On May the 17th I passed the CCDE practical in Madrid and became Swedens 2nd CCDE, CCDE #20160011. This post describes my journey to passing the CCDE practical in my 1st attempt and the materials that I used to do so.

Let me start by saying that this is a tough exam, a very tough exam. You need to be an expert in RS and SP technologies and there is no instant feedback in the exam, like you would get in the CCIE lab. In the CCIE lab you will see you are missing routes or if your output does not match the output the lab guidelines told you to match. In the CCDE practical there will be very few questions that you are 100% sure that you got the optimal answer. Design is a more subjective skill than implementation. I had several moments where I felt that I could just as well leave because there was no chance I was going to pass the lab. You need to be mentally strong to put those thoughts aside and just keep performing your best throughout the whole exam. You might be doing a lot better than you think.

The first section will focus on mandatory books to read for the CCDE practical. Only reading these books or even reading all of the material I am referencing here will not make you a CCDE. You need to have the depth of knowledge within these technologies but this list will help you get started with the most essential resources.

Books

CCDE Study Guide

When I started studying for the practical, there was no book that summarized the knowledge needed to attempt the practical. Marwan Al-shawi wrote this excellent book which is an essential read for the CCDE practical. This book teaches business requirements, technical constraints, network design principles and the most important technology that is included in the CCDE program. Don’t rush through this book, you must understand the concepts and you will probably end up reading it multiple times.

Optimal Routing Design

This book written by Russ White, Alvaro Retana and Don Slice is the bible of routing design. This book is over 10 years old but the principles still apply. This book will teach you about fault domains, modularization, aggregation of topology information, summarization of prefix information. When we aggregate routes we have a more optimized forwarding table but what are we giving up? There’s always a tradeoff! If we summarize we may have suboptimal routing, sometimes also called stretch. There is also the risk of summarization black holes. This book is a must read to understand how to design networks using different routing protocols such as EIGRP, OSPF and ISIS.

Definitive MPLS Network Designs

This book in my opinion is the book that has the most resemblance to the CCDE practical. This book takes you through different fictious scenarios which are based on the experiences of the authors. As the scenario develops they will explain why a technology was chosen and what the impact is to the design. It goes through a lot of technologies such as IGP, BGP, MPLS, MPLS-TE, Inter-AS and so on. It’s quite a heavy book but an essential read for the CCDE practical. It is useful to use this book and discuss the scenarios with other people preparing for the CCDE practical.

The Art of Network Architecture: Business-Driven Design

This is another book by Russ White and the co author Denise Donohue. This book focuses on the business side of network architecture but also explains a lot of important concepts such as mean time to repair (MTTR), redundancy vs resilience and the OODA loop. This book explains different topologies such as fully meshed, rings, CLOS and so on.

The next session focuses on Cisco Live presentations. This is actually one of the most valuable resources and almost all of the content is 100% free!

Cisco Live Sessions

BRKRST-2337 – Intermediate – OSPF Deployment in Modern Networks

This session is a good complement to Optimal Routing Design. It has some of the more modern concepts such as prefix suppression, LFA, rLFA, BFD and goes through routing design for OSPF in different topologies such as fully meshed and hub and spoke. It also has a lot of information on using OSPF as PE-to-CE protocol in MPLS VPN networks. You must be very knowledgable in what kind of topology changes trigger SPF runs, the different area types and how the number of areas affect the scalability of an ABR. When we use stub areas we get less routes to the routers in the stub area but what do we give up? Once again, optimal routing. Does our business require optimal routing though? That’s where you have to map the requirements of the business to the technical design that you will use.

BRKRST-2338 – Intermediate – ISIS Deployment in Modern Networks

This session on ISIS is also a must read to complement the Optimal Routing Design book. It starts out by comparing ISIS to OSPF and then demonstrates some best practices for ISIS. The session goes through different designs and shows how a L1 router may use suboptimal routing because it will only have a default route to the L1L2 router unless routes are leaked. It also show the concept of multi topology and single topology. The session shows important concepts in achieving fast convergence and important concepts such as LDP IGP sync and LDP session protection.

BRKRST-3321 – Advanced – Scaling BGP

This session on scaling BGP starts out by comparing confederations to route reflectors. It then explains the concepts of hierarcy within route reflection and route reflector clusters. It has a useful chart for comparing confederations to route reflection. It shows best path selection when RR is used and how more paths can be sent by using technologies such as Add Path, Shadow RR and shadow session. It also shows how hot potato routing can be done when using route reflectors. It also shows different scaling options such as carving RT’s between route reflectors and using route target constraint (RTC). It also demonstrates the concept of running Internet in a VRF and different MPLS label assignment modes such as per CE or per VRF as opposed to the default of per prefix.

