Finally passed the RS Lab @HK 05/29/17

    I always dreamed of writing my own CCIE success story after starting my CCIE Journey way back October of 2012.  This is gonna be a long story . Yes after almost 5 years I finally got my CCIE number!!  But not without all sorts of hindrances and thoughts of giving up at many points along the journey.  Let me stress that INE became a very big and vital part of my preparation!  Prior to starting my lab preparation , I prepared for the written exam using the Routing TCP/IP  book by Jeff Doyle and the TCP IP Internetworking book by Douglas Coumer (as recommended by Brian) and even though I was preparing for the written I was already studying the Advanced Technologies Class Videos and troubleshooting videos creating my own short notes and performing minilabs. I did not finish the Routing TCP/IP book but the ATCv4.5 I watched it completely even more than once.  Preparing for the written I also used CCIE Flashcards . I passed the written in April 2013 and before even passing it I already invested for my own PC to perform some of the full labs. I also bought some INE tokens to perform the Volume 2,3 and 4 workbooks.   

 I followed Petr Lapukhov's training program for RSv4. So I started with the INE Advanced Technology Labs using both my PC (thru GNS3 ) and Rack Rentals.  I was overwhelmed at first with the sheer amount of content that I had to study but to make the long story short I did everything twice before moving onto the full scale labs.  I did manage to complete half of the Volume 2 labs and a few volume 3 and 4 labs. It was I think in December 2013 that Cisco announced that there will be a new version (v5) of the Exam come June 2014.  It was a big announcement and it made me change my plans and study schedules.  I feel I wont be ready come  June 2014 so I did not force myself to take the v4 lab before the version change. 

 Coupled with some important life events and some financial constraints I lost my momentum. I did continue my study but I never scheduled the exam. This was one big lesson for me I was procastinating too much and I became too complacent. If you always move your self imposed date, you won't notice that years have passed already and you are still not achieving your goal.  I spend the money saved for the exam for personal emergencies. January of 2015 so from here on I became somewhat hopeless that my dream won't be fulfilled. I stopped labbing and studying.  I spent too much money.  I lost my momentum and drive to study at this point. I became preoccupied with other things. A lot of important life events happened after that . I studied real estate investing and passed the exam in 2015 and got married the following year . I had to adjust as I have to carry more responsibility now. But an opportunity came our company opened a program for qualified engineers.

   I was one of the few ones selected after passing several interviews and exams.  Now my wife and I had a long talk.  She supported my decision to once again pursue my CCIE dream.  Once again I had to renew my CCIE written to book the exam. I refreshed some concepts by reading up my old books and my approach was a bit different. Even though I was preparing for the written I was already watching the ATCv5 videos and labbing the Advanced Technologies Labs. Over the course of my studies I think I repeated the Advanced labs at least 5 times each technology.  Services Systems and Security about 4 times I think. I used an excel file tracker to track my study hours which includes reading, labbing and watching videos.  I'm gonna be honest I used a combination of INE and another vendor expert level training material to prepare for the exam. But forming my foundations  I'm gonna say INE was the crucial piece. I practiced the Advanced labs, Foundations Labs and some of the  Full Labs a lot of times. For the tshoot and Full labs I practiced materials from INE and the other vendor.  I would say INE Tshoot is harder.  Even harder than the actual in my opinion. It will prepare you beyond the lab exam. Same goes for the full labs. These labs will really prepare you well for the exam.  CCIE is not just about knowing the technologies well. It is also about putting them all together and formulating a strategy on how to do things more efficient and faster. You need speed and accuracy on the exam.  In the last 6 months before the exam I was studying at least 40 hours per week. I never imagined I would reach almost 2000 hours preparing for the lab.

  I've arrived in HK a day before my exam. I was feeling very uneasy , I still opened my short notes on technologies but closed everything when the evening came. I needed a long rest for the big day. On the exam day I came in early @730AM . I was really nervous. Some things are popping out of my mind like what to do next if I fail and how long I've been studying for this. It was very hard to apply for training leaves to prepare for the exam.  I was only given 2 weeks off to prepare. But I told myself I'm not going home empty-handed I'll just plan again after the exam was done.  First One was Tshoot I was so excited and nervous at the same time to get started. My own strategy for this was to never spend more than my cutoff of 10 minutes on each ticket.  There was one ticket where I had to come back a few times to examine several devices. I provided a lot of fix but I was not getting the desired output. The topology was massive! But if you know the technologies , the flow, and the dependencies it is doable. I finished the tshoot section in almost 2 hours.  I got at least 8 of the 10 tickets working. I was not 100% sure of the solution for one ticket and I didn't complete the other ticket. I know this was a risk but I took it as I was trying to make sure I have 5.5 hrs for the config lab. I know I'm in for a long afternoon.    For the Diag you have to make sure you examine all the logs and configs provided as well as some other files attached.  For the config section I would say you should have strong verification skills.  It was not ridiculously hard but it is still easy to get lost because of the huge topology! I always mention this as I was studying for the CCIEv4 back then and the size of the  topology are way different! ! I didn't do the lab in the task sequencing provided. There are some dependencies in there that you need to consider so the order on how you do things will change.  I messed up some portions of the lab that I consumed some time to fix.  But I was still able to finish almost everything  in almost 5 hrs (left out 1 minor task as I used the remaining time for core verifications  before the time was up. I was planning to lookup Doccd for this but chose to do final verifications instead esp. the core part). Submitted my scratch paper to the proctor went out and I looked for a restaurant to eat. I was exhausted after the exam. My heart was pounding the whole time I was in the exam. I did not look up the results that day. I was so nervous though I know I did good in the exam but there are still some fears and negative thoughts coming in.  

    The journey took almost 5 years with some detours along the way but I decided to come back to the CCIE path  and complete my dream. The following day me and my wife finally decided to check the results online. I only saw one word and it was enough to make my tears fall down from my eyes. "PASSED". 

 First I would like to honor  My Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who gave me the strength and the wisdom to be able to overcome all the challenges in my life including .  My wife who is always supportive of me.  My parents who always believe I can make it.

Brian McGahan. A big thank you! You are a legend ! I've been an INE customer since my CCNP R&S preparation to CCIE. Your materials are excellent and meticulously prepared. I would say you would learn things beyond just the CCIE exam. The lab materials will make you a better Network Engineer! -CCIE#56431


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