Keith Chayer, CCIE #39786
I passed my routing and switching lab this past week on my second attempt. I owe much of the credit for my success to the team at INE and the excellent resources they provide to make a serious candidate successful. I say serious, because while the materials were great, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to pull this off. My preparations have been extensive, but the final charge to passing my lab started back in late April, when I attended a 10-day boot camp at the INE headquarters in Bellevue, Washington. Since then I have felt like I lived, breathed, eaten, and slept nothing but CCIE. My experience with INE began when I signed up for the boot camp early this year. After I passed my written exam, I knew I wanted to attend a boot camp and I did extensive research to determine which training company I would partner with along the way. INE's approach and materials seemed to be the best fit, and they came highly recommended from several friends and colleagues who have also used INE and successfully passed their exam. Once I signed up for the training, I began to dig to determine what I was in for with the class. The first recommendation came to complete the INE workbook Volume I, diving into each of the individual technologies on the blueprint in-depth. In tandem with my time going through the workbooks, I watched Brian McGahan's Advanced Technologies Class (ATC) videos. This approach helped me get hands-on time with the equipment to become familiar with the configuration, while learning and understanding the theory behind the configuration from Brian's explanations. I was impressed with Brian's teaching style and presentation. He made difficult topics understandable, and any time I needed further information, I would chase down the details of a particular topic online. More times than not, my search led me back to the INE blog and a detailed post. Often I was able to see a different layer of the same onion peeled back, and by approaching the topic from a different direction, it became more understandable. Fast-forward to April and it was time to attend the boot camp, taught by Brian Dennis and Dave Smith. Brian handled about two-thirds of the teaching while Dave covered the other third. I will share more on their strengths later. I did not know what to expect, but I felt that with the preparation I had done so far, the boot camp would serve to deepen my understanding of many topics and solidify areas that I was weak in. But I was in for a surprise -- the boot camp was hard! But I say that as a praise. One of Brian Dennis's stated goals was to go into extra depth in the topics, and force us to learn deep details of the technologies -- more so than Cisco would probably test -- so that when we faced them on the lab, we would be up to the challenge. I remember vividly the second afternoon of class, after Brian had finished a detailed explanation of OSPF, the OSPF database, and many of the fields exposed to us in the show commands. I was blown away not only by how much I did not know yet, but how much there was to know, how cool it is, and how well Brian knew it all. And demonstrated for us very clearly. The class was setup with multiple presentation screens at the front of the classroom. Two of the screens had live views of the equipment Brian configured, in real-time, in front of us. The other two were white boards that Brian could use to show topologies and diagram concepts for us. No slides were used; it was all live configuration and information presented as it directly connected to the subject matter he was teaching. And each student had their own rack of equipment, equivalent to the instructors, to follow along with. After the boot camp, I continued to work through the volume II, III, and IV workbooks focusing on full-scale configuration labs, speed with layer 2 and layer 3 configuration, and developing an effectively troubleshooting methodology. Plus I also worked through some more teaching videos from Brian McGahan, mostly focussed on the details of the lab exam itself, including developing (and demonstrating) an effective strategy for test day. Alas, I did not pass my first lab attempt. I learned a lot about the testing experience and what some of my weaknesses still were, and returned home with a new vigor to accomplish my goal and conquer the lab. I continued to work through the INE lab material and I brushed up on a few topics that I felt weak in via some deep-dive INE videos. One small break during this time came when I attended Cisco Live in Orlando, and was able to see both Brian's (meeting McGahan for the first time -- he's a heck of a nice guy) and attend the INE customer appreciation party. Thanks for throwing an awesome party, guys! And this week, the fruits of my labor were revealed and I have my own CCIE number. Once again, I cannot thank the team and INE enough for providing a world-class training company! I couldn't have done it without you.