (I teach CCNA for a living), dragged myself down to the basement of my house, next to the lab and sequentially completed Workbook 1. In hind sight, as much material as there is in WB 1, I sometimes think if I ever needed to read those books? I probably would but that is how much I love WB 1. It simply has everything in it and everything is explained in enough depth to make you comfortable with the topics. I remember QoS and Multicast giving me the hardest time. The time was now early March 2010 and I was on course for taking the lab in Fall 2010. But then something strange happened and I can only term this a burnout. I was able to complete all of 1 WB 2 lab and simply lost the will to do this on an everyday basis.
Fortunately, as I said earlier, my day job is that of a CCNA instructor so what I did for the next 7 months was teach CCNA classes, but this time at a very high level, close to CCNP almost. I also picked up two different books that I had not finished earlier. Cisco IP Routing by Alex Zinin and TCP/IP by W. Richard Stevens. Both are very dense reads and kept me mentally sharp. I also did a few consulting projects in related arena, expecially an ASA project with reenforced my ZFW and CBAC.
I also attended Brian M's Multicast 3 day bootcamp which prooved invaluable in making a topic that used to be my weakness into one that I hoped was worth as many points as possible in the real lab. I consider myself an expert in this topic and its all due to Brian's bootcamp.
I decided around October 2010 that time was right to finish this up and then, quite litrally the game changing moment occured to which I cannot possibly give enough credit. Petr Lapukhov sat down and wrote http://blog.ine.com/2010/10/09/how-to-pass-the-ccie-rs-with-ines-4-0-training-program/ . Finally I had a guide on how to use the plethora of knowledge available to me. I charted out a course of action that started with Vol 2 on around Jan 1st and went to the third week of march, ending the course just one week before the Lab.
I followed Petr's plan right down to the last detail, finished all the labs of WB 2, 3 and 4 since I had already done WB 1 once (twice for some other things). I also attempted the first four Mock Labs scoring 89, 72, 70 and 69 respectively. I cannot stress how important it is to attempt graded labs. Things I was sure were right turned out to have little mistakes which took my estimated score of 90 always down to the 70s. But I knew that the mistakes I was making were more out of carelessness and lack of a proctor than straight up technology issues. In hindsight, these labs are a bit harder than the actual lab technology wise but the actual lab has more in terms of minimally worded questions.
My last week was supposed be mostly rest and listening to the Audio Lectures but my friend Harp actually went ahead and presented me with four straight days of rack rentals with INE topology and 3560 switches. That helped me tremendously in strengthening the last remaining weakness 3560 QoS so thanks Harp.
The day before I got on the road early and travelled with a study partner who was gracious enough to accompany me. Listened to the Audio lectures on our journey and watched a matinee when we got to RTP. I thought I would not have problems sleeping but could not get myself to sleep till 1 in the AM. Finally fell asleep only to wake up at 5 to get ready and all that good stuff.
Day of the lab passed in a jiffy. For those who are detail oriented like me, they have colored pencils, lots of them but may not have the brand or colors you like. There is a sharpner but there seemed to something up with it and did not give consistent sharpness. I used it once before starting the lab, once again before starting the lab after lunch. The computer screen is bigger than what I was used to, a plus but I still had a challenging time with keeping all the windows of intrest organized. At one point I had 11 other windows in addition to my device windows, probably because I used notepad extensively. I was good at TS but I still spent the entire two hours, resulting in me being sure that I resolved all the Tickets without breaking any rules and missed one ticket. The configuration section was generally straight forward except for one issue that made me second guess myself and change the config back and forth three times. I finally decided to go one way over the other, keeping the other config in the notepad readily available. I also used the notepad extensively throught my preperation and at the Lab. When I finally got out in the afternoon, it boiled down to this, if I had guessed correctly on the Core task, I had knocked the damn thing out of the park, if it was wrong, that left me on the borderline.
Well, I cut the day short and decided not to stay over, returned home and probably made the best decision of my life. At 9:40 that evening my result was delivered and thankfully i had passed, the journey over. I must have shouted my lungs out for the next 15 minutes.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my very beautiful wife who supported me through the thick and thin. I could not have done this without her. My study partner Junaid (ToxicAvenginator) was a great inspiration and kept me honest and I cant wait for the day when he is ready to share his story with you.
So, thats about it, if you have any questions, feel free to ask (all that good stuff about the NDA applies).