BRKRST-3363 – Routed Fast Convergence

This session is all about fast convergence and shows the four steps that are involved in converging, detecting, notifying, calculating and installing new routes. The session shows that failure detection via interrupt based mechanisms is generally much faster than doing polling. It shows how interrupt based signalling may not always work if there are other devices between two routers as an example. It compares fast hello’s to BFD and shows how different IGP’s can be tuned to achieve fast convergence.

LTRCCDE-3006 – Advanced – CCDE Lab

This is actually a debrief session for a paid CCDE lab available at Cisco Live. I highly recommend that you take the CCDE techtorial and labtorial if you are serious about this cert and are going to Cisco Live. This session is still useful even if you didn’t take the lab though. It demonstrates different type of questions that you will face during the lab and it also does a debrief of the scenario Best Buddy. You can still learn from this even if you didn’t take the lab. I reviewed this session a few days before taking the practical and I started finding things I weren’t fully agreeing with in the slides. This is a good sign that you are getting prepared for the practical. This session shows the concept of branching questions which are very important for the practical.

BRKCRT-8001 – CCDE: The Cisco Certified Design Expert (Session 1)

This session explains what the CCDE is and why you should get involved in network design, it’s just not about plumbing! This session also shows different technologies that are expected to be on the practical. Then the session goes through a fictious scenario called LISP and shows how you will receive documents and e-mails and examples of different type of questions. This session is very useful to get a feel for what the CCDE practical is like. If you watch the video, there is a part 2 to this session that is called BRKCRT-8002 – CCDE: The Cisco Certified Design Expert (Session 2).

These are the sessions that MUST watch/read but I have probably gone through 50-100 sessions in total on different topics such as DMVPN, GETVPN, FW design, WAN design, DC design and so on.

CCDE Training

There are mainly two prominent CCDE trainers out there, Jeremy Filliben and Orhan Ergun. They are both very talented and strong instructors and I would recommend that you get material from at least one of them if not both.

Jeremy Filliben

I used CCDE scenarios from Jeremy in my preparation for the practical. As far as I know, Jeremy has the most scenarios and each scenario is a different platform that revolves around different concepts such as a merger or divestiture, adding technology etc. The scenarios which are delivered in PDF format simulates the exam experience by giving you initial information and then communicating new information through e-mails. It has different type of questions such as multiple choice, single answer, charts, diagrams and so on.

Jeremy also delivers bootcamps, I attended such a bootcamp roughly a month before the practical. This was a great experience to learn from someone who is already a CCDE. I learned a lot about how to approach the exam and how to think when you are answering questions for the practical. I was already fully prepared from a technology standpoint when I took the bootcamp. You should not take this bootcamp expecting Jeremy to teach you all the technical content. No bootcamp can do that in only one week of training.

If you are interested in Jeremy’s training, visis his web site here.

Orhan Ergun

Orhan is also producing content for the CCDE. His offering is called the Designworld where he offers different materials such as CCDE scenarios, CCDE videos and comparison charts between different technologies. I think that Orhan’s charts are very good and a key to getting prepared for the CCDE practical. The technology videos are good to refresh your knowledge on different technologies and to see how an experienced designer approaches different technologies such as first hop routing protocols (FHRP’s) or IGP’s, BGP etc.

Orhan also offers bootcamps and personal coaching sessions. He delivers bootcamps both online and onsite. The next bootcamp is delivered in August. One of my friends, Martin Duggan, just passed the CCDE practical in London and he had been receiving training from Orhan.

If you are interested in joining Designworld, go to Orhan’s site here.

Blog Posts

Blogs can be another important resource in getting prepared for the CCDE practical. I recommend the following excellent blog posts by Diptanshu Singh which were posted to the Packet Pushers blog.

MPLS TE Design -Part 1
MPLS TE Design -Part 2
MPLS TE Design -Part 3

These posts are very good to understand what MPLS-TE is, what a tactical deployment is and what a strategic deployment is. It discusses how you can scale MPLS-TE and different FRR methods. This is the best writing I have seen on MPLS-TE outside of the books. Make sure you understand the content from these blogs.

BGP AIGP

This post describes the concept of accumulated IGP (AIGP) metric which can be used to carry an IGP metric across BGP domains. This is used to optimize routing between different ASNs since normally MED is used and that is not representative of the total end to end path cost. For this reason AIGP is better than MED in achieving optimal routing.

