Thursday, June 23, 2011

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Be On Project Avatar

1. You are a professional who is willing to share your knowledge and experience 'beyond blogging'

2. You are a professional who is trying to find information to become a better professional in one place

3. You are a student who wants to learn more about real world work environment and make connection with professionals

4. You like to create a group with those who share common interest and use the group features to discuss, share document, share photo, create event and to create polls

5. You want to be part of Project Avatar's Challenge, to collaborate with other professionals around the world using a real tool to build a real product

6. You are fed up spending your time on social network that doesn't provide you new knowledge

7. You want to read the jobs add that usually posted by 'insider'

8. You are interested to use our collaboration tool with virtual whiteboard and A/V chat

9. You are interested to use our web based chat engine

10. You are curious to find out why more than 1200 professionals signed up to P@ within the first 6 weeks that doesn't use any advertisement other than word of mouth

Monday, June 20, 2011

CCIE's Diary Day 28: Lab Day!

(This post is taken from Project Avatar CCIE's Diary group discussion)

Today is the day!

After all the preparation, all the practice in the lab, all sacrifice of your time, finally today you are going to take the CCIE lab exam. At the end of the day you could walk away the lab with your number. Your future is in your hand!

Here are the last 10 tips you may want to read before you go to the lab. This will be the longest tip of the day in the whole Diary:

1. Have a breakfast if possible
Remember, it will be a long 8 hours (actually 9 hours with 1 hour mandatory lunch break) so you need to be ready physically. You had a good night sleep and in the morning before you go you should have a breakfast since the next chance to eat something is during the lunch break.

2. Arrive early
Don't add unnecessary pressure by showing late in the lab. You did a visit a day before, so you have calculated how long it takes to reach the lab. Leave early to reach there early. If the exam says you should be there by 8 try to come around 7.30. It's your chance to get used with the Cisco office and meet the other candidates

3. Don't think too much
Today can be really stressful. You arrive in the lab and you may see some other candidates are in panic mode. You meet the proctor for the first time and he may not look really helpful. Don't get intimidated with the situation, stay calm. I know the pressure on your shoulder is heavy, especially if you have to pay the lab yourself. You may have this thought in mind that if you fail you will lose many things. You position in the company is in the line. You have financial pressure. And the worst is if you have to repeat the process to study again, this means you have to sacrifice your life again for unpredicted timeline.

Stop it.

What you need to focus now is how to answer the questions in the next 8 hours. That's all. Remove all the other thoughts because not only it will not help you with the exam it will just add unnecessary pressure.

4. Re-draw the topology
This advice is for the configuration section. The first thing I advice you to do when you start the exam is to re-draw the topology even if the lab question has provided you one. It will not take long time to do so and that's the fastest way to understand the topology. Physical topology usually consists 7-8 routers connected to several switches. So you need to draw the logical. Which VLANs are used to connect the routers and switches. Then you can move up to the IGP drawing. Which routers will be configured with OSPF, which with EIGRP and so on. Later you can make the drawing of BGP topology, for each address family.

Once you have your own drawing when you start working on the question you can do the configuration faster since you are already familiar with the network you are going to build.

5. Don't get stuck
Don't get stuck. Put the configuration, check it, then move on. If somehow it doesn't work but it will not affect the other part of the network, skip the question. Try to answer the obvious questions first. Things like Netflow, SNMP or QoS config can be skipped since most of the time they can be considered as stand-alone and won't affect the other configuration.

If you have to configure PPP authentication on your serial link and somehow it doesn't work, and you can't skip it because there are some routing protocols running over the serial, configure the normal PPP without authentication on the serial just to bring the link up and you can continue doing the configuration for the next question.

There are some questions that rely on the previous questions. For example, you can't configure MPLS VPN if your IGP is not up yet. Let's say you are working on OSPF, it's already up and running, but you still can't answer the fast convergence question for OSPF, you can skip that part and come back to it later. At least you can move forward and make progress.

Don't get stuck especially during the early time of the exam. Because getting stuck in the beginning can make you get frustrated and lost your focus for the rest of the day.

And always make a target to achieve. For example, put target to finish at least more than half configuration questions before lunch. If there is troubleshooting part and you have to solve 10 issues, put target to complete at least 7 in the first hour. That means you should try to solve the easiest issues first.

Remember, you just need to get 80% score to pass. So it's fine to skip questions. Finish everything and come back later to try to answer the questions you left behind. Even if you don't have chance to come back but if you have answered all the other questions and reached 80% you still pass the exam.

6. Ask the proctor
The proctor is in the lab to monitor the exam, to keep it a fair game, and to help you if necessary. They will not give you the answer to the question. I repeat, they will not give you the answer. If you face any issue with the hardware, do your troubleshooting steps and approach the proctor to show the problem and what you have done to fix the issue. If there is wording you don't understand from the question (especially for non-native English speaker) you can ask him to provide the alternate wording. You need to ask the right question. You need to act and do the necessary before you tell the proctor you suspicion about the hardware issue. That's CCIE attitude that is expected from each candidate.

