CCIE Preparation: Commitment

This is the start of a new series on preparing for the CCIE lab. This will address many of the common questions would-be CCIEs have when they start out, such as study processes, training vendors, lab equipment and bootcamps. Hopefully it will also prevent a few of the time-wasting mistakes candidates make.

Before getting into the nuts and bolts, we need to address a few key aspects that need to be sorted out first, before you ever pick up a textbook:

  1. Personal Commitment and Motivation
  2. Family Support

Once you have those in place, you can then go on to the technical aspects, such as study processes, training materials, lab equipment, etc.

Personal Commitment and Motivation

It’s easy to say “I want to be a CCIE!” It’s easy to order a bunch of textbooks from Amazon. It’s slightly more hassle to buy a few switches and routers. If you’ve got a solid CCNP-level of knowledge, and 5+ years experience, it’s relatively straightforward to pass the CCIE written exam.

But once you start to really knuckle down into the lab study, you find that’s it actually pretty tough, and there’s an enormous amount of work involved. Suddenly you realise that it’s a multi-year effort, and hey, no-one’s forcing you to do this. You get busy at work, or things happen in your life, and so you slack off your studies. Just for a few weeks, right? Next thing you’re looking at that dusty pile of books on the shelf, and thinking “I really must get back into CCIE study.” But you’ve become just another one of the vast majority of CCIE wannabes. Most people who start out with CCIE study never even book a lab, let alone get close to passing it.

Why is that? I submit that it is because the decision to start was undertaken lightly, without a full evaluation of the requirements, the commitment needed, and the consequences of doing it. Before starting, sit down and take a long hard look at it. Ask yourself Why? Why do you want to do this? What are your reasons for doing it? More money? Fame and glory? There’s probably easier ways to get that. Figure out why you want to become a CCIE.

Family Support

CCIE study can become all-consuming, taking up all your waking hours. The only way you can do this is if you have full support from those around you. You have to get them on your side, making sure they understand what it means to you. You also need to make sure that they’re not forgotten.

I’ll write more about setting schedules later, but a schedule can really help with getting your family on side. You need to ensure that your schedule is set in conjunction with your family, and that you stick to it. By creating a schedule, your family will know when you’re studying, and when you’re available. Scheduling family time ensures that you actually do spend that time with your family, and gives your brain a much-needed change of pace.

CCIE is not worth ruining your family relationships. It doesn’t matter if you take a bit longer to reach the end. But it does matter if it ruins your home life.

A Few Inconvenient Truths

Your study won’t go exactly to schedule. Life will get in the way. Shit will happen. You will get distracted by major projects at work, or personal crises. You have to accept that this will happen, find a way to deal with it, and get back on track once the crisis/distraction has passed.

There will be technologies that you hate to study. For many people, this was Frame Relay for version 4. Everyone is happy at the rumours of Frame Relay going away - but trust me, there will be technologies in version 5 that you don’t like, and you will struggle to engage with.

You’ll have good times, and you’ll have tough times. Having a solid understanding of why you’re doing this, and a solid personal commitment will help you get over the tough times, and push through. In the next few posts we’ll deal with more technical matters.