Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Good Day

Today I'm really happy. Early morning CET time I watched Valentino Rossi clinched his sixth MotoGP world championship (eight including 250cc and 125cc) with victory in the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi.

Then in the afternoon I watched Fernando Alonso scored a surprise success in one of the most eagerly anticipated Grand Prix in Formula One history, under the lights of Singapore.

I know, there is the first Formula One night race in history happening in Singapore but I'm here in Prague, Czech Republic. But still I'm so happy with the achievement from both guys.

This must be a good day for me. It's been amazing two weeks in Prague. I'm going out to walk now to enjoy the city.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Life Would Be A Mistake

So here I am in Prague, Czech Republic, to do yet another CRS-1 migration project. Frankly speaking the project can run smoothly because the customer is very knowledgeable and they know exactly what they want. I was leading the migration and I built the plan, but they really contributed and did most of the verifications. So I was grateful because it's almost over and so far the plan is successful. Only when the migration is done my boss told me this is the first production network to implement Secure Domain Routing and IPv6 over MPLS (6PE) in the world running the latest IOS XR software. Salute to the Czechs!

I would not have a chance to witness this if I didn't take decision to leave my senior position in previous team to join the WWSP team. I would not be here if I didn't make decision to join Cisco AS from Dubai to Singapore. Even at that time I had to ditch all the stable life in Dubai and change into travel freak. Further more, I may not be able to work in one of the most beautiful cities in the world today if I didn't make tough decision to leave my comfort life in my country to start working abroad about 7 years ago.

Valentino Rossi once said, what if he had never tried it. What would happen if he had never raced motorbikes. Well, I'm sure a talented and focus minded guy like him can be successful in any type of sports that he chooses. But he got the point. Thing can't only be said, it has to be done. Knowing the path is not enough, we must walk the path.

I may be able to say similar thing like him someday. But for now I would just say that everyone must take risk to live the life to the fullest. Let's get out from our small cubicle and see the world. Everyone must travel to enjoy life. Let's visit new places and accept any new challenges. Let's make tough decisions for a chance to see better days. Let's risk what we have in hand for a chance to see the brighter future. Go where there is no path and leave the trail.

So I'm almost done here in Prague. I'm heading to Munich, then Madrid next. Or perhaps I may go to Bratislava, Slovakia instead.
New adventure here I come.

Without traveling, life would be a mistake.
Without taking risks, life would be a mistake.
Without tough decisions, life would be a mistake.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Interview @ CCIE Lab

"On August 27, Cisco will introduce a pilot for the CCIE Routing and Switching lab exam in Beijing, China. The pilot will add a 10-minute interview that will assess the candidate's ability to apply expert-level networking skills and knowledge to networking problems that are encountered on the job. After the lab orientation, a panel of three experts will conduct a verbal interview with each candidate, asking a series of expert-level networking questions. The ability to correctly answer these questions will affect the exam score. After completing the interview, the candidate will have the complete 8 hours to complete the lab portion of the exam. These scores will then be added up and then combined for a total score which will decide a pass or a fail."

There was a discussion in Internetwork Expert's CCIE Blog with regard to the above announcement. It's not published officially in Cisco website, even I saw it in our internal web as well, and that message is only being sent through email to any CCIE candidate registers for the lab in Beijing. So it's true that they add interview section in CCIE lab. Why only in Beijing? At least for now. And I know most of you have known the answer.

What I want to add here is that the interview concept is actually not something new in CCIE lab. I took the lab before October 2001 and at that time the format was still 2-days exam. So first day is for building the infrastructure, with 45 total points. We need at least to get 30 points minimum to pass to the second day. Then second day morning is for advance features and hell lots of tricks that we may have never seen or heard about it before, and it can give us maximum 30 points. Only if we can get at least 55 points we can proceed to the last section which is troubleshooting.

Within my two attempts with both 2-days format, in two different location Brussels and Tokyo, after the first day the proctor asked each candidate one at a time to get into the lab and sit next to him. Then he would check my work and ask question such as why I did it that way, can I explain in more detail about this technology, is there any other way to do this etc. In Brussels I still remember I even had to do whiteboard presentation to explain the Frame-relay flow control mechanism. But there was no interview for second day morning. Normally after finish up the morning section we had to wait for a bit while since once the proctor found out that we are eligible to continue to the next section, he would start putting the troubleshooting questions into our rack immediately. You know, something likes screw up the cabling, modify IP address, change the password up until the most difficult tricks and usually there were 25 problems that can give us 25 points maximum.

But wait, it's not over yet even after we finish the troubleshooting successfully. My proctor in Tokyo still asked questions about how did I find the problem, which debug commands I run, how did I fix the issue and so on. In Brussels, I needed to find the whole 25 problems to pass and I didn't so the proctor said he doesn't have to check my work. When I took the lab, the interview in both sections, -after first day- and -after troubleshooting- , took much longer than 10 minutes. And my proctor in Brussels that time mentioned even I can get the configuration right but if I can't explain it he would not hesitate to deduct my points.