7. See the questions as a whole
When it seems too confusing, you may want to sit back and look at the questions as a whole. Use the helicopter view approach. Review the topology and read again all questions quickly. What are we trying to build here? How is the traffic flow from one AS to another? Is there any policy in the questions that will change the behavior of the traffic? And so on.

8. Re-check your work multiple times
You will make silly mistakes. Regardless how careful you are, you may forget to configure something or you answer it wrongly because you misinterpret the questions. Sometime the last question you answer may break the answer for the previous question. That's the reason why you have to check your work, and re-check, and re-check, and re-check.

You must try your best to answer all questions and still have a lot of time to check your work. Once you reach the last question, you need to go back from beginning and check it again. Then you can go back and this time make sure your answer is inline with what requested by the question. You may have a working solution but you violate the lab rule or after you read the question the second time you realize your solution is not what the exam author wants you to do.

9. Save your config often
It looks like a no brainer advice, but don't take chance and just save your config ofter. If it's necessary you can save all your config and reload all the devices. This will make sure your solution will remain work and behave the same even after the reload. Obviously you need to do this when you still have plenty of time.

10. There is no spoon
Remember when Neo in The Matrix was trying to bend the spoon. The small kid told him not to think about bending the spoon, instead just realize that "there is no spoon". It's all a mind trick.This was the mantra I used everytime I took my lab exam.

You have spent lots of time to read books. You have practiced in your lab extensively. You have followed the advice from other CCIEs. Now the last thing you need to do is to believe that you can pass. Don't think too much about the challenge you may face in the lab, the questions you are not familiar with, and many other factors that may make you fail. Just be in the moment, answer the questions one at a time, and believe you will walk away from the lab with your number.

So go enter the the lab now and claim your number.

Think the lab exam is just another workbook you need to practice. And you'll be fine.

You are making history today.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

10 Things Between Projects

I've just completed one project for Cisco customer last week, and another project has been waiting somewhere around the corner. All technical consultants for Cisco Advanced Services live from one project to another. If we are lucky we do only one project at a time, but usually we do two or more (my record is 5 when I was in Asia).

Now I just want to share my list of 10 things I do between the projects to keep my motivation and stay sane. And writing this actually helps too.

1. Watch fun movies
Gotta love watching fun movies. Recently I watched Hangover II, Fast Five, Kungfu Panda 2, X Men First Class, and Pirates of Caribbean. Can't wait for Transformers 3!

2. Go to desert
I do it twice a month. Recently my wife told me (read: instructed me) to sell my land cruiser. Well, at least I'll be busy trying to sell the car, then later I guess I'll be busy trying to convince her to buy smaller car to go to the desert.

3. Read books (physical books)
I'm an analogue guy. I shoot film camera. And I read physical book. The last 3 books I read that really enlighten me: Delivery Happiness, Enchantment and Making Ideas Happen.

4. Give free consultation about CCIE and career
Many people ask me advice about CCIE and career from time to time. I've been sharing my thoughts and experience about those subjects through my personal blog (I started blogging 6 years ago), tweets and Facebook status update. It's what triggers point no. 5

5. Contribute to CCIE program
Few months ago I helped CCIE R&S Program Manager to build new questions. I also did the alpha testing for it. I was invited to become CCIE Techtorial speaker in Cisco Live, but I was late to reply so they can't give me speaker pass. That's a life, I guess. Despite that I continue to do what I do, just like in point no. 6.

6. Conduct CCIE WebEx session
On April I conducted "CCIE R&S Unofficial Update" over WebEx. More than 400 people around the world registered, and 170 dialed in. I received more than 50 positive feedbacks. Something that made me think that I should do more, I should do "beyond blogging". This leads and become the cause of point no. 7

7. Build Project Avatar
I wanted to share my knowledge and experience beyond blogging, and I can't find a good platform for it. Social network like Facebook is too social. Professional network like LinkedIn can only provide connection, but that's all. I wanted to build a platform where other professionals can share their knowledge and experience as well. So early May I founded Project Avatar.

Project Avatar is an open community for professionals and students with one goal: to help its members to learn, to get the experience, to connect to each other, and to pitch and market their profile to the world. Experienced professional can help by sharing his knowledge to younger professional. Professional can share his experience to the students so at least they get some clue how the working environment looks like. Every time someone shares his knowledge he gains more. Every time someone gives free gift to some people they will do the same to some other people. So then we build the culture of giving gift. Students someday will become professional too and they will continue this chain of knowledge-sharing culture.

That's the value that I believe we are doing with Project Avatar.

