Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year

New year. New hopes. New dreams. New goals. New friends. New purposes. New challenges. New Adventures.

Happy New Year 2008.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Not a Secret

I won't write yet another review for this book. I got it as my birthday present and after I read it I feel like most of the discussion inside the book are not that secret.

There are few things from the books that I believe I have been doing in my life:

- be grateful with whatever I have
- focus on what I want to achieve
- always think and look at positive side
- keep dreaming and visualize my dreams in mind

Those who are curious may want to read the book.

I don't always believe what I read.
But I'm a dreamer, and I believe in my dreams.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Happy Anniversary

Few days ago I celebrated the end of my first year with Cisco. I have been working as a team member of Cisco Advanced Services field delivery team under Asia Pacific region that covers customers in mostly South East Asia countries for a year. I have been involved in several large-scale projects, I have traveled many countries and meet new friends, and I have learnt many new technologies since I join. Some may say I have achieved my goal. But I must say nope, I haven’t reached my perfection. Not even close.

I must say frankly that joining this company is not the end of the tunnel. It’s even too early to say I have seen the end of my journey. This place is still not the one I have been searching for. The team is great but I want more. I’m still not ready to move to a comfort zone. I’m yet to discover my one thing and becoming immortal, I mean, reaching my objectives to become an expert.

During my journey in the past several years I can see myself have evolved from one phase to another. I started my career about 8 years ago as a network engineer who must worked in shift in one Network Operation Center. Then I moved to work as project engineer. Later on I turned into a pre-sales engineer who spent more time meeting with customers and make only high level solution. Then I was forced to go back to the field, but this time as a project leader who required to lead the team and to understand the end-to-end flow of the whole process in the project. I was outsourced once to my customer for a year to become a consultant and a daily administrator. Many times I must worked with overlapped roles: as consultant, lead engineer and technical project manager, at the same time. My last role before I become an NCE with Cisco AS was as individual consultant, doing contracting job.

From technology perspective, I have evolved as well. I started with normal LAN and WAN. Then I moved to network security for a while, from installing firewall, fine tune IDS, geeking out with authentication and encryption, up to the level where I had to deliver security assessment for medium size business. I had fun doing wireless installation as well as roaming around the city to discover who’s the ignorant out there not bother to enable the security feature in his Access Point. I have been involved in many enterprise networks from remote access to datacenter. I used to play with many OS and many areas until I realized that I have to focus on one thing that I really like. It must be within networking. And in the top of the pyramid in networking lies Service Provider technology.

We are talking about carrier grade level network devices here. Where in enterprise fancy feature is more important, but in SP scalability, performance and stability most matter. Feature is important too but it can’t be deployed until its stability can be guaranteed.

I have been in Sydney for two weeks now doing only testing for the highest end product Cisco can make so far. It’s fun since I can really check whether what’s written in datasheet is correct. When the result is not as expected the first way to find out is by trying to understand how the architecture works. I have to go to the detail, can’t be playing only on surface anymore just like when I used to deal with Enterprise networks. Must dig into the hardware and protocols detail. And when all hopes seem lost, I must consult the oracles. Those are the guys who make the product and test it in daily basis. And for all my testing I don’t have to reinvent the wheel, all the tools are available. Knowing scripting is good but there are many already available ready to use.

So have I seen it all? I don’t think so. But I feel like I’m getting closer to get my respect. I’m on the right track and I must stay focus to keep it that way. To bad I can focus on this thing in Sydney only for several weeks, but I’m glad I have the chance to do so. I know what to do next, I have the plan and I’m also looking for a window of opportunity. I'm glad I have to go through all the phase. I'm happy because everything I have done so far makes me understand more about my purpose. All my experience really shapes me, and I don't think I should skip any of it.
And indeed, I’m still in the beginning of my journey.

Happy anniversary, Cisco. It’s been a wonderful year.
And I hope you guys have evolved as well just like me.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Goodbye My Lover

Today is my last day in San Jose. Tonight I have to fly to the next destination: Sydney, through Hong Kong and Singapore in transit. It’s going to be a long flight. I will be in the plane for about 24 hours, and even my flight from Singapore to Sydney will use the new big bird Airbus A380 but it will still consume all my energy.

I have spent 16 days in US and it’s been an unforgettable experience. This is the place that has broaden my view to see the world from different perspective. This is the place where I met the love of my life. This is the place that offers me new purpose. Even San Jose and the surrounding cities are a bit too quite for me but I spent most of my spare time enjoying San Francisco, and I must admit I have fallen in love to this city.

During my journey in the past several years, I have traveled many cities in different countries. Based on preferences, San Francisco and Sydney are my most favorite cities. And my love is waiting for me in both places. Amsterdam comes next, but unfortunately the closer city where I can see her is Brussels. If somehow I can't move to those cities, and when all hopes seem fail, I still can go to Dubai. I may not see my love so often from there, but at least I can go back to my old habit snowboarding in indoor snow park.

So the question is: what should I do to get my true love?
Architecture. Learn more and more deeper about the architecture. Hardware architecture, software architecture and the protocols architecture. Then get more experience in deployment. Not only to configure and to troubleshoot, but to make proper design and to integrate as well. Last but not least, I need to start learning how to automate a process so I don’t have to manually set something up.

I have to fly tonight. And I feel really sad.
But one thing for sure, I know what to do next.

Goodbye, San Jose. Till we meet again.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Is This Love?

I think I’m falling in love again. I saw her today and I could feel my heart beat faster. This is what I call love at the first sight. She was standing tall in front of me, up and running, and blowing out the air to my face. She is a CRS-1 16-slot multi-chassis system, with several line card chassis connect to a designated switch fabric chassis, distinguish herself from the 8-slot and 4-slot single-chassis system.

Is this love? Is this love that I’m feeling?
Is this the love that I’ve been searching for?
Is this love or am I dreaming?
This must be love.. (by Whitesnake)

This must be it. This must be the dream.
A dream worth fighting for.

(Taken from Cisco CRS-1 lab, somewhere in San Jose)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Gimme a Reason

Give me a reason to take another CCIE lab.
In Cisco, pass another CCIE means hard cash. Yes boys, Cisco pay money straight away for an employee who passes CCIE lab.
But that’s all. I mean once you join Cisco, it doesn’t matter how many CCIE you have passed. What really matters is your performance in delivering your job. In fact, since I joined Cisco I never introduce myself to the customer: Hi, I’m H from Cisco Advanced Services, and I'm a triple CCIE. And I guess even I did this, my customer would look at me and say: So? Who cares? Just fix my network! :)

So anyone can give me a good reason to become quad CCIE?
To join an elite club of few guys who have four or even five CCIEs? Interesting and very tempting indeed, but do I need to take another CCIE just to be proud of myself?
To learn new technologies, in this case Voice and Storage? Yes, it’s true. But those won’t help me in my current job, or even with the future job where I want to be specialized in Service Provider technologies. Voice means Enterprise Voice. And Storage is more related into Data Center. They can drag my focus away from SP core technologies such as MPLS and NGN stuff.
To compete with Scott Morris? Dude, I believe he’s considered as one of the respectable networking geeks not because he has 4 CCIEs, but because of his extensive experience, his commitment to continuously upgrade his knowledge, his willingness to share the knowledge to the community, he knows many other products not only Cisco, and obviously because he has a very cool lab in his basement.
So I’m not in the same league with him.

As I said in my profile for this blog: I wish to become an expert one day, and my greatest fear is to become a guy without any specialties. By taking another CCIE lab, I will drag my focus away and that for sure will not make me specialize in anything.
However, passing another CCIE is important if I want to become network solution architect, since this kind of job requires me to know all the technologies plus the way how to make them work together.

So unless someone can come up with a very good reason, it looks like it’s time for me to start drilling down to a particular technology area to focus my expertise. And I still have two more weeks in San Jose to find out which one. And please allow me to share my picture enjoying sunset in San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge ;)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Travel Addict

I don’t like to be addicted to anything. Every time I feel like very interested to one thing or one activity for quite some time and difficult to let it go, I always decide to just stop and get away from it. I used to play computer games heavily, everyday from dusk till dawn, then one day I decided to stop. Just stop and do something else. I decided to become only as a social smoker to avoid getting addicted to it. Addicted to TV? No way. First of all, TV is evil. Second, yes I do watch TV series such as Heroes and Scrubs. And I like to watch such series continuously. But I always stopped in the middle, then watched them again some other time. It doesn’t mean once I stop doing something I can’t do it in different time. The key here is, don’t stick with something for too long. The moment I feel like I’m so attached to one thing I will stop for a while then later on I can go back to it.

