There was some interest in me writing about my lab experience. Naturally yesterday I felt devastated after the results coming back. I feel a bit better today but it still hurts but I’m planning my revenge as we speak. This post will describe the experience and point out some lessons that I learned by taking the lab.
My lab journey starts at Landvetter which is the airport of Gothenburg. I arrived there 15:45 which left plenty of time until my plane was leaving at 17:30. When I arrived I noticed there were a lot of police officers and when I was going to walk into the area for international flights and was stopped and they said I should go to the area for domestic flights instead. I did not reflect so much about it but when I got to the domestic area I saw there was a tonne of people and started to realize that something was wrong. I tried to talk to people working at the airport and they told me that they had found a suspicious bag that someone had forgotten. Probably only a honest mistake but they took every precaution possible. Instead of leaving at 17:30 my plane finally left at around 20:30. I was supposed to arrive 19:30 in Brussels but arrived about 22:45 instead. Lesson learned: Leave more room for incidents when flying, next time I’m going mid day or morning instead.
I finally arrive in Brussels and get my bag and then I walk to the area where the Taxis are. I try to get a taxi but the driver says that there are shuttles available to the hotel downstairs. I walk down to the shuttle area and find a timetable only to realize that the last one had already left. I go back upstairs again and try to get a Taxi. The driver does not want to drive such a short distance to the hotel (4km). I’m starting to get really stressed out by now.
I phone the NH hotel and ask them and they send a taxi for me. It takes about 20 min before it arrives and at around 23:45 I finally arrive at the hotel. I check in and go upstairs to the room. Naturally by now I’ve had a really bad day and I am feeling really stressed. I am worried that I will not get enough sleep for the lab. I try to relax but it’s not that easy and the AC in the room is making a lot of noise so I can’t go to sleep. I finally leave bed and turn it off and at around 01:00 I go to sleep.
I wake up at 06:30 and then I meet Gavin for breakfast at 07:00, he is a new friend which I found on IEOC(congrats on pass). We leave the hotel at 07:45 to go to the lab. Gavin had checked out the location the day before so everything should be cool. At around 08.10 we are surprised to not see any other candidates and also no Cisco employees. We realize that we are in the wrong location. We were at the back of the Cisco main building, this is not the lab location! The lab location is one building further away close to DHL. You will pass a bridge when you are at the right location.
We arrive there at 08:15 and sign in at the reception. We see a few other guys waiting in the sofa. Shortly after the proctor arrives. We take the elevator up to the lab location. The proctor tells us what rack we are assigned and we sit down. We have to leave personal belongings like wallets and phones in a locker and only bring identification to our allocated seat. We get two laminated papers with general instructions for the labs. The proctor gives a brief description and what times we will break for lunch etc.
The troubleshooting begins. The troubleshooting section is 2h with about 10 tickets to solve. It is a bit stressed for time but by my count I had solved 9 tickets or at worst 8 which should be good enough to pass that section. The TS section is totally virtualized running IOU for both routing and switching. There is about 30 devices and every tickets shows you whereabout the error can be. This will be everything from 2-3 devices to about 8-10 devices. When I got my score back I was surprised to see I had a much lower score than expected, unfortunately I don’t know why.
Then the configuration section began. I read through the entire lab at first trying to pick up dependencies and stuff like that. I saw a few things that needed some attention. I then started working on the configuration. When we went to lunch I had almost finished layer2. For my next attempt I want to be finished with IGP at this stage. The lunch was your average lunch except that nobody was talking very much. I tried to use the time to think about a task that I had for the l2 section. This actually helped and gave me some extra time to think about it.
We went back from lunch and back to the configuration. I got stuck on some tasks that I usually do very quickly otherwise, clearly it must be nerves. Finally I had a working IGP and redistribution and started testing with TCL script and macro. I was nervous so at first I could not get the TCL syntax correct, this is what nerves will do to you. Finally I got it right and I had full reachability.
I went on with some other tasks. I got stuck on some things for too long. Next time I will try to move along faster and then go back later if there is time left. When there was about 45 min left I still had lots to do and started to realize that I would probably not pass. I went into do or die mode, I’m not going to give up now, I will give it a final push and at least try my best. I configured like a mad man the last 45 min and did a lot of tasks. Unfortunately I probably got a lot of stuff wrong since I was in such a rush and did not have time to verify properly.
When time was out I still had 3 tasks I couldn’t solve. I realized that I probably had failed but still had some hopes. The lab I got was very advanced with some features I did not expect to see so heavily tested. I really can’t say more than that. The lab is about details and veryfing, I got too stressed for time and lost a lot of points due to this. I will have to spend my time better next time. I will also try to practice on scenarios where the goal is to go from scratch to IGP full reachability in as short time as possible.
We go back to the hotel at around 17:00. Gavin and I share a couple of beers. He feels he did well on the config but I felt I probably did not have a chance. I spend the evening in the hotel and try to catch some sleep early but I just could not go to sleep. Finally at 01:30 the e-mail from Cisco is in my inbox. I thought the result would be in the e-mail but you need to login to the portal to see your result. To login there you need your Cisco candidate ID, written track, written date and written passing score. I was able to get all information from Pearson Vue and Cisco certification tracking system except for the written score. I knew the first two digits of the score and tried a couple of times before I got it right.
I saw the fail and then the percentages and my world pretty much came to a stop. I was devastated and just wanted to stop studying, quit my job and go into the woods or something. I got home to Sweden in the morning and felt crappy all day. Later in the evening I started feeling a bit better and now I’m building up my motivation to go for a 2nd attempt. I will probably go again in a couple of months.
One other mistake I’m definately guilty of is asking too few questions. I did go to the proctor a single time, I just got stressed and it’s easy getting glued to your chair in those situations. I will not make that mistake again. I tried to keep my sugar levels up by eating some bananas and chocolate at the lab, this worked fairly well. You are allowed to bring some snacks in if you want to. There will also be coffee and water available to drink. I only drink water but if you drink Coffee don’t overdo it. You don’t want to be running to the toilet every 5 min.
That is my story and the next time I write one I hope to have some better news. Thanks for reading.