John MacDonald

Awesome Network Engineer

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CCDE Written - First Try

Lots of people seem to do these blog posts, I think mostly to decompress after an exam. I definitely feel that need right now. In this post I’ll give the some of the thought process going in, as well as what prep I did (or did not as you might see) before taking the test.

Backstory

I’ve worked in and around networks since 1995, and with the 5-6 years I took off that’s still coming up on 20 years. I spent most of that in SMB (Small & Medium Business) consulting. Having even internet failover was not hugely common and BGP multi-homing was pretty rare. Campus infrastructure really topped out at a few dozen switches. Since coming back to technology I’ve focused on networking and am currently a network engineer with a global service provider. I’ve been back 3 years and started studying for CCIE R&S 2 years ago (I know because my 2 year INE subscription just expired), took a break when I joined my current company for about 3 months, then put in about 3 more months studying for CCIE SP. Depending on workload I am pretty confident I could get either in 3-6 months.

It’s November 4th, 2018. Less than 2 weeks since I decided I was going to become a CCDE and do it on a relatively fast track. Yesterday I decided I was too stressed out about it to wait until my November 17th written test date and found a testing center 30 minutes away with a slot available today.

My Feelings on the test

I took the test and scored 744 out of 1000. 860 is passing so I was actually really pretty excited about it. The only test I’ve taken since college was the CCNA R&S (which I scheduled at 6pm and then passed by 8:30am the next day… I see a trend forming). I mostly took the test to find out if my weaknesses matched my self-evaluation (it did, I failed L2 Control Plane miserably, but… 4 questions in assured bridge, really? I completely forgot it and had the purpose backwards so am pretty sure I missed all 4… luck of the draw).

Unlike a lot of blogs I read, I didn’t find there to be trick questions. In the vast majority of my 100 questions I was pretty confident that I either knew, or did not know, the answer. That said, I still used over 90 of my 120 minutes available. While most questions were well under 1 minute for me some of the diagrams took me longer to understand… and my IPv6 subnetting is slower than I’d like. I just know IPv4 without thinking, but it takes me working out bitcounts any time I go over 256 (8 bit). One question involving that was the only one that I felt the need to use the whiteboard for.

What I did to study

3 weeks ago, on a whim (some of you know what the whim was) I watched a 9 hour bootcamp on INE for the last day of my 2 year subscription.

2 weeks ago I pulled up the INE blog post that was referenced in the video series, got a Safari Books Online subscription renewal, and then added all of the books to a Playlist labeled “CCDE” and started reading them, cover to cover, in order.

1.5 weeks ago I remembered the INE Instructor’s comment that the CCDE was basically “What would Russ [White] do?” and found a live lesson by Russ White and Alvaro Retana on routing and watched that.

1 week ago I put the CCDE Written Learning Matrix into Google sheets, noted that it basically was the same as the INE list so ignored it. I watched the CCDE: The Cisco Certified Design Expert (Session 1) - BRKCRT-8001 followed by CCDE: The Cisco Certified Design Expert (Session 2) - BRKCRT-8002 . I continued reading the playlist.

Yesterday I finished every book in the playlist, self-scored myself on the Learning Matrix and found that I was at least a 2 in almost every category, discussed with my wife, my parents, etc. and then scheduled the exam for today. I skimmed chapters on the areas that I was weakest and re-watched the live learning by Russ and Alvaro at 2x speed (greatly annoying my wife).

Test day and reflections

Today I drank a monster energy before leaving, caught a Lyft, drank another at the testing center, and took the test. Then I wrote this blog post.

I definitely think the test is worthwhile, and I think that experience counts for a lot in the test but certainly not for everything. I went into it expecting to fail (expecting to fail closer to 500, honestly) so that I could use it both to prepare myself for the exam format and also to get an objective view of my current weak areas.

I will retest in December and plan to pass then. I’m not sure yet when I will schedule my practical/qualification exam. It’s only offered quarterly and it seems there’s an additional quarter to grade them at this time so it would be six months before I could take it a second time even if I am very close.

About John
This is my website, so you'll see this on most posts. This is also a really awkward photo of me I took a couple of years ago when I thought I needed a more professional profile photo. If you'd like to know more I have an About Me section. I think it's funny.