Well, my friend told me once that I was addicted to CCIE lab. For several months I think nothing but geeking out in my lab, caught only couple of hours a day to sleep, did my practice lab as there is no other thing to do in life. But then I passed, right? So it means yes I was so attached to it, then I stopped because I passed. Later on I did go back to it for a different track. So my philosophy-of-life here is still valid.

There is one thing though, that’s still difficult for me to let go.

Since I joined Cisco Advanced Services about a year ago, my life has been changed completely. My journey in work has always been dynamic and this time it turns upside down. I mean, in the beginning in my career I was working in one NOC for a worldwide Oil & Gas company where I had to maintain the network operation for Asia and Australia territory. I used to work in shift and travel onsite occasionally if there is a problem that can not be fixed remotely. Then I moved to IBM to take a job as pre-sales consultant. It’s a white collar job and even I joined the Global Services team but my coverage was only in country. So no travel was required. Then I moved to Dubai to join the biggest Cisco local gold partner there. I used to handle projects with different scopes: from pre-sales to technical project manager, from senior engineer who plugged the boxes to consultant who must present the solution. I even changed my profile many times: once I worked dedicatedly in one customer as onsite consultant, while some other time I must handled many projects concurrently, and I even worked as independent contractor for some time. But still, the coverage was still in country and no extensive travel was required.

So all my previous jobs before Cisco never required me to travel extensively. Then I joined Cisco as Network Consulting Engineer. And guest what, I started learning how to pack my stuff within short time and run to catch the flight since only 3 weeks after I joined. Even now I’m based in Singapore but I spend only about 15% of my time in the country. I don’t have customers in Singapore (I mean, Cisco AS customers in Singapore are handled by some other guys) so I have to travel to do my projects. The longest period I ever stay in Singapore is about 8 days in a month. There was a time when I paid my apartment rent to the landlord, went outside the country the next day, and came back to my room just to see my landlord again and pay for the next rent. In average, I spend about 5-6 days a month in Singapore. The rest? My second home, Shangri-la. Shangri-la hotel in several different countries.

After few months living mobile, I start getting proficient with the way of life that I have never had any chance to do in the past. For example, now I can pack my stuff and ready to go to different country only in 15 minutes. The secret? Put priority of the things that I want to carry with me. And I like traveling light.

I have 3 levels of priority and each 3 is located in 3 different places:

Priority 1, the most important: wallet (because it has my ID, money and credit card), passport, mobile phone. Most of the time they are all stay inside my pockets.

Priority 2, important: company’s laptop, camera (what’s the point to travel if I can’t take the picture of the new places?), Cisco badge (to get access to Cisco building anywhere in the world), all the chargers for laptop and mobile phone, and iPod along with earphone. I have sold my Zen to buy iPod to get bigger drive capacity. Hey if you have to travel heavily believe me you really need this one, especially if you have to spend lots of time in transit airport or inside the taxi. And don’t forget to buy the adapter for the earphone so you can use it inside the airplane and enjoy the flight entertainment using your own earphone. Those stuff are inside my Crumpler backpack. I decided to use a single bag, a backpack, to carry both the laptop and my camera since I got a lesson from my previous trip through London Heathrow airport: I was allowed to carry one bag to the cabin. At that time I used two bags to split the laptop and camera, and I was almost forced to check-in my laptop backpack (are you crazy? I will never check in my camera bag. So if I have to decide, I would let go the laptop since it’s company’s anyway. But my camera is my own so it deserves highest priority :))

Priority 3, nice to have and hopefully they don’t get lost since I always put them in my check-in luggage: all my clothes, perfume (to avoid the security check for liquid in the airport I prefer not to carry it in my backpack), socks and underwear, an extra pair of shoes, medicine, and one or two DVD in case I get bored.

How about the flight ticket? Normally I fly Singapore Airline that has already used the e-ticket system. So once my flight is booked and confirmed, I just need to go to the airport to show my passport and get my boarding pass.

How if I lose my wallet? I can use my mobile phone to call Cisco emergency number to get help. How if I lose my mobile phone? I can use my money or credit card to buy a new one. How if I lose both my wallet and my mobile phone? I will use my Cisco badge to enter the closest Cisco office and ask for help. See, there’s always a contingency plan.

How about all the stuff for shower or shaving? Not required. Hotel normally provides all the towel, tooth brush, shampoo, soap, and sometime even bathrobe. And I shave on the flight since Singapore airline provides it (for one-time use of course).

How if I lose my check-in luggage completely? Too easy. This means it’s time for me to do shopping for new clothes. Life is not hard, isn’t it?

So having this 3 types of priority in mind makes me really fast in packing up. Once I finish with Priority 1 and Priority 2 stuff, I’m ready to move.

What do I like from traveling? New places. New people. New atmospheres. Having a chance to watch local culture and taste local food. Never static. Different point of views. And the best part is, all my expense for food and transport during my travel is covered by Cisco. I don’t get extra money for working outside my home base, but I can go to new places and try different food. I like to watch local culture and try local food everywhere I go so this new life style is still suite me. And obviously living in hotel room for free, with all the facilities, is much better than living in my small apartment where I have to pay for everything.

So even I started traveling because it’s part of my job, lately I realize that I got attached to it deeper and deeper. The moment I arrive in Changi airport as the end of one trip, I start thinking about the next one. If I don’t travel I get confuse. The hardest time in my life is when I have to surrender my passport to the embassy everytime I’m applying for a business visa. No passport means no traveling at all. I must travel to go to new places. I must travel to see different things. I must travel to enjoy living in the hotel. I must travel to taste all the local food from different countries.

Looks like finally I got addicted to something.
Thanks to Cisco.

PS: In less than 48 hours I will be flying to San Jose. And from there 3 weeks later I will fly to Sydney. I will stop by Singapore for couple of hours and take the flight to Sydney using the new Airbus A380. Yes boys, it’s the largest commercial plane on earth. It will be very interesting. This back-to-back journey will make me stay on the road for one and half months. O I really love traveling.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Alonso's Story

Fernando Alonso came to McLaren team as dual world champion of Grand Prix Formula 1 season 2005 and 2006. And he got the two titles with his previous team Renault not in an easy way since he must took them from the legendary Michael Schumacher himself who had kept the titles for so long. And when Alonso moved to McLaren, the only reason he had in mind was to become the champion for the third time with his new team faster car (it’s not a secret that Formula 1 technology was lead by only two teams: Ferrari and McLaren). That was his reason. That was his goal.

He was supposed to win the title again with McLaren this season and promised to get all the supports. Alonso was told that he was the number one driver in the team. McLaren has always been a strong team with fast car but they just can’t win the championship. Hiring the world champion might be the answer to achieve it this year.

But in the middle of the championship, McLaren realized they have another talent in the team from the other driver who is supposed to join as rookie and just spend his time this year to learn from Alonso. This is the team’s home grown driver, who got full sponsored when he was still racing with small car. The team focus then shifted to the rookie. And the rookie performance was so incredible he could win the race in few tracks that he had not race before!

Despite of Alonso’s decision that may be considered by some people ‘not having the team work spirit’ by not helping his rookie teammate who has already lead the championship, and his decision to inform the F1 committee about the spying activities of his own team to Ferrari, I still believe he should not be treated this way.

The fact is, he was hired as world champion. Two-times world champion. He was hired to win the title again with McLaren. So Alonso would get the title and McLaren could finally achieve their dream to become the champion. He was promised that he would get all the supports. Alonso was told that he would achieve his goal to keep the champion title as long as he can help the team to win as well. The rookie performance was superb, but there is no reason to overlook the previous world champion that was hired and promised to win the title again this season with the full team supports.

In the end, McLaren lost everything and Ferrari took all the trophies.
McLaren can only put both of his drivers below Kimi from Ferrari, and their constructor points as a team have been striped off completely for this season and next. It’s all because they can’t keep working as a team. Both drivers became so competitive, they fought each other on the track and they even stopped talking for a while. And McLaren as the team somehow let the situation continued until the end.
Formula 1 means living in the fast lane, so one bad decision can lead to catastrophe.

