Going to camp…

Today I began a two week CCIE voice boot camp with INE*.  Now, I am well aware that CCIE boot camps are really best used as finishing schools. Once you think you’re ready to sit the lab, you attend one of these and polish off any rough edges before the big day.

Well, I am not too proud to admit that I am nowhere near ready to take the exam.  But day one of camp has given me fantastic insight into the ground I still have left to cover, which spans from here to what looks to be eternity as far as I can tell.

I’m reminded of a scene from Short Circuit* where the main characters are frantically trying not to be disassembled all over the place by their pursuers and the robot announces “Strategy!” – to which the response is “what about it?” – answer: “NEED SOME!”

Yep.  That’s about the gist of it.  Clearly no CCIE exam is going to be passable unless you’ve got one seriously concrete strategy for taking an epic amount of work, methodically parsing it out, and proceeding to bang out the solutions despite intense pressure and time constraints.

I also realize I just stated the obvious- the real question is what’s the best time management strategy out there?

Today I was presented with an excellent plan- the details of which you also can get by attending an INE camp (I can’t just go around giving away their secrets for free, they’ve got to make a living as well!), but I recognize that I’m going to have to cater any strategy to the way I think and work best.

The most successful strategy is going to address my weaknesses and capitalize on my strengths.

My two greatness weaknesses when it comes to time strategy I’d sum up like this:

1. Down the rabbit hole – it’s not in my nature to let go of a problem.  If something is not functioning properly, I am inclined to work on it until it’s fixed or the cows come home. And since the cows don’t have my address, there is no dropping a task that isn’t going my way and picking it up later, it’s just rabid obsession until the solution is discovered.

This will *kill* my time in the lab. Since I’m pretty sure I can’t bring in some sort of electric shock device that will pummel me with 1.21 gigawatts if I spend too long on one task, I am going to have to practice letting go, moving on, and coming back later. Easier said than done in my world.

2. OCD, OCD, OCD. When given a list of tasks, it fills me with great joy to start from the beginning and methodically work my way down through the tasks, checking things off in a nice orderly manner.

Yeah, this won’t work for the lab.  No way the proctors are giving an exam that can be implemented going line by line.  Time to rethink how to accomplish tasks in tandem and more efficiently and let go of my love of linear propriety.

Another thing that I hadn’t really considered until it was brought up today: I won’t be using my laptop for the exam.  I know this sounds silly because we all *know* we won’t get to use our own equipment for the lab, but think about how much you are used to doing things using your own stuff. Now think about how different it’s going to be when you don’t have access to those familiar items.

I think about work sites I’ve gone to where they give you some crappy laptop to use because they don’t want you plugging into their network with a laptop that actually works. No, you get to use the laptop with none of your cool tools and awesome buttons and shortcuts. Instead you have to make do with whatever pitiful excuse of software/hardware that happens to be provided to you and still make beautiful things happen.

This drives home the point that I need to practice with a setup as close to the lab as possible.  Even then I know there will be differences, but hopefully minor enough not to throw me off my game.

But the CCIE is not all about time strategy. I think my favorite line from today’s class was when Mark Snow said that “the CCIE doesn’t make you an expert, you are an expert before you go in.”  The test just puts a stamp of approval on what you should already be to pass the exam.

Like any other certification, it should be about gaining the knowledge, not just learning to pass the test.  All the time strategies in the world aren’t going to help if you don’t have the foundational skills and theory to do the job.

**If you haven’t ever seen Short Circuit, put on your parachute pants, get out the AquaNet, and rent this movie. You will thank me for it.
*In the interest of full disclosure, INE invited me to attend this boot camp and paid for my seat, my company is paying my expenses, and neither paid for me to say nice things about them.  My opinions are mine, I’m selfish like that.

Published: 10/08/2012

7 thoughts on “Going to camp…

  1. Very interesting. Be interested to see how you get on with the rest. I have just started preparing for the written exam but the lab is at the back of my mind..! Good Luck 🙂

  2. Good luck with it A. The most soul-destroying thing I ever heard was when, after I’d spent nine months properly studying on top of working with routing and switching every day, the Cisco SE for our account told me he had just recertified his CCIE with no study, after a night on the town, and that he recommended the “go in blind and shoot from the hip approach” …

    1. Are you sure he retook the lab exam? You can recertify your CCIE simply by passing the written exam again, which is considerably easier than passing the lab exam.

  3. I enjoy reading your posts. I passed my CCENT working towards CCNA maybe someday branching Voice. Your posts are a little over my head but good none-the-less. I’ve seen posts where the author says they were “Invited” to take the course. How do you make that happen? I’m assuming you didn’t get invited for your feminine wile and good looks.

    1. Usually it’s blogging, writing for publications, and community participation that help get those type of invites. My advice would be to get active in the engineering community, it’s a great field!

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