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.