This story is quite familiar.
A story about talented guy who is hired and promised to get all the supports to achieve his goal. Not everyone can be a Formula 1 driver, but this kind of story can be in any fields. Once the guy joins the new team, he realizes he doesn’t get the full support anymore since the team has changed its focus to either another guy or another thing that looks more promising. The guy can’t accept this fact since he moved to this team to achieve his goal and he was told he could get it. Then the team starts breaking up. In the end, no one wins.

Yes indeed this story is too familiar.

Friday, September 28, 2007

One of the Brightest Stars

Taken from James Blunt's All the Lost Souls.
Posted here as dedication to those who dare to make a difference.

One day your story will be told.
One of the lucky ones who's made his name.
One day they'll make you glorious,
Beneath the lights of your deserved fame.

And it all comes round.
Once in a lifetime like it always does.
Everybody loves you cause you've taken a chance,
Out on a dance to the moon, too soon.
And they'll say told you so.
We were the ones who saw you first of all.
We always knew that you were one of the brightest stars.

One day they'll tell you that you've changed,
Though they're the ones who seem to stop and stare.
One day you´ll hope to make the grave,
Before the papers choose to send you there.

And it all comes round.
Once in a lifetime like it always does.
Nobody loves you cause you´ve taken a chance,
Out on a dance to the moon, too soon

And they'll say told you so.
We were the ones who saw you first of all.
We always knew that you were one of the brightest stars.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Special One

I’m not a sport kinda guy. Hey, I said that before.

But I like to watch some sports, and one of them is the English Premier League (EPL) football competition (this year it's called Barclays Premier League since they are the main sponsor). One of the club that I admire the most is Chelsea. Well, most of the time I can’t watch when they play. But I have been in love in this London-based club since the coach was Ruud Gullit. So at least I always try to follow the competition even it’s just through the news or some sport TV program that shows the highlighted goals.

During the past few years, Chelsea has become a very strong football team in English League and in International competition. They haven’t won any Champions League yet, considered as the most prestigious club trophy in European football, but get two EPL champions within three years plus few other local cups is their highest achievement in 50 years. And that’s because a guy name Jose Mourinho.

This is the guy who came to Chelsea in 2004 as one of the highest managers in football. This is the guy who turn Chelsea from ordinary club to a world-class and win two back-to-back EPL champions. This is a guy who said in his first press conference: "Please don't call me arrogant, but I'm European champion and I think I'm a special one". And I believe he is indeed the special one.

Jose is full of controversy from his comments, but he’s a genius when it comes to build a solid team and strategy. And Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, used to support Jose by giving him a blank check to buy any players he wants. He used to. Because for some reason, the tension between this Russian owner with the genius coach has been raised lately. Many small incidents happened between them. The owner stated winning EPL is good but he wants the club to win European Championship league. The owner would like to see his team to not only win the game but win it with a beautiful football style. The owner got involved in choosing the player to be hired and obviously this wouldn’t make any coach to be happy. And the peak was few days ago when Chelsea announced a shocking news that Jose Mourinho is leaving the team 'by mutual consent'.

I don’t know whether Jose got sacked or decided to leave. Today I watched the first game without Mourinho and Chelsea goalkeeper must picked the ball from his net two times without any chance to score back to Manchester United. What to expect? Not anyone can just replace a legendary coach who at the same time gives the spirit to the team.

But one of my concern here is the fact that sometimes achieving something extra ordinary is not enough. Once you deliver a superb result, people want you to deliver even better. So no guarantee that after completing a job with satisfied result we won’t get sacked because we don’t deliver the same level of result in the next job. It happens not only as a football coach, but as well as an engineer, a consultant or a project manager. It doesn’t mean we don’t get appreciation, but the celebration party should only last for a day since the next day we must start preparing for the next game. Or perhaps it’s just a matter of attitude. We must deliver the trophy at the same time mind the attitude to the owner. So we always have to deliver superb result all the time, while showing a good attitude to the stake holders. And this may be a good thing to maintain a high quality and consistent result.

I guess we all have to be the special one consistently.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Me No Hero

I have just completed watching the whole first season of Heroes couple of days ago. I know, it’s very lame. The season has been over zillion years ago and the next season will come very soon but I have just finished watching it recently. I won’t blame anyone, and surely I won’t blame my CCIE journey or my works. Let’s just say it was difficult to find time to watch, okay? I remember I even watched the last two episodes in Changi Airport, while waiting for my flight.

Anyway, I like the whole idea of ordinary people who suddenly realize they can do extra ordinary things. Each of them tries to discover and use the ability for his or her own purpose. And just like any other movies or TV series that I watch, I started comparing the philosophies and the characters in Heroes to my own life. That doesn’t make sense, I know. But I’m a kind of guy who ridiculously believes the only time when the world makes sense is during CCIE lab, so I guess I can do whatever I want including imagine myself as one of the heroes.

There are many characters with their own special abilities. Nathan Petrelli is a New York congress man who can fly. Hiro Nakamura is a Japanese nerd who can manipulate the space-time continuum so he can stop the time and teleport himself. Matt Parkman is a police officer who can hear other people’s thoughts. Isaac Mendez is an artist who can paint the future. Sylar is a serial killer who kills other super-powered individuals in order to take their abilities. Peter Petrelli, just like Sylar, can absorb others abilities but he doesn’t have to kill them, just merely stands next to them instead.

Looking at those characters, I can see similar situation in my Advanced Services team. I have a colleague who has specialty in one area, while some others have their own specialties. They may not get it because of their DNA, but with hard work, dedication and consistency in learning, but some people can really reach the highest level in an area within the network engineering skills.

How about me? Somehow I feel like myself is being as Peter. I have no special abilities or skills by my own. Everytime I do project with other engineers, I ‘absorb’ their abilities. I haven’t been able to be part of the team where I must taking part with my specific ability. I always involve in the project where I have to combine all the engineers’ skills and deliver them as one piece of solution. And most probably that is because I have no specialties, no in-depth skill. Currently I work in Service Provider field but with most experience in Enterprise network. So anyone I’m currently working with always have more experiences. That means most of the time I can just absorb and learn from the others.

Back to the TV series, so which ability do you like? Do you want to be able to fly, stop the time, hear other thoughts, or can paint the future? Or perhaps other abilities from different other characters such as spontaneous regeneration, can pass through solid objects, or able to talk to electrical devices?

I don’t want to be like Peter but it seems like this is the closest thing I have so far. I’d rather be someone with a specific skill and not like this young Petrelli who can absorb others’ but sometime can’t control it. Or at least I want to be like Sylar. Surely I can’t open up my colleagues head to take their brain, but Sylar is much better in controlling his powers.

Some say, everyone can be hero. But I want to become Sylar.

That’s not because I want to become a bad guy. But having a thought that I don’t have any specialties is really killing me. Or able to absorb from others but can’t control the skill is a burden as well. In my case, I can learn from other colleagues but may not be able to recall the skills at the right time. I have been thinking about it and to be frank I start getting this fear. A fear that one day I may end up as someone who knows many but nothing in depth. One day I may realize that I have nothing but just a shallow understanding of many things.

I guess I might blow up someday, just like Peter.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Triple CCIE, History in the Making

This journey took place between August 13 2001 to August 13 2007.

First CCIE track:
Routing & Switching
Number of attempts: 2 (two)
CCIE Lab location(s):
Brussels, August 13 2001 and Tokyo, September 13 2001
CCIE Lab format: 2-day exam (both)
Sponsored by: company (IBM, both)
Written Exam: January 26 2001
Total number of practice lab hours: 900+
Primary CCIE Workbook: CCbootcamp
Classroom training taken:
Cisco ICND (2000), in the very beginning of the journey
Short story:
Went to Brussels for the first time after about 6 months preparation, failed in Troubleshooting section (second day last part), couldn’t sleep after failure, went to Tokyo exactly 1 month after the first attempt, passed the lab with still 1 hour time left
Moments to remember:
- Sleep in the office for 9 months
- Start practice lab with only 2 routers and lots of loopback interfaces
- Must “borrow” routers from customer premises to build the lab
- First time flying to Europe, first Schengen Visa
- First time flying with Business Class
- Able to take 2nd attempt even the company policy was flying freeze
- Japanese proctor with little English to communicate
- Japanese Keyboard, Japanese Windows
- Get the CCIE number in yellow color post-it paper
- Want to drink Sake after passing, but get lost in the middle of Tokyo, eventually end up in McDonald
Inspiring quote: “There is no spoon” (The Matrix)