And that's also the reason why in the beginning I self-funded That's the same reason why I spent time at nights after my 40-hour a week for Cisco to keep the website alive.

Within the first 5 weeks there are more than 1150 members in the community from more than 100 countries. Members are discussing not only about CCIE or networking, but as well as about Linux, iOS, SAP, mobile, to non-technical such as ITIL, entrepreneurship, positive world, life after university and so on. Project Avatar now has features like groups, blogs, videos, chats, ask questions, sharing document, polls, news, jobs ads, lounge where members can use virtual whiteboard and do conference with audio/video, and an online project collaboration tool to run Project Avatar's Challenge (PAC) projects.

Since the objective is to spread the knowledge it's not required to register to browse the content. But by logging in the members can participate actively in the community. All activities are rewarded by the point system.

8. Create CCIE's Diary e-book with Project Avatar
I created Project Avatar's Challenge (PAC) where the community members can do collaboration work to make a product. So it's a simulated work environment, with real professional as project leader, real project members, using real online project collaboration tool, to create a real product. The first project is to build "CCIE's Diary" e-book based on the daily tips of how to become CCIE that I shared on the group discussion, and I'm personally leading this project.

9. Write Handbook for Cisco
Back to Cisco, I'm currently working with another senior consultant to create a handbook. I'd rather not to disclose what it is all about. What I can share is we are currently still formalizing the table of content and the scope of the document.

10. Spend more time with family
Last but not least, I try to spend my time more with my family. I work from home more. I like to work late night so I can delay my work in the morning, to give chance to have breakfast with my wife. And I always try to drop and pick my kids from school.

So there it is, my list of 10 Things to keep my sanity in between projects. It seems work so far.

How about you?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How to Manage Project with Basecamp

I've been managing and leading many projects for more than 10 years. Most of the time my project involves people from different countries in different timezone. And I use collaboration tools, I use them a lot.

At Project Avatar we want you to get the same experience like mine. That's the reason we launched Project Avatar's Challenge (PAC) yesterday. It's an opportunity to lead and work in a team consists of people with different background from different countries, and to create a product as per the project's objective. And we will use a simple collaboration tool called Basecamp.

Project Management is all about communication. With Basecamp you can get all relevant information in the project such as to-do list, project communication messages, event and milestone in the calendar, writeboard to create and edit document together, and repository for all project documents.

Every project member can get involved in the discussion. Any suggestion and comments must be documented. In fact, Basecamp allow everyone to put comment on everything (in Message, To-do list, Calendar and Writeboard)

Good ideas must be converted into action items. To-do list is the best way to break down the tasks in the project and assign responsibility.

Writeboard is the place to create documentation in the project. Any project member can create new or edit the existing document and save it as new document.

When there is change into the document, Basecamp will track it and we can compare the current and previous versions.

In the project we have to document everything. Reference is good, but it must be relevant. Any references or files related to the project can be uploaded to Basecamp.

Follow up is the key of successful project. That's why Basecamp calendar can show the event and milestone the team member need to achieve. There is email notification as well as RSS feed for the project.

So what are you waiting for? Turn your idea into project today!

Join the PAC group

Saturday, June 11, 2011

First Project Avatar's Challenge

For the first Project Avatar's Challenge (PAC) project that I'll be leading personally. I've been sharing daily tips on how to become CCIE on Project Avatar CCIE's Diary group discussion. For the first PAC project as pilot we will create CCIE's Diary ebook based on that discussion, within 30 days.

Following are the detailed information:

Project objective: to build electronic book of CCIE's Diary

Scope of work (main tasks):
- finalize the content
- design the cover and illustration in the book
- find url references and create side story
- create supporting items like ToC and index
- test the book

Estimated duration of the project: 30 days

Breakdown timeline:
- 20 days to finalize the content
- 10 days for design and illustration (parallel with content)
- 10 days to find url and side story (parallel with content)
- 5 days to create supporting items
- 2 days to test the book
- 3 days to clean up and finalize the book

Specific resources required:
- at least 1 CCIE, or 1 member who has taken a lab attempt
- at least 1 member who can design book cover
- at least 1 member with strong English writing skill
- any members can test the book or submit their side story, even they don't want to get involved directly

Additional information:
- anyone participate actively finalizing the content will be mentioned as the "Contributors" of the book
- any design and illustration in the book will have the creator's name
- any side story will have the name of the one who submits it

Anyone can join the project. Please join the PAC group now!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Project Avatar's Challenge!

Project Avatar is proudly launching our new program that can offer you working experience at the same time make you able to pitch your profile to the world. While you can learn by reading blogs or following discussion, and you can connect to other professionals at Project Avatar, how can we give you experience and opportunity to pitch your profile?

Introducing Project Avatar's Challenge (PAC), a simulated work environment where the members will collaborate to work in a project to build a product. A member can nominate an idea to build certain product, and once approved the same member can become the project leader to lead the other members to execute it. We are using the real world project management tool and the output is a real product.

