CCIE Study: My study approach for the CCIE

My study method

Approach

It is well-known with the content on this blog that I am still working toward my CCIE. With that you need a structured approach. This isn’t a walk in the park and understanding the path ahead is important. There is something my old man shared with me and it is known as the ‘Six P’s’. Prior Preparations Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

Blueprint

The blueprint is important to understand. Knowing what to study and what information to get out is very important. With that said I have created a Numbers spreadsheet. This spreadsheet allows me to track what topics I have studied against the blueprint and what assets I used to learn the topic. This keeps a matrix of good information and material for the blueprint.

Process

I currently work in a cyclical fashion which works rather well for me. I have a few steps in my process which this diagram highlights rather well.

Study cycle

Read Theory

Here I take notes from a variety of information sources. I use official Cisco Press text books such as CCIEv5 cert guides, references such as TCP/IP vol1 and 2 and IPv6 for Enterprise. I use RFC documents to gain an understanding on the technical aspects of routing protocols and how things operate.

Take Notes

The written notes I take down may seem quite dated given that recently I have focused on improving output using a variety of technologies. I find that my brain processes learning new information better when I write down the interpretation of text. I don’t mean a verbatim copy but writing it in my own words. These notes form the basis for Flashcards in a later section.

Lab technology / workbook exercise

I have access to an INE subscription and this allows me to get access to technology workbooks and videos. For me, videos do not work as a vehicle for learning as my mind wanders and I get a little distracted. This could be from the fact that in tertiary education I would play video games or ‘study’ with a movie or something playing in another window. As such I put my theory knowledge to the test and validate all workbook scenarios. If I do not know why something has occurred I jot down little notes to loop back around after my theory session to learn more. I don’t leave anything unchallenged.

Create flashcards

Creating flashcards is an important step for me. I feel sometimes as new bits enter my bit bucket others are being discarded. Flashcards and interval learning have helped me maintain information and keep the good bits in. I use MentalCase 2 for iOS and OSX. This allows synch between my devices. It has built-in timers that encourage me to study and I have cards that I view daily.

Revise

All this work and no revision is bad. I need reinforcement to make sure everything sticks. This is where I think about what I have created in labbing and dissecting a technology, my theory notes and flash cards. I work back through the information

Your mileage may vary

We’re all unique individuals and with that point we all have unique learning methods. The way we approach information and consume it is very important and highly personal. I think this is why I didn’t achieve the best in school. It was only recently that I’ve started to mature in the way I capture information and consume it. I hope this helps you think about your process. Whilst this is only a suggestion I do believe your mileage may vary if you follow it exactly.

[SPARK] VMware certification expiry – so what?

VMware certification announced that they are now putting timers on to their certifications and encouraging the recertification of titles. This has caused an uproar amongst the VMware and virtualisation community. Previously VMware certified professions have been able to certify against an exam and keep it past the date of the product going EOL. There are many VCP3’s around who are not VCP5. They are still eligible to the VCP status.

What do I think of this? So what. Welcome to the dynamic nature of IT, the industry which evolves and continuously changes. Certifications have always been a great framework for me to study against and been a good foundation for supplemental learning. I’ve always experienced the expiration of certifications having first been certified with Cisco technologies with my CCNA. This has a three-year expiration in which a candidate is expected to re-sit the same level or higher exam to retain its status. Cisco does this across their pillars – voice, security, R&S, DC, SP and wireless. Juniper has the same expiration policy on a two year cycle but chooses to keep ┬árecertification status within its vertical. (Security only refreshes security and not other verticals.)

IT changes. IT evolves. Why walk around with a dated badge on your chest? What VMware are doing are increasing the validity and quality of their certified engineers by ensuring certified professionals are of a current and maintained standard. They are aligning to the industry and what all other vendors do. This is a great step forward and I welcome it. If you don’t like it maybe you’re one of those people who can’t handle change. Maybe its time to dust off the books and get onto the journey of continuous education.