Second CCIE track: Security
Number of attempts: 2 (two)
CCIE Lab location(s):
Brussels, December 8 2005 and Brussels, January 25 2006
CCIE Lab format: 1-day exam (both)
Sponsored by: self funding (both)
Written Exam: June 23 2005
Total number of practice lab hours: 600+
Primary CCIE Workbook: Trinetnt (now part of CCbootcamp)
Classroom training taken: none
Short story:
Tried to impress Cisco by taking the lab, had many years experience in security but actually wanted to learn more into SP technology, went to Brussels after about 4 months preparation, failed with already above 70% score, couldn’t believe it and got into denial state, went back to Brussels about 6 weeks later, passed the lab this time
Moments to remember:
- Spend countless hours in Ebay to buy personal equipments
- Going back and forth UAE post office to fight for the equipments
- Self funded, so working hard to track expenditure and lab hour
- Again, must “borrow” some equipments from customer premises :)
- Pass Cisco CCIP in the middle of CCIE Security preparation
- Get 9 days off due to the sad demise of UAE sheikh
- The most balanced life between family time and CCIE preparation
- First snowfall in life during second lab attempt
- Lunch in Chinese Restaurant next to Brussels Grand Place after passing. Proper food after eating only ramen noodles for few days.
Inspiring quote: “It’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you” (Batman Begins)

Third CCIE track: Service Provider
Number of attempts: 1 (one)
CCIE Lab location(s): Brussels, August 13 2007
CCIE Lab format: 1-day exam
Sponsored by: company (Cisco)
Written Exam: February 27 2006 (Metro Ethernet)
Total number of practice lab hours: 240+
Primary CCIE workbook: Internetwork Expert
Classroom training taken: none
Short story:
The track that I have been dying to complete for years, only with about 2 months extensive preparation, relied completely to Internetwork Expert for video on demand and workbook, the toughest CCIE preparation with very less spare time from projects and travels, slept maximum 2 to 3 hours every day in the last few weeks before the lab, passed the lab in first attempt
Moments to remember:
- The toughest CCIE track from the availability of time to study
- The most fun at the same time since I really love the topics
- No personal expense at all from lab fee, trip, workbook, lab
- Sleep 2 to 3 hours maximum everyday anywhere I can: in the taxi, during the flight
- Flying 16 hours to Brussels, 21 hours to go back to Singapore
- Spend whole time in Cisco office to study from 2 days before the lab
- Spend lots of time trying to find soft drinks, fruits, chocolates and any food available during the study in that weekend in Cisco office
- Great feeling when the unicast and multicast traffic really work across different AS in the my lab day around 2 pm
- Stay until 2 am in Cisco office waiting for the result
- The feeling when I really pass it in first attempt
Inspiring quote: No specific quotes from 300 movie, but the movie itself is really inspiring. If you insist for the quote, it might be “No sacrifice, no victory” (Transformers)

First CCIE, is for my family and to send the message to the world that even a mere mortal like me can pass the lab.
Second CCIE, is to impress Cisco so I can join Advanced Services (well, I guess I did impress them since I’m in Cisco AS now).
Third CCIE, is for myself.

Triple CCIE gets inspired at all time by the music from Linkin Park

Thin Line

Let me apologize to begin with,
Let me apologize for what I’m about to say
(In between, by Linkin Park)

I have a confession to make. Since the moment I started this blog, actually I like to spend some time to read it. Some people don’t do that. They like to write and never bother to read it back, except to check for the reader comments perhaps. I read my own blog just to see how far I have gone trough. Or just to look back and compare between my previous and current thoughts. Or, I do that simply to inspire myself when I get stuck within my CCIE journey or my life. It’s quite embarrassing actually, being inspired by my own blog.

There is a thin line between being opened and trying to show off.

How to being opened and share your experience without trying to show off? When I trace back all my writings, sometime I reach the point where I get fed up and say ‘this guy is so annoying, keep talking about himself’. I reach the point when I start thinking ‘who is this guy, trying to teach others about life, talk about achieving something in life. He doesn’t even have proper life’. It’s true. It’s so true. Sometime I feel like I have crossed the line and I have crossed it too far.

There is a thin line between being arrogant and trying to inspire.

Yes it is difficult to keep it within the line. But even I keep getting that feeling every time I read my blog, I have no intention to delete or modify any of my previous writings. The fact is, I started this blog so I can write my thoughts. It’s just like a pressure valve in my daily life. So I can release the tension. So I can write about what I do. What I have done. And I may read it again someday just to laugh of it. So it’s all about me and what I have in mind. And some people out there may like to read it because they can get some information and take advantage out of it.

But for me, even no one will take advantage from my blog, I will not stop writing or change the way I write. Some people may hate me for this, but I live with all decisions I make and all the consequences that I have to bear.

If you don’t like this fact, just stop reading my blog and remove the URL from your browser history. But if you still think that there is still some useful thing in here, even only a few, that you can learn or use from my experience that I share, continue your reading since I have a bit more for you in my next post:
My Triple CCIE journey during the past 6 years, in brief. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Triple CCIE!

I passed! I passed! I passed!

With only a couple of months preparation, with only 240 lab hours practice, with all the tight schedule, with all the projects, with all the flying-the-friendly-skies kind of life style, with study time that is only In Between, with only few hours sleep everyday, against-the-all-odds yesterday I passed CCIE Service Provider Lab in first attempt!

Thanks, God.

I was quite speechless when the first time I saw the result. I really passed. Exactly 6 years after my first moment stepped in to CCIE lab in Brussels to take my Routing & Switching track, I finally passed and completed all the three tracks that I wanted to have.

I still don’t know what to say.
There is no word that can describe my feeling right now.

I guess I will start making a list of all the things that help me achieve my final target. I’m planning to re-write my ‘How to become a CCIE’ to update with latest information. But in short, following is how I did it with only 2 months preparation:

- There was no time to study or attend any training so I really depend on Internetwork Expert SP Advance Technology class-on-demand to get the strong base. I can’t say nothing regarding this material except: it’s gold. If you can’t afford to go for a training, just make sure you get this material.

- Then I tried to learn and practice specific topic using IE Tech Labs. It’s far than enough for sure but at least can give you some ideas about each technology. Expect to drill down by yourself by modifying the original scenario and by adding more complexity

- The Internetwork Expert SP Lab II is a must. If you can buy only a single workbook just make sure you get this one. I have no affiliation with them and actually I have some workbooks from different vendor as well. But there was no time. So I placed a bet by relying on this workbook 100% and I spent 240 lab hours to complete it two times. Obviously, just like in Tech Labs we need to be creative and expand the workbook. Always ask the question: why did Brian answer it this way? How if I do it that way? And really tested all of the possible options.

- If you are in tight schedule like me, then you have to bet on few things. I mean, I know we are supposed to learn all the technology listed in CCIE lab blueprint. But that’s what CCIE is all about. Strategy. You may not need to learn all of them since only based on looking at the hardware being used in the lab, for example, you can figure it out easily that some topics won’t be tested. So it’s really a thin line between strategic thinking and betting. For me, I just took my chance and choose material that I really need to focus on.

- Unlike CCIE R&S, documentation CD is not our best friend anymore. In CCIE SP, MPLS VPN with all the MP-BGP and underlying IGP technology is the main focus. If we screw up in this section, obviously we will fail. Especially since all the things are connected to each other. The decision you make earlier might affect the technology on top of it. And even if we can make it works from beginning, it doesn’t mean we pass straight away. But probably we will get all the points to pass from Multicast, and the remaining sections of the lab are just like a safe net. Some of them are quite easy to add more points and guarantee our passing score.

- We need to get real world pressure, perhaps from work, to build our character and make us ready to face any surprises in the lab . We need to have a good troubleshooting mindset to pass the lab. I can’t emphasize enough about how important those two are.

- Reading a CCIE SP related discussion, just like in this SP groupstudy and Internetwork Expert forum, is a very good way to avoid fighting this battle alone. There was no time for me to get involved into any discussion, but everytime I had time I always spent time to read the forum. You may even find a study partner there

- In the end, I believe CCIE SP is very fair compare to the other tracks that I have. I mean, in SP they don’t test any fancy features that I have never heard before and everything is straight to the point. If you understand the technology than you should be able to bring the network up. And most of those technologies can be tested. SP lab doesn’t put specific requirement how to do stuff, so I guess as long as we can achieve the result without violating the rules, it should be fine. There is no hard rule to do stuff that I should follow just like in other tracks.