IP FRR And Micro-Loops Part 1
IP FRR And Micro-Loops Part 2

These two posts introduces the concept of LFA and how micro loops can be formed. It’s a bit heavy on the math side which is not very important for the CCDE but the concepts are important. You should understand what IP FRR is, when to use it and why micro loops are formed and what can be done to prevent it.

BGP RR Design – Part 1
BGP RR Design – Part 2

These posts are very important in understanding BGP RR design. They will show the challenges of BGP RR such as increased convergence time, suboptimal routing and reduced path diversity. Routing loops can also exist in a RR design if the physical topology is not congruent with the logical topology. It also shows how BGP RR can be combined with fully mesh to achieve a reasonable scale and more optimal routing than a full RR design.

I have also done a lot of post for the CCDE. In my opinion writing is one of the most efficient ways to learn something at a deeper level than simply reading. I recommend you read the following posts that I have put a considerable effort into to summarize information from books, Cisco Live sessions and real life.

CCDE – CARRIER SUPPORTING CARRIER

This blog is about CSC which is a concept where a backbone carrier can efficiently carry routes of a customer carrier.

CCDE – INTER AS L3 VPNS

Inter-AS VPNs is an important concept for connecting VPNs between two different ASNs of the same organization or to connect two different organizations together. This technology can be important in mergers where there needs to be a temporay setup between the ASNs until one side can get integrated into the other.

CCDE – BGP CONFEDERATIONS

BGP confederation is an alternative to using BGP RR although the two technologies can be combined as well. BGP confederations can be use when there are different groups of people responsible for different parts of the network but they still belong to the same organization.

CCDE – BGP CONVERGENCE

This post describes the important considerations for BGP convergence. The main concept is to have a fast converging IGP. It goes through bgp next hop tracking (NHT) and different timers such as the minimum route advertisement interval (MRAI).

CCDE – DMVPN CRYPTO DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS

DMVPN is a Cisco proprietary technology but it is still something you need to study for the practical. This post talks about some ways to scale the DMVPN by using a dual tier topology where the mGRE control plane is handled by one router and the crypto control plane by another router.

CCDE – INTRODUCTION TO GET VPN AND GET VPN DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS

GETVPN is another Cisco proprietary technology which is a tunnel less VPN built over private WAN. This post is a good summary of Cisco Live presentations and the GETVPN design guide.

CCDE – WAN SPEEDS AND BASIC VOICE CALCULATION

This post explains different WAN rates such as T1, E1, DS3, OC-192 etc. In the practical you might get the BW in clear writing but I still recommend you learn these basic rates by heart.

CCDE – MPLS-TE AUTO TUNNELS

MPLS primary one-hop tunnels is a way of scaling MPLS-TE networks and achieving FRR for both MPLS-TE LSPs and LSPs signalled by LDP as well as plain IP traffic. One-hop tunnels are tunnels that are one hop and built between adjacent routers.

CCDE – FIREWALL AND IPS DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS

Security is not as big a part of the practical as RS and SP technologies but you still need some understanding of it. You need to understand where to place security devices along choke points and concepts such as a routed firewall vs a transparent firewall. Where is it most optimal to place an IPS? What is the difference between an IPS and an IDS?

CCDE – LOAD BALANCER DESIGNS

This post on load balancing describes different load balancing designs such as one-armed and direct server return (DSR). Load balancing is not a big topic for the CCDE but I recommend that you learn the basics.

MANY TO MANY MULTICAST – PIM BIDIR
MORE PIM-BIDIR CONSIDERATIONS

These two posts describe PIM BiDir which is normally used in many to many multicast deployments such as in the financial vertical. What is the role of the RP in PIM BiDir? How is RP redundancy achieved? These posts teach these concepts.

INTERVIEW WITH CCDE/CCAR PROGRAM MANAGER ELAINE LOPES

This is an interview I did with the CCDE program manager, Elaine Lopes. It explains why you should go for the CCDE and what study resources are available for the CCDE.

IPV6 MULTICAST

IPv6 multicast is probably not a key technology for the CCDE but you should be familiar of the concepts which I have summarized in this blog post.

SERVICE PROVIDER IPV6 DEPLOYMENT

In the road to deploying IPv6, what transition technologies can we use in the mean time? What is 6RD? What is 6PE? What can we deploy when we have moved to IPv6 but need to maintain IPv4 connectivity? Those concepts are explained in this post.

DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS FOR NORTH/SOUTH FLOWS IN THE DATA CENTER

What is bisectional bandwidth? Why does STP waste bandwidth? How can anycast HSRP achieve more efficient forwarding and utilization of links in a leaf and spine topology? Learn about this in this blog post.

