And so the journey begins..

ccie-wireless-logo

About two months ago, my employer accepted me into the CCIE program that we have setup. I am lucky that I work for a firm that heavily invests into its consultants, and had the wherewithal to establish such a great program for folks serious enough to start down this lengthy, tough road.

Traditionally most the folks at my VAR going after their CCIE were heading down the Route Switch, Data Center, or Collaboration tracks. The resources available to these tracks is quite rich with loads of training material (INE, Global Knowledge, and lots others) and training programs to support their learning efforts.

Of course with my being a wireless geek, I started to look into the CCIE-W course as this was something I really feel I could sink my teeth into…or so I thought!

 Why?

For over the past decade I have been always learning something, weather it was finishing out my BSEE, certifications around product and tools, or other industry related certifications.  After finishing up my larger goals, I started looking for my next challenge, and that’s when the CCIE started looking really appealing to me.

The CCIE-W underwent a version change from 3.0 to 3.1 around November 2017. The main change here was they finally got rid of the horrid Converged Access portion of the Lab, as Cisco itself gave up on that product line. The good news is that this made the “new” CCIE v3.1 much more palatable to candidates, as we didn’t have to spend time and money diving into a technology that we would never really see in the wild.

I’ve spent the better part of the last 7 years working for VARs. I took a 18 month break to try different things such as working for Startups, Healthcare, and Global Enterprises – just trying to feel out what was best for me. I ended up coming back to the VAR space as I truly enjoy the work. I love being the trusted adviser to a multitude of customers, in different spaces, all over the globe. The variety of the projects I get to work on, the people I get to work with, and the constant push towards professional development was something that I really enjoyed. A perk of this is the working-from-home aspect that I really do enjoy, as I get to travel enough to breakup the monotony of sitting in the house all the time.

Where?

Finding a reputable(and more importantly, company approved) training partner was the next step for me, and this is where the tough part really came into play. While other tracks have tons of resources out there to train and learn from, the wireless track is one of the smaller tracks in this aspect.  Finding gobs of people who are also studying down the same track as you are, can really make the difference. Being able to join study groups, compare notes, and bounce ideas off of one another has truly been helpful for me in my past studying endeavors. The caveat here is that when you select a certain track, you are limiting yourself to a community of others who are studying down that track as well.

There has been a long running trainer that has been coaching and training the next generation of CCIE-Ws for a while now. Jeff Rensink was the CCIE-W trainer back when IPExpert was around. IPExpert was a great training firm and they went through some internal issues that ended up causing them to shut their doors.

Jeff took this as an opportunity to open up his very own training firm focused exclusively around the CCIE-W, The Network Dojo (www.networkdojo.com). After reviewing the training materials, the community around it, and reviews of formal students, this definatly looked like the community I wanted to be a part of. The kicker for me was that someone as experienced as Jeff was the one that created all the content, the videos, the quizzers, the mock labs, the rack rentals – all of it, it it came from THE CCIE-W Training master.

How?

Anyone that has ventured down the CCIE path will tell you, its all about the journey. When someone dedicates 12-18 months of their life to running down a cert, it is far more than a cram session and taking a test. This for me was why having the support community of other folks, in the trenches studying right along side you, was so important to me – and its what the Dojo offered.  I’m lucky enough to have been tinkering with Cisco WLAN gear for about 8 years now, so a lot of the content isn’t new to me, but there is a ton of content that is brand new to me.

  • Autonomous AP & WGB configurations – I’m having to learn how to configure these things from basically scratch as I don’t have much experience with these configurations
  • ISE & CMX – ISE typically always fell to the security folks to implement. ISE itself is a monster, I view it as a box with 142240 dials and 2x as many knobs, yielding unlimited configuration iterations. The part I like is that as a WLAN guy, we are continually seeing NAC being sold and integrated into environments. ISE isn’t going away and having the knowledge set to configure Certs, all the different EAP methods, and the rule writing around a security minded WLAN – is pivotal.
  • WLC – I thought I had a really good handle on WLCs until I actually started training through the Dojo. There are so many funky little options that I didn’t even know existed – but make complete sense to me now

I have a small home lab of a 2504 WLC, pair of 3560s, a pair of 1242 APs, a 3502, and a 3702. For pretty much everything except the ISE/CMX portion of training, having this meager little lab has been truly helpful for my (re)learning feature sets and commands. I have 300 hours of rack rentals at the Dojo I can use to fill in the gaps, but for a bare-bones lab, this has served me well.

Whats Next?

I’ve spent the past 2.5 months running through a “foundations” course that (re)familiarizes a lot of the equipment, commands, and general weirdness to front of mind. Building out my tiny home lab, and getting into a solid study schedule is one of the more tough items, as life has a tendency to get in the way.  Not having any kids, and being free of other typical life “distractions” means that I have 0 reason to not stick to a regimented study schedule, outside of pure laziness. This blog alone will serve as a reminder to get off my ass, stay the course, and see it through to the end.

I am currently in the “Study for Written” phase of the program. This consists of lots of videos, quizzers, practice troubleshooting and debugging issues. As it stands right now, I expect myself to be prepared and ready to attempt the written exam around March 2018. From there, its deep-dive time into the labs, troubleshooting, and mock lab tests to prepare for the beast that is the CCIE Lab.

Resources?

Cisco is releasing an actual (first time ever) CCIE Lab Study guide this month. The community if very excited as actual reading materials outside of the massive Design Guides is extremely rare. In the past, anyone going after their CCIE-W had to pretty much wing it on their own, studying as best they can from the blueprints and design guides. This is why I am such a fan of proven training resources as the Dojo. The Dojo has different packages for different budgets, from written-refresher programs, all the way thorough a full blow platinum bundle that will take you through ALL of the blue print, content, and training labs to prepare you for success.

Here is the new CCIE v3.x study guide, it will be released in ebook form on 11/22 and runs for $119.99 right now on pre-order. If you use the code “Programming37“, you’ll save an additional 37% off.  I pre-ordered the book yesterday and with that coupon, spent $94.

As we roll into the Holiday season, I want to wish everyone a happy and safe season, and start thinking about what your NEXT professional development goals will be for 2018. I am in ACMA training this week and I will update yall as soon as THAT adventure is over!

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