I really need to thanks everyone that has been helping me to achieve my goal. To my family. To all my team mates in Cisco Advanced Services. To Internetwork Expert, thank you for all the best materials. Brian Dennis and Brian McGahan, you guys are the Twin Towers. The two Brains. The real Kungfu Masters. I spent more than 100 hours just to listen to both of you. Always laugh everytime you made those small jokes. There is no doubt about the materials and I recommend to anyone who’s planning to take CCIE SP to get them.

So what’s next? I can’t answer yet.
At least please allow me to rest and enjoy my historical moment.

I must fly another 16 hours to go back to Singapore. Back to my work. Back to all my projects. Back to reality.
CCIE was the only place where the world makes sense.

I guess I need to find my new reality.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Night Before the Big Game

I always wonder what someone like Fernando Alonso does the night before the race. Or what David Beckham does before the soccer game kickoff. Or perhaps, what all the boxers do the night before the big fight.

Tomorrow I will do my CCIE SP lab in Brussels. This is my big fight. It may not be as big as Formula 1 or Championship league, but for me this is still a big thing. It’s a huge thing. In fact, I feel like I’m going to do a giant leap that somehow will affect my life and people around me, in the future.
For me, this is history in the making.

So now I’m starring at my notebook, without any clues what to do with only few hours remaining before the lab. There are few things happened between my flight and right now. I guess I’m gonna kill my time by writing all of those.

Ok, it was 16 hours flight, remember? Well, actually it was almost 13 hours flight from Singapore to London, which I found really really funny. Why? Because on the way to London I could see Belgium in the overhead map! So my flight actually flew over Brussels to reach London Heathrow, where I had to stay for about 2 hours, then took a smaller plane to go back to Brussels. Ouch! I should pay attention to Geography lesson next time. It makes more sense to take a flight that stops over in a country between Singapore and Brussels, to cut some time.

And remember my plan to take a long sleep during the flight? It didn’t work quite well because they provide.. Movies on Demand! Oh no, I couldn’t resist to watch Spiderman 3 one more time. And obviously spending hours going through several episodes of The Simpsons TV series should not be a big deal.

TV is evil. But it was me to blame. I just can’t resist.
And as Chester shouts, I’m my own worst enemy.

So I could sleep only about 4 hours during the flight. And I was not in the mood to read, since it’s quite dark anyway, so if I didn’t watch movie I utilized my time to listen to Brian Dennis and Brian McGahan presentation on CCIE SP Advance Technology class-on-demand.

After I reached London Airport, just like what I did in Singapore airport, I jumped into my notebook and started working with my lab. So far so good. Almost missed the flight since I was too busy checking on some inter-AS scenario.

I reached Brussels airport quite too early so I decided to grab something to eat first. It was a right call, later on I found that there is nothing to eat in my hotel and the surrounding area. My hotel is close to Cisco office which is about 15 minutes ride from the Airport. You know what it means, close to the Airport means the place is quite far from the city. And it also means the place is in the middle of nowhere, and in the country where people really respect their weekend. Dead place. No shops or restaurants were opened.

But it was still okay. Luckily I brought some chocolates from the airplane and food was not in my top priority. My top priority was the Internet connection. Internet connection so I can connect through VPN to my lab inside Cisco network. And damn the hotel doesn’t have one. I mean, they said they provide wireless connection that costs 19 Euros for 24 hours. I bought 3 * 24 hours access and I was unable to connect at all. After couple of hours trying to troubleshoot the issue with the technical support over the phone, I fell a sleep. I guess I was really tired. And I woke up after couple of hours just to find out the problem persists.

So I decided to walk to Cisco office. Yeah, you hear me right. Going to Cisco office on Saturday evening. At least they have fast Internet connection. And soft drinks. And some fruits. I feel at home.

To make it short, I have been spending my time in Cisco office in Belgium from Saturday until few minutes ago. I believe I have done what I could. I have tried to verify all possible scenarios in MPLS VPN. Screwed up the network by putting Traffic Engineering in the middle, then run inter-domain multicast routing between the VPN sites. Anything that I could think of so far. And I may need to verify some more, but since there is no Internet connection in my hotel room I need to wake up really early tomorrow morning and walk into Cisco office maybe couple of hours before the lab starts.

What should I do the night before the big game? I don’t know. No food, no Internet, no good TV channel. Sitting alone in a small hotel room starring at my monitor. But none of those can hurt me since I know this might be my last journey in CCIE. If I pass tomorrow, I may not go for the remaining CCIE tracks, which are Voice and Storage. If I pass, it might be a new beginning for me to start focusing on Service Provider technology. If I pass, it will start a new era.

Like I said before, this is history in the making.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Eighty Percent

Some say, we never appreciate what we have until we’ve lost it. It may be true. I never though time is very valuable until I got trapped into a very tight schedule. I never spent time to appreciate my sleep until I had only few for it. And I never been grateful with my dining experience until I realized that it might be the best thing that can happen in one rough day.

I have been quite sleepless since last weekend. If I calculate all my sleep that was only couple of hours everyday, the total number from Sunday until now is less than 15 hours. And that is not because of my CCIE SP lab preparation. I had to lead a 3-day network design requirement workshop from Monday for one of Cisco biggest customer in this region. It is an exciting experience to meet and have a chance to discuss with the customer directly, to try to get all information about the existing setup, to capture customer requirements and expectations, to identify the challenges during the process and to start thinking about the best way to help the customer achieving their goal. So conducting workshop in a day then making summary as well as preparing material for the next day at night. I usually started working right after dinner until 6 in the morning. And couple of hours to sleep just to regain some energy since I must stand in front of the customer for about 8 hours during the workshop.

So next time you feel like your life is so bored, just remember there are some people who can only wish they have some extra time. Every time you feel like bitching about your uncomfortable bed at home, just realize there are others who must be able to sleep anywhere with any chance they have.

Well, I’m writing this not to try to teach you how you live your life or how you should be grateful with whatever you have in hand :). And I know some of you may even have worst workload and tighter schedule.

I’m writing this just to share with you that I don’t feel tired with all the things that I must do. I never feel tired with that. In fact, I feel so excited. I really enjoy every second of my busy time since it is part of my life style. It’s the way of living that I decided to choose long time back. I can’t get tired from my own life, can I? And this kind of life style really makes me appreciate all the nice dinner with my team mate just before we start working together. I really like the quality of my sleep since with only couple of hours a day I was unable to dream at all. It was just like closing your eyes for a while and suddenly you raise up from the darkness. This life style makes me appreciate all the small things that I usually ignore in normal circumstances.

You may ask, how my body will continue to survive. Perhaps with some help from lots of caffeine and Red Bull. But to be frank, I have actually planned for this. In the next several hours I will have a long flight to Brussels through London. It’s about 16 hours in total. So most probably I will utilize the time inside the plane to sleep and recover from all those sleepless nights. Just like I always utilize my time to sleep inside the taxi that brings me from the Airport to the Hotel every time I travel. And I don’t think all my gadgets’ battery capacity, from my notebook, my Zen to my PSP, combined together can beat that 16 hours. So obviously I must go to sleep during the flight. (Unless if they have movies on demand in the plane! It can be so tempting to watch 300 or the Simpsons TV series on that small screen)

So here I am, on my way from my office in Singapore to the airport. And I’m actually writing this post inside the taxi that’s taking me to the number 4 place that I spend the most of my time, which is Changi Airport :D. Number 1 place is Shangri-La hotel. Oh, it’s just like a second home to me. In fact, I spend more time in Shangri-La compare to my own home in my country or my apartment in Singapore. Number 2 are Cisco customers office. Number 3, surprisingly, is my office in Singapore. It doesn’t mean that I spend much time in my office, but every time I’m in Singapore you can find me sitting in my partition from morning until late night.

It’s a perfect life, isn’t it?

Nevertheless, I have been trying to work on my CCIE lab in between my busy time. Even with the previous 3-day workshop and a requirement for me to submit some design documents while preparing myself for some other project with different customer, I was still able to gain some lab hours to make my number close to 200 until today.

I know with only 3 days left, minus the 16 hours flight, it’s impossible to reach the 300 lab hour target. And I’m not planning to either.

I just need to get 80% in CCIE lab to pass. Not 100%. And definitely not 79%. It doesn’t make any difference to pass the lab with 80% or 100% score.