So as you see, the idea of this interview in the lab is not new. And it should not be something to be afraid of as any CCIE candidate who's ready to take the lab, and willing to pay USD 1400 plus all the travels, should be able to pass such interview easily. I still believe the interview should be done like those old days, so after the candidate finishes the whole lab, to explain why he did the configuration the way he did or just ask for more clarification about particular technology related to the questions. So the proctor can just run the script first to check who's above or at least quite close to the passing point, and only those candidates will have to go through the interview. I don't think those candidates would mind to stay for another hour extra, if that can give them the number they been chasing for. What do you think?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Road Less Traveled

Last Saturday I gave a free lecture in my former university with the topic "How to compete in global networking market by becoming a CCIE". I was invited first just to give information on how to become CCIE, pretty much to deliver the same presentation I did in Networkers Indonesia early this year. But then I thought most of the audiences are students, even though the lecture is opened for professionals too, and they may need more information about the career in networking field instead. So I called some of my CCIE colleagues to come and tell the story about their career – how did they start, what drives them to continue, how they got support to finance their CCIE lab, where are they today as CCIE, and so on – which I believe it’s more important for those students to hear.

So I started the lecture by introducing myself and share the story about my life and how I started my journey. I also mentioned that the tipping point of my life was after I passed my first CCIE lab. That made me able to start moving around and competing in the global networking market from Asia to Middle East, and finally I’m able to join Cisco Advanced Services as what I always want to. My friend who works in Cisco product development team in San Jose, who happened to be in country for vacation, shared his story about how he had to drop his master degree to pursue CCIE. But it was worth it, though. Once he passed, he’d been working in large scale projects ever since until he decided to take the offer to go to US though consulting agency. And now he has worked for Cisco Systems San Jose in few different business units. One other friend told the story of what he had to give up to finance his CCIE lab: his home. It was definitely a very hard decision since he’s married with few kids. But he took the risk, passed the exam, and moved to a bigger company that can return him his investment. The last friend shared his experience in passing CCIE lab in first attempt, then decided to stick in the same company until he became senior manager, one option that may be taken by any CCIE after they get bored abusing networking gears.

I didn’t stop only with stories. I shared my point of view of the career in networking in general, then the engineering career in Cisco Systems as what I see, I hear and I have been through. Once I believe the class has got clear picture about it, and definitely I didn’t forget to mention one way to boost the career is by passing CCIE lab, I also shared my opinion about How to Become Engineer ++, which explains on few things that every engineer should have and the way to distinguish ourselves in the global competition. Before I repeated my slide on How to Become CCIE, I did few slides on How to Start Your Career in Networking which I believe is important too since most of the time the first step to begin is the most difficult step. Those are actually based on my writings in my other blog in native language.

Does it sound lame to you? Well, for them who have seen and done many, it’s kinda waste of time to listen to such thing. But for those students who don’t know what the career in real networking world is all about , or professionals who want to switch their career to networking, the lecture may be a good information and as something to begin with. The class was full, by the way. Those folks who arrange this event must even rejected some guys to enter the class since there is no more space available even they still insist to join. And even the lecture was recorded, and it was broadcasted as well to other universities in my country, I know it’s still can’t beat the experience to have a discussion directly with the presenters. Especially since I brought some merchandises from Cisco for the raffle draw in the end of the lecture. Well, students are the same everywhere. They need free goodies :). That may be the only reason why most of them stayed for 4 hours that day.

I have to admit as much as I enjoy giving speech in public to try to convince others, deep inside I like to do this to convince myself too. I mean my journey in networking field is getting harder and harder, and I have moved to new position several times when I have reached the top level in my current position. Everytime I get comfortable, I move. And it’s not as easy as it looks like. I have to start from beginning, understand the process and build the relationship again. So giving free lecture like this offers mutual benefits; for others to hear about all decisions I took to reach my level today and learn from all my mistakes, and for me to convince myself that I have to carry on so I can continue to spread the information.

Robert Frost once wrote, I took the one (road) less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. So no matter how hard it is, somebody has to do this journey. Somebody must take the risk. And one who has done it should share the story to others. To share the information. To make the history. And, to be immortalized.

I hereby offer to anyone interested, everytime I travel and when I have spare time, I’m opened for the invitation to give similar lecture in any location to anyone without exceptions. Obviously as time goes by my story will grow longer and longer, even How to Become CCIE will still be the main part. Everyone likes to hear story and they want to get the most updated one. The most challenging, the break through, and full of new adventures as eye-opener. This mean I must not stop the journey. I should not stay in my comfort zone. I shall continue to go where there is no path and leave the trail. And in order to support this idea, I will post my schedule in the Where Am I? sidebar of this blog so anyone willing to arrange the class can get the idea of the best time to do so. For example, I will be in Brussels in mid September then Czech Republic until end of the month, then I will be in Spain during the first week of October. I'm willing to give the lecture to anyone and in any location, but please remember I can do it only in English, or in my native language of course.

I’m a pioneer. A dreamer, a blogger, a traveler.
I’m a storyteller, and this is my story.

So, free lecture, anyone?

- The things taught in schools and colleges are not an education, but the means to an education. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)