QOS DESIGN NOTES FOR CCDE

QoS is a very important topic in the CCDE. This blog post is basically a summary of the End to End QoS Design book. What are the characteristics of different type of applications such as voice and video? How should we mark traffic? How much bandwidth should be set aside for the LLQ? This post is important to understand QoS for the CCDE practical.

There are some more posts available but I recommend that you start with these. To reach all of the posts I’ve done for the CCDE, you can follow this link.

CCDE Slack Study Group

I and my friend Kim Pedersen started a CCDE study group in Slack. In my opinion it was one of the key factors that made me pass this exam in my first attempt. We discussed different technologies and designs and the group consists of a lot of different subject matter experts. We have experts in a wide range of technologies. The CCDE is very difficult to achieve on your own which is possible when studying for the CCIE.

Cisco Validated Designs

Cisco has a program called Cisco validated designs (CVD) where different architectures such as Campus design are explained and what the best practices are in such environments. I recommend that you read through at least the following CVD’s.

Campus LAN and Wireless LAN Design Summary – October 2015

Internet Edge Design Summary – October 2015

WAN Design Summary – October 2015

Intelligent WAN Technology Design Guide – February 2016

Closing Words

I studied for this exam for about two years. There are no shortcuts. You need to be an expert in RS and SP technologies and you need a basic understanding of DC and Security design as well. Reading all the material in this blog post will not make you a CCDE but it provides you with the foundation of the knowledge that you need for the exam. By putting this in a blog post I hope to help the CCDE candidates out there to a more efficient study path.

CCDE – My Journey To Becoming Swedens 2nd CCDE
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43 thoughts on “CCDE – My Journey To Becoming Swedens 2nd CCDE

  • May 21, 2016 at 9:45 am
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    congratulations on your sucess Daniel!
    This is a really comprehensive article. thank you very much for going into so much detail.

    Reply
    • May 21, 2016 at 9:48 am
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      Thanks, Neil! I hope it helps other people on this journey.

      Reply
  • May 21, 2016 at 2:56 pm
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    Thanks Daniel for sharing the details !!!!

    Reply
  • May 21, 2016 at 3:12 pm
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    Congrats Daniel for your achievement. persistence is the key, I have been trying to commit to study CCDE since 2 years with no luck, It is tough to squeeze time form work and family to study. Hopefully you can provide you own training too !!

    Reply
    • May 21, 2016 at 6:22 pm
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      Thanks, Mohamed! We will see what happens. Maybe I will introduce some form of training.

      Reply
  • May 21, 2016 at 3:45 pm
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    Thanks Daniel – ver well written.Do you recommend CCDE even without a CCIE – in R&S or SP ?

    Reply
    • May 21, 2016 at 6:23 pm
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      I wouldn’t recommend it but it’s certainly doable. Look at Marwan Al-shawi whom became a CCDE and wrote the CCDE study guide without being a CCIE. He does have extensive design experience though.

      Somehow you need to attain the knowledge and if you aren’t already very strong in RS and SP it will be a longer journey.

      Reply
  • May 21, 2016 at 6:12 pm
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    Congratulations !!!
    How long took your CCDE journey?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • May 21, 2016 at 6:24 pm
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      Thanks!

      It took me around 2 years where I really picked up pace in the last year of studies.

      Reply
  • May 21, 2016 at 9:43 pm
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    Congrats Daniel for your achievement. One question how I can join the slack study group

    Reply
    • May 21, 2016 at 9:46 pm
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      Thanks! How far are you into your studies? To join you should preferably have taken the written or at least be close in taking it.

      Reply
      • May 22, 2016 at 12:48 am
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        Hi, I have a practical exam after 3 months

        Reply
        • May 22, 2016 at 7:22 am
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          Great! I will add you. I want to keep the group with high quality individuals that are close to taking the lab. You seem to have a great profile so I will add you!

          Reply
          • May 22, 2016 at 9:28 am
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            Thanks

  • May 22, 2016 at 8:46 am
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    Please enroll me also in the study group.

    Reply
    • May 22, 2016 at 9:32 am
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      How far are you into your studies? Do you hold any current certifications?

      Reply
      • May 23, 2016 at 8:04 am
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        CCNA – but I have a good breadth of experience working in all areas from L1 to L7 on Acatel DSLAM,IOS Routers , ASA and now Sourcefire IPS.

        Reply
  • May 22, 2016 at 6:19 pm
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    Hello Daniel,
    Congrats mate. I have seen you grow from preparing your CCIE studies with INE to becoming a CCDE. You pave the way for others. I am interested in the Slack group. Thanks for adding me.