For my previous 2 CCIE I was extremely prepared and always trying to get 100% preparation level. But I actually can still pass with only 80% preparation and 100% confident level. Well, the math here is completely crap and it doesn’t make sense. But my point is, I still have a chance to pass even the chance is slim. I feel like with all my preparation so far I can get about 80% of lab score. So with the remaining time that I have, I need to make sure I can really achieve that 80%. Instead of trying to achieve 300 hour practicing in the lab, I will do my best to get at least 240. Since 240 is 80% of 300. And it means I just need to spend another 40 hours from the moment I land in Brussels until my lab.

Enough with all that calculation.
Let’s just wait for the result on Monday night.

One thing that I know for sure, even let’s say I slip and fail on this attempt, I won’t regret anything in my life. Everything is getting better and better day by day. I learn many things from my field experience facing Cisco customers as well as from my CCIE lab preparation. So my life is quite balance in the sense of sharing my time between geeking out in the lab and meeting the customer.

Why am I writing this post? I don’t know. Perhaps I’m just a bit nervous. It’s been a while since the last time I had a long flight like this. Or perhaps I’m just bored since I can’t get sleep inside this taxi so I’m trying to kill the time by keep writing.

Oh well, this is the longest post that has no point that I have ever written in my blog. Based on my lab result on Monday I may delete this post. Or may be not.

I have reached the airport now. Will upload this nonsense once I get Internet connection and let’s see what’s going to happen on Monday.

Over and out.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

In Between

August 13, six years ago. It was my first attempt to CCIE lab. The lab was still 2-days exam, with troubleshooting in the last part of the second day. It was my first time to fly to Europe. It was also my first time using a business class for my flight since according to my previous company policy each employee must takes the business class if flying more than 8 hours. And well, you all know the result. I failed.

Why did I fail? I failed because I was so naïve. I failed because I didn't believe I could pass. I failed because no one told me at that time how difficult CCIE lab was. Everyone I know always told me that the CCIE lab is so difficult that only few selected people who can pass it. And I was certainly not one of them.
But when I reached the troubleshooting section in the second day, even I failed anyway but I realized that CCIE lab is very much achievable. If you have spent a lot of time to prepare, especially for someone like me who studied for 16-hour straight a day in the last 1 month before I went to Brussels, then it's very possible to pass the lab even in 1st attempt. Exactly one month after that attempt in Brussels, I passed my CCIE lab in Tokyo. I passed not only because I studied even harder at that time but also because I believe I could pass. You just need to believe, they say.

Now six years later, I'm planning to take my CCIE SP lab on the same date with the first time I took my CCIE R&S in Brussels.
Same date, same location. Thirteen days from now.

Will the history be repeated? Will I fail again?

I still have less than 13 days to find the answer, but at least please allow me to share my current situation first:

Two weeks ago I was still in Malaysia to lead a network migration for one of our customer. Last week I was in Singapore to make the report, to follow up my visa application with Belgium embassy and to have a pre-kick off meeting for another customer. Last Friday I flew to Indonesia to work on some other project. And this week I have been busy working in my customer office in Jakarta, and most probably I would have time for my self only after Friday afternoon.
Then I must fly back to Singapore on Saturday.
Then, fly to Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.
Monday to Wednesday, must attend a new customer workshop.
Thursday, fly back to Singapore.
Friday, take 16-hour flight to Brussels through London.
Then? Take the CCIE SP Lab exam.
And when is the time to study? Good question.

Until now I have been able to make total around 160 hours practicing in the lab. Last weekend I was in my home city with a very slow Internet connection so even I spent about 8 hours in front of my console, the speed was not acceptable to type the IOS command and I won't count that into my total lab time. Thanks God I have got my Schengen Visa from the embassy. My flight ticket has been confirmed. I got the hotel room which is still a walking distance from Cisco Belgium office in Pegasus Park. So all non-technical issues are solved. I just need to study now. Even with my busy schedule.

The key here is by fully utilizing my time in between. In between two projects. In between my meeting with one customer to another customer. In between my flights.
I don't like to look for an excuse. And I don't like to fail for sure. So I'm not here to try to find any reason to be blame even if I fail.

Will the history be repeated? Will I fail again?

I don't know. But one thing I know for sure, even if I fail that it's not because CCIE SP lab is unbreakable. Neither is because my work that doesn't spare me time to study. I'm still quite confident to pass even I know I may not be able to complete my 300 hours lab target. I'm still confident since this is the thing that I really like. This is the life that I have been living all this time. This is my 'one thing'.

This is my purpose. This is the way I live.
I can't fail my life. I can't abandon the way I live.
I just need to study harder, in between my busy time.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Losing Four Days

Four days, for most people, may not be a long period of time. But for someone like me, who must do labs for 300 hours before my CCIE SP 3 weeks from now, every second counts. Wow, that sounds very cool, doesn’t it? Every second counts. Or better let’s just say every day is important.

Since Wednesday evening I have been in Kuala Lumpur to lead a migration for one of our customer. It’s been a thrilling experience to try to define all the steps required, to make a cross check to ensure there is nothing missing, to accommodate the last minute request for changes, simulate the new config changes in internal lab, do my best to avoid unnecessary surprises, and finally it was over by 2 am this morning. There was no time at all to do anything else, even to check out the night life in Heritage walk next to my hotel.

So here I am, standing by my hotel room window, staring at the Twin Towers. I still have one hour left before I must check out and go to the Airport. I’m going to fly back to Singapore but I may need to travel again to another project within a couple of days.

I have been thinking about my work on the last 4 days that made me skip my CCIE study completely. I wish I could do what I said in my previous post. I wish I could ignore everything but CCIE, including work, to complete my 300 lab hour target. But again, as I mentioned, it was a tremendous experience. And I believe it really helps to build the tension and the pressures required to make one ready for the lab.

I believe all CCIE candidates must face real world pressure before they can face the lab. I believe none of all CCIE candidates should skip the work only to study for CCIE. The pressure in work can really help in setting up the mood, to bring up the troubleshooting mindset and to maintain the flow of the journey.

Well, again, at the same time the last work has caused me losing the 4 precious days. There is no reason to look back or to try to blame someone. I’m writing this just in the middle of my evaluation of what I have achieved so far and how fast I need to set the pace in my study. So far I have just done half of the Internetwork Expert workbook. I can say with the previous Techlabs from them, I have done only around 100 hour lab time.

200 hours to go. And I have 3 weeks left.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

23 Days Later

Today is a good day. It's July 7 2007. Make it shorts as 07-07-07. Wow, Triple Seven. Triple lucky numbers.
What the heck, everyday is should be a good day, isn't it?

Anyway, 23 days have passed since my last post to lab 300 hours, and following is the update so far:

- I have applied for Schengen Visa to Belgium embassy, and they told me to wait for another 2-3 weeks. Well, Visa is my number one enemy in this journey
- I got confirmation for my flight and hotel. I must fly to Brussels through London and the trip will take 16 hours :(
- I haven't paid my lab since I thought as Cisco employee it would be somekind like internal payment or such. Still checking with CCIE team and hopefully they don't drop my date
- I have completed the Techlabs from Internetwork Expert
- I keep watching the SP class-on-demand video in my Zen over and over again. I may have spent about 80 hours on it, while so far I have spent only about 40 to 50 hours doing the Techlabs
- Social life remains zero

To be frank, I'm a bit behind my schedule here. With the remaining days that I have, I need to start working with the Internetwork Expert workbook, and I must lab at least 8 hours a day to achieve my 300 target. This means I must ignore everything other than CCIE, including my work, my photography stuff, my sleeping time, assembling my Gundam, even watching Heroes and Transformers.
It looks fun.

It's time to shift to the fifth gear.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I know what you are thinking. Yup, that movie is really cool. The battle scenes are awesome. The fighting skills are great. And the Queen is so pretty and wise.

But I’m not going to discuss about how those 300 Spartan soldiers fought for their country in Battle of Thermophylae. 300 here is the number of hours in the lab that I’m planning to do before I take my CCIE lab. Why 300? Same reason with King Leonidas, I guess. Or maybe it’s because I spent about 900 hours practicing in the lab for my first CCIE. And for the second, about 600 hours. Now I’m going for my third CCIE, and looking at the pattern I told myself I need to do at least 300 hours.

