Here is what CCIE Terry Vinson had to say about his CCIE journey experience…
“I’ve tried to write my success story about a hundred times since I got my pass notification for the Routing and Switching track. Each attempt, however, has sounded more angry than happy, which is odd because I am ecstatic to have passed. Not having to study anymore and having decided to take a week off from everything but family has given me a lot of time to reflect on why I get so upset when I think about the last five years. I made the realization last night that my anger stems from feeling like I wasted a lot of time, and went up a lot of blind alleys during my preparation. I need to put things in perspective before I explain that any further. I am 45 years old. I have four sons ranging in ages from 6 to 22, I am a self-employed consultant, and in the current economy we have been struggling just to get by. So in a nutshell my preparation came out of my own pocket and I spent way more than I should have to get where I am. I bought materials, in the last three years, from virtually every major vendor I can think of, to include Cisco 360.
I found out about Narbik Kocharians on GroupStudy.com and contacted him and let him know that I was very dissatisfied with the first CCIE vendor I chose to use due a “customers helping customers” approach for guidance and support with the package. Narbik was very understanding and explained to me that he thought I had large gaps in my foundational theory. He told me that we could fix that together. I bought his workbook and set out to fix the problem. I was livid at how much I didn’t know after a year and a half of using the first vendor. I flooded Narbik with my frustration and again he just let me vent and then said we can fix that too. He told me that he was going to have a bootcamp in Columbia, Maryland starting on Monday; this was Sunday and he said I could come if I wanted to. I did want to, but we didn’t have the money to pay for a hotel. So I slept in my truck for a week in an arctic sleeping bag because it was winter. That sucked, but honestly I had slept in way worse conditions when I was a soldier. It was worth every second of it. I learned more in 5 days than I had in the previous year. The sad part was that my lab was scheduled for 15 days after the bootcamp and Narbik told me straight up I wasn’t ready for it. That was a tough pill to swallow, but he was right. I didn’t even come close to passing, but like Narbik said, “you know what to expect now!”
So the next year was all about filling gaps in my knowledge, reading books and labs using Narbik’s workbooks. In the next two years, I took Narbik’s bootcamp again twice (at no cost and received updates for all the workbooks – again at no cost). At the end of the last bootcamp, Narbik told me that he thought I was borderline ready, but I needed more lab work (I was too slow). I didn’t know how to answer that because I had done every lab he had to offer half a dozen times. So ignoring his advice I again scheduled a lab. I failed again but I was so much closer. But I found another weakness that I hadn’t really considered. My test taking strategy was virtually nonexistent; I was working and thinking too linear. That was when I met Anthony Sequiera.
Anthony was not what I was expecting from a CCIE instructor, he was frequently talking about other things than just technology. He was bringing up things that affected my performance on the lab that I had honestly never even considered. We exchanged emails and he made me a promise. “I’ll help you get your CCIE no matter what the circumstances are or who I’m working for. Anthony was able to open a lot of opportunities for me to learn and practice and was constantly offering support and advice. But at this point I was “gun shy” of the exam. I was so afraid of failing again I wasn’t willing to test. It took a long time for Anthony to help me break down those barriers. But eventually we did and I scheduled the exam, this time it was the Version 4 exam. Anthony and I where both focused on the TS section, because frankly it seemed to be what most people were failing, and the fact that there were no real tools available to students to help them deal with this new lab requirement was adding to my apprehension. So rather than just take a wild swing we got together with the great minds over at IPexpert, who I should point out Narbik had recommended I use for my “mock” lab practice. Anthony and I created a tool that made sense and held up to the troubleshooting labs I had from all vendors – the Quick Fire Troubleshooting Strategy. We spent countless hours discussing it, tearing it apart, and testing it against whatever mock troubleshooting materials we could find.
Quick Fire centers around a common issues methodology combined with intense time management. In our opinion, the biggest problem in the training space at that time was that everyone talked about troubleshooting and even discussed how to approach troubleshooting, but nothing dealt with the biggest issue, which is the two-hour time limit. After getting comfortable using the Quick Fire Troubleshooting Strategy, we decided that I should schedule a lab. The good news was that the troubleshooting plan worked AWESOME! I knew I had 8 out of 10 tickets and was unsure about one, the other I did not have a clue if I solved it “correctly” or not. The outcome was not what I was hoping for, because I did not pass the configuration section, but Quick Fire held up perfectly. What would have been another blow to my ego, was actually an opportunity to retest the troubleshooting strategy Anthony and I developed. So I scheduled another lab; what would be my second attempt at the Version 4 with troubleshooting.
During the next 30 days I didn’t even really focus on the lab, but every so often I would do an IPexpert Volume 3 lab just to keep my speed from deteriorating. Come test time I was way more relaxed, had more even more faith in Quick Fire. I even adapted some of the methodology from the troubleshooting process to the configuration section of the test. In the end it all culminated in passing the lab and getting my digits. That’s the long and short of it.
In my opinion it all boils down to the fact that the CCIE exam has changed, it’s no longer, “answer all the core questions and pick up a few of the services and management tasks and you are golden”. In my opinion, that test doesn’t exist anymore. The new test is a broad range of topics that all have relatively the same weight, the concept of the core and fundamental reachability is there but it’s no longer 70 to 75 percent of passing. Cisco has upped the ante in terms of the significance of these “miscellaneous” topics, and to tell students that they are not going to expect you to be an expert on them is an out-and-out travesty.
It was a long expensive journey to get to the point where I had all the tools I needed to pass and honestly, we had to invent a few along the way as a result of the exam changing and maturing. Technological proficiency was pivotal, but having a well-considered and practiced strategy was just as important. That concept of strategy extends not just to the actual lab but also to the act of preparing for the lab. I came late in my preparation to IPexpert on the advice of both Narbik and Anthony, and I found just what I needed there. They had an honest, structured approach that addressed all phases of the CCIE learning process to include tools like Marko’s wonderful audio bootcamp that was one of best knowledge sustainment tools I’ve had the pleasure to use. But for me, the workbooks were the most impressive offering because by the time I found IPexpert, that was what I was looking for. I wanted, no I needed, multiprotocol labs that where reflective of what I’d had come to expect to see on the exam after my failed attempts. Their workbooks were concise, well planned and the closest I’ve seen to the actual exam with regard to the wording and structure of the individual tasks. The integration between workbooks was seamless. It wasn’t a series of workbooks created, in a handful of weeks, by different developers with no clear transition. As I worked through these books I could feel my confidence and general understanding growing, and that process continued until the CCIE was just a fundamental part of that transition.
It is important to understand that everyone learns differently and at different rates. But the one constant is that learning needs to be deliberate, and that is so much easier when the actual course instruction is deliberate by design. Furthermore, you need to find vendors like IPexpert and Micronics Training that are willing to devote themselves to your success.
I am very proud to say that I am now employed writing elegant, yet practical and accessible texts and classes for IPexpert in the area of CCIE R&S. I hope I have the opportunity to provide assistance to some of you reading this, just as I received the assistance that I so desperately needed.
A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives. -Jackie Robinson”
Terry Vinson CCIE #35347
Terry Vinson's CCIE Success Story,