    Reply
    • May 22, 2016 at 7:45 pm
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      Thank you, Malick! It’s been a great journey which started out in 2010, going for the CCIE. I was a lot on IEOC in those days 🙂

      I will invite you.

      Reply
  • May 22, 2016 at 6:20 pm
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    Congrats Daniel and Thanks for such a great post.

    Reply
  • May 23, 2016 at 4:28 am
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    daniel,

    i would also like to be added to the study group

    Reply
  • May 23, 2016 at 4:14 pm
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    i have passed CCIE RS 4 years ago , and i dot have enough hands-on and knowledge in SP , can i go with this study plan , without getting into materials discussing the technology itself , are the suggested materials enough to understand the technology and the design as well , or only design ?

    Reply
    • May 23, 2016 at 4:21 pm
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      It’s very difficult to say. I think you would probably have to do some additional reading but if you start with these materials and then see how much of them you understand, you can look for additional reading to enforce your learning.

      You do need to have expert knowledge of technologies to be able to choose the most optimal design, you don’t need to know the CLI though.

      Reply
  • May 24, 2016 at 10:29 am
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    Cong!!! I was one of your follower since your CCIE Time.
    And all yours posts are really helpful to us.

    What is the entry requirement for studygroup. I was done for SP,RnS and DC. And planning to do DE as well. Thanks

    Reply
    • May 24, 2016 at 10:36 am
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      Thanks!

      It’s always nice to hear from people following me from the beginning.

      You are 3x CCIE? The requirement is that you should have the written done and be preparing for the practical but I have made exceptions for people that are subject matter experts within different architectures. So if you are CCIE certified that buys you some slack.

      Reply
  • May 26, 2016 at 3:08 pm
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    Grattis Daniel!

    Great achievement.

    Please add me to the study group as well. I have quite extensive background in RS. Have booked lab for RS in july. Already has CCNA,CCNP,CCDA and CCDP supported by many years hands-on exp.

    Thanks

    Reply
  • June 3, 2016 at 4:45 am
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    Congratz Daniel!

    One Q: What did you use to prepare for the written?

    L

    Reply
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  • June 12, 2016 at 8:55 pm
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    hi daniel kindle add me in the group i have already clear written and attended orhan bootcamp i am doing prep now a days for august exam kindly add me in the group thanks

    Reply
    • June 18, 2016 at 7:10 am
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      Hi! I can’t add anyone right now as the group has hit its limit. Maybe there will open up a few spots after the August sitting.

      Reply
  • June 17, 2016 at 11:37 pm
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    Well done Daniel. I’ve found your blog a great resource over the past years.Can you add me to group. Thanks!

    Reply
    • June 18, 2016 at 7:10 am
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      Thanks! I can’t add anyone right now as the group has hit its limit. Maybe some spots will open up after the Aug sitting.

      Reply
  • June 30, 2016 at 3:40 pm
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    Very Well done Daniel, I am a 3xCCIE and looking to complete CCDE in 6 months. Do add me to the group whenever possible

    Reply
  • March 6, 2017 at 10:18 pm
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    Hi Daniel,

    I have been struggling to find a study group. I have been following your forums since long.

    I have found it very helpful. Please request you to add me to the slack group. I have already failed in feb 22 2017. I want to make it this time in may. Would be glad if you can add me.

    Thanks, Sagar

    Reply
    • March 8, 2017 at 10:11 pm
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      Hi Sagar,

      Please share your contact info and Linked in profile. If you don’t want to post it here, reach out to me at Twitter.

      Reply
  • April 8, 2017 at 6:31 am
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    Hi I want to purse CCDE , kindly guide me.

    Reply
    • April 30, 2017 at 8:04 am
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      What have you done so far? The first step is to go through the blueprint and make an assessment of where you are now within each technology domain.

      Reply
  • April 10, 2017 at 3:08 pm
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    Hi Daniel,

    Thanks for the great article!

    I have passed the written exam recently and started my preparation for the practical one. Could you add me to the study group.

    Regards,
    Krasimir

    Reply
  • May 7, 2017 at 7:07 pm
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    Hi Daniel,

    I would like to join the slack group. I started preparing on this journey and pass the written already. I would like to get the best advice to continue on my journey. Please let me know how i can join.

    Thanks!

    Robert.-

    Reply
  • May 16, 2017 at 11:50 am
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    Hi Daniel,

    I would as well like to get into the Slack group.
    I have just passed the CCDE written and now I’m starting the journey towards the practical exam.

    Best regards
    J

    Reply
  • August 3, 2017 at 8:26 am
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    Hi Daniel,

    I have passed CCDE written and preparing for practical, can you pls add me to study group.

    Reply

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