I have only 60 days left before my lab date, so if I want to lab for 300 hours I must do at least 5 hours a day. Doing 4 to 5 hours a day is not difficult since I always stay until late anyway, so I can do it after I finish my work. Yeah, right. That’s if you work for 9-to-5 company. In Cisco I don’t have to come to office at 9 as long as the work is done. Which means I may work for more than just 9-to-5. Well, it also means I may work most of the time. And I don't even have to come to office at all (except for the free bananas :))

The key here is to fully utilize the weekend. 5 hours a day means 35 hours a week. If I can do even only 2 hours lab during working day, I still have 2 days in the weekend where I can lab for 12 hours a day.

So when is the time for social life?
Uhm.. what is that, anyway?

My only challenge is with the frequent flyer life style. My lab is located somewhere in Cisco internal network so when I travel sometime I don’t get Internet connection to access them. Or the Internet might be very slow. Traveling also means it’s difficult to bring the books along since they are heavy. And I really don’t like to read from my notebook.

Fear not, I got the Internetwork Expert Advanced Technology class-on-demand for CCIE SP recorded as .avi file that I can play in my Creative Zen Vison W. So everytime I have spare time but no access to my lab, I can listen to the Two Brians explaining the SP technologies. Even the Zen screen is small, I still can see the command typed in the video. And just FYI, Zen has a slot to plug the CF card from my digital camera.
Yeah, vote Zen for CCIE-wannabe-that-must-travel-all-the-time!

I have to admit that many times I was tempted to delay my lab date. But then I told my self, if I delay this once I may do it again and again later. So no more excuse, I will do it in the next 60 days. Unless for some reason I don’t get the Schengen Visa to go to Brussels or my company asks me not to go.

As Leonidas said:
“Spartans never retreat! Spartans never surrender!”
For tonight, we dine in Hell!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Finding Talents

I just returned from Hongkong for some Cisco internal training. Wait, it doesn’t sound right.. let me re-phrase it:
I went to Hongkong to go to Disneyland, roaming around to take pictures and to check out the night life. While I was there, coincidentally Cisco conducted some internal training that, they said, I must attend. So I decided to pass by Cisco Hongkong office and attend the training since I had spare time anyway.
Well, you don’t have to believe this statement. But one thing for sure, going to Cisco office also means free soft drink and snacks, and if you are lucky you may get free banana :)

Anyway, the training was about finding my talents. It is not the talent in playing piano or such, but more into discovering my talents that related to professionalism at work, and turn it into the strengths that can make my work more efficient.
Yeah, you may think: that’s just another physiological crap. But I had to attend it regardless, and here are my top 5 talent themes I got from the website that I must take before going to the course:

Adaptability: prefer to “go with the flow.” They tend to be “now” people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time

Significance: want to be very important in the eyes of others. They are independent and want to be recognized

Positivity: have a enthusiasm that is contagious. They are upbeat and can get others excited about what they are going to do

Activator: can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient

Harmony: look for consensus. They don’t enjoy conflict; rather, they seek areas of agreement

Okay, I like the Adaptability one, especially the part of "discover the future one day at a time". But I think the rest of them are not the top 5 talents for an engineer. Top notch engineer, I believe, should have the following:

Analytical: search for reasons and causes. They have ability to think about all the factors that might affect a situation

Learner: have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them

Achiever: have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive

Self Assurance: feel confident in their ability to manage their own lives. They possess an inner compass that gives them confidence that their decisions are right

And just add the Adaptability because it sounds cool. Those are the talents that I wanted to have. Imagine, an engineer like me doesn’t even have Analytical and Learner. And without Achiever and Self Assurance I can imagine losing my path to go to the next level.

I really wanted to change my talent themes during the training (I can, since the output from the assessment on that website is sent only to me and not to Cisco) but deep inside I have to admit that all of them are correct. Most of my work so far requires flexibility and my ability to adapt for changes (Adaptability), I always want to feel that my work is important and get recognition from others (Significance), I like to influence people to take CCIE and move ahead (well, I count that as Positivity), I have no patient to grow, no obstacles should be in front of my project or my development (Activator) and I notice that I’m fit in the project where there are many engineers from different background involved and I have to collect all the proposed designs from them to come up with a design that I hope can satisfy everyone (Harmony). Those are the talents that I have been using in my role as Consulting engineer. So it looks like my current role and my life style are fit with my talents.

So the question now is whether I want to accept my talent themes as they are and focus on developing them to become my strengths, or try to dig deeper to shape those talents that I want (Analytical, Learner, Achiever, Self Assurance) to become a top notch engineer.

Ah well, why bother.
Like you said: it’s just another physiological craps, isn’t it?
But after reading this if you feel curious, I suggest you to check the book that was used in the course: Now, Discover Your Strengths.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Never Make a Promise

Never make a promise that you can’t keep.
I know, you must have heard those words before. Perhaps for so many times. But it’s true. It’s really true. At least that is what happening with me now.

Earlier this year I made a promise that I would pass my CCIE Service Provider lab within 4 months. Today is already end of May, and I’m nowhere in my CCIE journey.
During this period I have seen two of my team members passed the CCIE SP and made them Triple and Double CCIEs. They both passed in the first attempt. And how about me? Still zero.

Who’s to blame? Nobody. Most probably it’s because of me.
I really enjoyed my new role in Cisco AS, really enjoyed the new life style as frequent flyer, and I guess that makes me forget my original purpose. Forget my own promise.

But it’s a good life style, though.
I keep traveling from one country to another, most of the time working from the hotel room and the airport, visiting places that I always wanted to visit.
I had a chance to cruise along Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River, ride a coaster in Hongkong Disneyland, and wet my feet in the pond behind Malaysia’s Twin Towers building. And don’t forget the Formula 1 in Sepang where Fernando Alonso beat those Ferraris!

So no complaint for my past, but I’ve better got back to my focus. Taking photos in new places with my Canon EOS 5D is an exciting experience, but I really want to do that as a Triple CCIE. Even some people tell me certification is not important anymore. They say CCIE is not counted anymore when you join Cisco. But I just want to do it.

Cisco pay for my first three lab attempts. Not bad at all. They also provide all training required, any CCIE bootcamp or internal trainings, and any material available for all Cisco employees (except the real CCIE lab question!).
But my biggest challenge is time. Especially since I have to travel and work (and play and take photos for sure) at the same time.

So I don’t think I can’t attend any training within my timeframe. I have already booked the lab sometime in August, so I have about 2 months to prepare.
My weakness points are IS-IS and Multicast. Fear not, I have the Internetwork Expert’s Advanced Technology video-on-demand for CCIE SP. It’s a very good material even I also have a problem to finish watching them all. Within a week or two I need to start practicing the workbook that I have from both IE Mentor and Internetwork Expert. If I can do this for the next 2 months, I believe I have a chance to pass.

Okay, time has been defined, course has been set. It’s time to sail again. But before that, I hope you don’t mind if I share my picture sitting in front of Snow White Castle :)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Learn to Listen, Learn not to Speak

Many have asked me the reason why I didn’t update my blog for a while.
Well, my first reason is because currently I’m still learning about how to listen. It sounds easy but really hard to do. I’m a kind of guy who likes to talk about myself, about my past, my job, my experience and projects and so on. I bet you will hate me if you have a chance to meet me in person.

So here I am, with my new job in Cisco, realizing that I’m just an ordinary person here. My co-workers are much better than me technically. They have done more interesting stuff. They know more people. They have more CCIEs.
I have nothing to be proud of. Then I start realizing that this is a good time for me to listen. To learn from anyone who has more experience and exposure in the past.

The second reason is: I’m also learning not to speak. I mean, there are many fascinating stuff and new things that I learn since I joined Cisco, but some of them are confidential information that I can’t just share to public. It was easier when I was outside the system, I could write about anything. But now since I’m part of Cisco I need to make sure that what I write doesn’t reflect about my opinion as Cisco’s employee.

Do I have a problem with my integrity?
Not sure. That’s another thing that I have to learn too.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

In the Moment

Chris Turk, a young surgeon, was upset when his superior told him the reason why he’s not chosen as the best surgeon in the hospital is: "..when you're working, I can always see your wheels turning. You're thinking about what you have to do next, what could go wrong. You're not in the moment.."

Well, I’m not sure whether to be the best surgeon in real world you should stick with what you are doing right now and not to focus too much with the next moment, I just took that plot from one of the episodes of Scrubs TV series anyway. But most of the time I seem to forget this basic principle too.