What kind of product? It's up to you as the idea maker! It can be a book, a web design, a mobile application, new open source kernel, the next generation router, or others. Sky is the limit!

Obviously once your nominated idea is approved as PAC project you need to promote it to get other members to join and help you. So actually the sky is not the limit, but probably the number of project members and their capabilities to build the product should be used to define or revise a realistic target in the project.

Once the project is completed and the product is ready, it will be advertised everywhere.

So what are the benefits of getting involved in PAC?
- as idea initiator, to make your idea happens
- as project leader, it's an opportunity to lead team with different background from different countries
- opportunity to contribute to make great product
- opportunity to learn from more experienced professional
- opportunity to work with people with different background from different countries
- to get the exposure since the product will be advertised all over the world
- and you can use the project as reference in your profile or resume
- anyone involved in the project will get Project Avatar points

And what are the drawbacks from getting involved?
None that I can think of. Probably this activity will make you more busy on Project Avatar and spend less time on Facebook or LinkedIn :)

So you may call it simulated project. But it's led by real professional, using real project management tool, with real project members, to create a real product.

Are you up to the challenge?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Beyond Blogging

I always enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience with others. I've been blogging for 6 years now, and I felt like I should do more and something beyond blogging. So sometime last month I decided to build Project Avatar platform that has more powerful features from blog, and hopefully it can encourage other professionals to share their ideas and experiences as well in order to build the knowledge-sharing culture in our society.

So far the following features are available on Project Avatar:

- this is each member's home portal where he or she can see the latest news, the recent blogs, recent questions, recent polls and many other information

Blogs - where the member can share the ideas or opinions. It has to be the member's original writing, if a member find interesting link from the Internet she can post it under News

Groups - member can learn and share ideas without joining any group, but our group is very powerful where members can have discussion, upload document, create event, upload photo and make polling

Videos - where member can share either her own video or interesting video found on the Internet

Ask Question - our favorite Q&A tools where any member can ask question and any member can answer, and both will be rewarded with points by doing so

Lounge - this is our collaboration tool where members can have virtual whiteboard, chat, share desktop, audio and webcam etc. It can be used to conduct Web Conference event as well

Basecamp - this is project management tool that will be used for the new Project Avatar's Challenge program (coming soon!)

News - news around the world, any member can post as long as he includes the reference source

Jobs Ads - where member can post jobs ads

Chat - our chat engine is powerful and efficient, with chatroom and ability to send handwriting or file to the other member.

Other than this Project Avatar also has point system where any activities by the member get rewarded with the points.

With all the features above, I'm happy now I have one place to share my ideas and experience beyond blogging. And at the same time I'm making connections with many professionals with different background from all over the world.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Three Stories

There was a student doing his final year in the university. In the previous few years all he cares about was to get through to the next year. But now it's different. Soon he would graduate and need to start looking for a job. He realized it takes more than good grade to get him that. He realized he didn't even know how it looks like to work in the real world.

A young professional had been dreaming to work overseas. He didn't know how to get there but that was his target in life. He did his best to make a good resume and kept sending it to many recruiting agencies around the world without many responses so far. He wished someone was willing to give him hints and share the experience so he can just follow it.

He's been working as professional in several different countries for many years. He remembered how it was not easy to get into his current position. He could still recall all the interviews he had to go through every time he switched job. How he learned to build connection and reputation at work. Now he feels like it's time to pay back. He's planning to share his experience to others.

Do you think the three stories above are real? Any of them?

I was a student and even after I graduated I didn't know how to find a job. I always wanted to work overseas, but I didn't know how to do it or whether I had the expertise to be able to compete in International market. Good thing I passed my CCIE lab. And it was still not easy because obviously certification is not enough. Even with expertise and experience I still spent many years trying to get a job in Cisco. I had to go through many projects, had to build connection and reputation, before finally Cisco gave me a chance for the interview.

So for me the stories are real. And they are the reasons why I founded Project Avatar.

I want to build a community for professionals and students so they can help each other to achieve their target to compete globally. Experienced professional can help by sharing his knowledge to younger professional. And by doing that at the same time he demonstrates his leadership and coaching skill to the world. Professional can share his experience to the students so at least they get some clue how the working environment looks like. And by doing that the professional will become a better professional. Every time you share your knowledge you gain more. Every time you give free gift to some people they will do the same to some other people. So then we build the culture of giving gift. Students someday will become professional too and they will continue this chain of knowledge-sharing culture.

That's the value that I believe we are doing with Project Avatar.

And that's also the reason why in the beginning I self-funded this project. That's the same reason why I spend time outside my 40-hour a week for Cisco to keep the website alive. And why during the weekend night I spent my time to write this blog :)

And I believe in that value. I believe in my reasons.

What do you believe?