When I want to achieve something in the future, I tend to forget what I have in hand right now. I start making the plan to achieve my target but at the same time I start ignoring my today’s task.

So you want to move to better job? Keep broadcasting your CV but don’t ignore your current job. Want to move to different department? Apply and do the negotiation but don’t leave the tasks with the existing team.

Wanna pass CCIE? Stop dreaming and do what you have to do today: pass the written test, get the workbook, setup the lab, join the study group, ask advice from other CCIE and so on.

Plan for the future but don’t forget what we have today.
Be in the moment.

Monday, February 19, 2007

End of the Rainbow

Every time someone asks me why I decided to leave Dubai and join Cisco based in Singapore, my answer is always: because Middle East is the end of the rainbow. What is the end of the rainbow? When I was young, I always heard people say about the pot of gold laid at the end of the rainbow. They say: If you want to become very rich, just follow the rainbow until you find the end.
There you will find your gold.
Well, I might be small and naïve that time so I wasn’t brave enough to follow the suggestion. Right call, I guess.

I believe Middle East is the end of the rainbow that many people used to tell me about. You can get a very high salary, without tax, so if you make 100 you will bring 100 home. Car price is cheap and everyone can afford to buy car. And the good thing about being networkers in Middle East is the infrastructure is still under heavy development so many technologies that have already had mature in other country may be considered new to many people there. It means if you know a bit more compare to the others than it’s very easy to set yourself apart. The competition is relatively low to reach the top, so if you are able to do so then you will find yourself alone. With lots of $$$ for sure.

So what’s wrong with all of that? Well, if you want to make lots of money and get retired quickly then you should work in Middle East. But if you are like me, who feels like being rich is not enough and always tries to get new challenges all the time then you may not want to go there at all. At least until you get tired with whatever you are doing in life and finally start thinking to chase the money.

Then one friend strikes me with his ultimate question: so what do you expect to see at the end of the rainbow? What would you like to end up?

As per today, my answer is: I don’t know.
I used to think that working for Cisco in Silicon Valley is my ultimate goal. I used to dream about it. Hoping someday I can be one of the guys who build and test the product. And finally, after more than 10 months waiting, I got my H1b visa approved. Now I have a chance to fly to San Jose and try my luck. But I’m not sure if I’m ready for that.

The thing is, I’m already with Cisco now. Even it’s the Advanced Services team and not the business unit who develops product, but it’s still Cisco. And my current skill is fit as part of Advanced Services. I mean I used to do consulting work, make a design, lead the project implementation, allocate resources, discuss with customer and make a plan etc and I’m doing all of those now with Cisco AS.

So I may be best with whatever I’m doing right now.
But if I move to SV, I need to start from beginning since the skill set required is most likely very deep in one particular technology plus I need to know how to automate the process to test the product.

The question is not whether I’m going to survive in SV. But the real question that’s killing my mind now is whether I’m going to like what I will do there. Even if I’m able to join Cisco in SV.

Maybe I’m good with whatever I’m doing now so I should just continue doing it. And actually I really like whatever I'm doing. Or I may just need to work hard and ask for internal transfer one day. That will be the day I have made my decision to switch from Advanced Services to the business unit.

And perhaps you should start asking yourself too: what do you expect to find at the end of your rainbow?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

IE Mentor with Dynamips

Just like Internetwork Expert, IE Mentor now has provided Dynamips configuration file to practice their CCIE SP workbook labs. IE Mentor is well known as one of the best training provider for CCIE SP preparation. Their workbook is top of the line and I heard their bootcamp is worth the money too.

All of the information of how to use Dynamips to practice the workbook can be found in this link. The .NET configuration file can be downloaded if you are a registered user with IE Mentor.

Well, actually it's not difficult to make the Dynamips configuration file for any workbooks or any scenarios. But if someone has already made it available, why not to use it? And it's not only the configuration file, this offer also means that even there may not be official technical support available but you know there is someone out there that you can ask when you face a problem setting up the lab. And the priceless forum full of people discussing the setup will come up as well. So I'd say just go for it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

My Promise

One of the TV series that I like the most and watched recently is The Office. It's a unique comedy series offers documentary-style look at the 9-to-5 white collar work at Dunder Mifflin, a paper supply company. The central of the office is the boss, Michael Scott, who's described as "..believes he is the office funnyman and a fountain of business wisdom.. comes off alternately absurb and pathetic, but always hilarious.." There are some other characters like Pam, the office receptionist who bears the brunt of Michael's behavior, Dwight, the annoying assistant to Michael, and Jim the sales rep who together with Pam always finds ways to torment Dwigth.

After watching the full season 1 and 2, and half of season 3 continuously in 4 days, I have just realized how lucky I am that I have never had a chance to have someone like Michael as my boss. He's hilarious indeed, but I don't think I could stand him in real life. Watching Dwigth and all his superb moves must be funny on TV, but I guess it wouldn't be that funny if I had to face him as my co-worker.

(You may ask why on earth I watched The Office continuously in 4 days? Well, that's the only way to do it, isn't it? Same like when I watched Lord of the Ring 1-2-3 continuously, or Star Wars 1 to 6 in a day. Or perhaps it's more like when I watched full season 1 and 2 of Lost in 4 days, or Scrubs full season 1 to 4 in 3 days. That's the only way to see whether it's a good show or not. By the way, I watched Lost and Scrubs when I was jobless for a complete week. And it's obvious that Star Wars 4-5-6 trilogy is much better than the new 1-2-3 trilogy)

When I left my previous company to join Cisco, I made a promise to myself that I will not repeat the same mistakes that I did in the past: keep complaining about my job, whining about my office and bringing all my problems at work into my personal life. In a company like Cisco Systems that kind of promise should be easy to keep, right?

My office in Cisco is much better than Dunder Mifflin. The most thing that I like about it: free food. Anything inside the fridge is free for anyone. And we have a free vending machine. What kind of vending machine that can works without putting the coin? The one in my office. And that's not all, we also have Banana day every Monday. It means someone will come on Monday and drop lots of green bananas to the pantry. I normally take several bananas and put them on my table for few days until their colours turn to yellow. Green banana is no good, yellow banana is good.

I have my own space, an open partition with wireless network connection. My space is close to printer that I like to torture from time to time, close to the restroom, quite close to the pantry. It's more than enough, rite? And the other good thing about my office is: I never have a chance to stay in it for long. I keep traveling to my country for some projects so during my first 2 months in Singapore I spent only less than 10 working days in the office. How about my boss? He's a nice guy. A perfect boss. He always travels from one place to another place even more ofter than me, and all my communication so far has been through email or messaging. So it's quite rare for me to have a meeting with him other than the one through MeetingPlace. And we are actually based in the same office. So he's perfect.

What about the building? Well, can't tell you much. It's called Capital Tower in Robinson Road, Singapore. Next to the train station. This makes me happy since I can take Singapore train system and pop up directly near my office. But I can't take the picture of the building for some unknown reason. Last time I tried it some security personnel asked me to stop without telling me why. Perhaps because the building hosts several American companies. Or perhaps because I heard it hosts an office for some Singapore's VIP. So no pictures. There is a big fish pool on the ground full of.. fishes. This Singapore office perhaps is not as much fun as San Jose office (with all its facilities as I heard), but it's still better than the one in The Office. And it's my office. That's all I can say now.

How about my co-workers? They are all better than me. I'm a double CCIE.. so what? Everyone in my team is a CCIE. The guy sitting next to me is a Triple CCIE. One guy has two CCIE and JNCIE. And one of the sales manager is a double CCIE. They all have better experience than me. Some guys used to work for big organizations such as AT&T or NTT. One guy even used to work in San Jose as testing engineer. Most of them come with extensive experience in Service Provider market. And those guys are only the one I meet in Singapore office, not to mention other teams outside Singapore that may do more interesting stuff. So I'm nobody here. I'm just ordinary.

Well, I guess being ordinary in such wonderful place like Cisco is still awesome. But I need to do something that can make myself as competitive and useful for this organization. I need to show my values. I need to be able to set myself apart from the others. But I need to do it a single step at a time. Like passing my third CCIE in Service Provider track.

So now it’s time to make a new promise: CCIE in SP track within the next 4 months. I must focus on that target. Actually it’s my previous target, I’m a bit behind my schedule. I was supposed to pass it when I was still 30. You know what they say: it's better to be late than not doing it. So I have to start the journey from beginning and finish it this time. This is my promise.