Note: This is probably going to be a rambling description of my recent Internetwork Expert Mock Lab Workshop in Reno. I’ll try to keep it semi-linear and throw in some tech content, but you’ve been warned. 🙂
After catching up on my sleep the night prior I wandered down to the training room at 7 am sharp. There was a sign near the door that showed 7 am as the starting time for the training. There was no one there at that time. At this point I was starting to freak out a bit. Maybe the Mock Lab Workshop was being held somewhere else. When I signed up for the training it was being held at IE’s training headquarters. I had actually booked a car and hotel for that area before receiving a pdf stating that the training was at the Grand Sierra. The IE website showed the Grand Sierra as the location as well. The sign outside the training room was for the CCIE Bootcamp. I went back to my room and reviewed my emails. I decided to pop back down around 8 am and if there was still no one there then I would call IE.
At 8 am there were about 5 people in the room. I asked if this was the Mock Lab Workshop and was told ‘yes’. I knew that IE was running a 12 day bootcamp at the same time as my class. It turns out that the 12 day bootcamp is a traditional 5 day bootcamp followed by an extra weekend of training and then the Mock Lab Workshop. So all but a handful of folks (like myself) had already been training for 7 days.
I got settled in. As the IE flyer stated, you’ll need your own laptop with a wireless card. As I stated earlier, I couldn’t load XP on my box (scratched media) so I loaded Ubuntu. I was unable to get the wireless to work in the airport so it was now crunch time. I did bring an older ThinkPad with me in case this failed, but the PCMCIA card in that sucker was B only. I didn’t want to cut everyone’s access speed in half if I didn’t need to. No worries as the Hardy Heron was up to the task.
There were about 20 students in the class. There was a strong international representation as there were students from Germany, France, Switzerland, Columbia, Mexico, UAE, and Russia (I’m probably forgetting some). There were quite a few ISPs represented as well as large enterprise firms and contractors. From what I could gather, most of the students had not attempted the lab yet. We did a brief introduction where we stated our name, experience, and lab date. Most of the lab dates were in June or July. There were a couple of students who were taking the lab shortly after the completion of this course. Most of the students were very sharp, except for Tony. Fuck Tony. 🙂
The class started around 9 am each day. From 9 until 11(ish) we would go over the previous day’s mock lab. Then around 11 (this time had to be flexible as the lab discussion ususally went long) we would take lunch and then come back and do an 8 hour mock lab. A lot of the students took dinner after the mock lab completed and then came back to the training room to study some more or to shoot the shit and utilize the free wireless connection. I quickly fell into a pattern of staying up late, then waking up in time to get to class (sometimes hitting the breakfast buffet before class). I made it to the gym only one time (the first day). You end up spending a good 16 hours in training (with breaks for lunch and dinner).
There was fresh fruit, coffee, juice, and pastries in the training room every morning. Around noon they would add a bunch of soda. Each student was given vouchers to use at the various shops and restaurants within the hotel. You got $40 worth of vouchers per day ($15 for lunch and $25 for dinner, although you could combine them anyway you wanted). The hotel had a decent cafe, a buffet (only made it there once, for breakfast), a “Johnny Rockets” hamburger bar, and a deli. There were probably other places as well, but those are the ones that I remember. The food is good, especially since I did not expect to be eating for free. During the week a number of students left early for various reasons. They generally gave away their unused vouchers. This meant that even if you tried to burn up you vouchers on surf and turf every day, at the end of the week there was still a pile of vouchers left for the “survivors”. I had actually planned to go with another guy to get sushi on the last night, but we still had about $300 worth of vouchers between a group of four, so we had surf and turf (two of the guys added extra lobster tails) with appetizers and deserts. I was actually happy to get home and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich after a week of the “high life”. Although I wasn’t eating bad (pizza, donuts, etc.) as my desk-mate (Cisco SE from Iowa – he was much cooler that that description sounds 🙂 ) commented, “We’re burning about 3 calories per day.” You were pretty much sitting, eating, or sleeping the entire time. I did not leave the hotel during the entire five days. Some of the bootcamp attendees did not leave the hotel for 12 days!
It’s a bad idea to post about arriving in Reno and your experience the night before if you want to maintain anonymity. About 5 minutes into the class, someone asked me “I wonder who the blogger is?”. I replied, “I don’t know, but I hear that guy is a douche.” He quickly fingered me and in doing so agreed that I was a douche (which is true, but it usually takes more than a few seconds for someone to call me that). The whole “Ethan Banks vs CertGuard” drama was in full effect at that time. Everyone agreed that Ethan was getting shafted. It was very cool that by the 2nd or 3rd day the issue was over and Ethan was back online. I caught crap from Brian and others about the blog. My favorite came from Mr. Cisco SE: “You write CCIEPursuit? Wow. I used to think that guy was some type of authority, but after meeting you I know better.” Ouch. True, but damn!
The class was taught by Brian Dennis (fresh off of getting his Voice CCIE) and Petr Lapukhov, whom you may know from his posts on the IE blog. Brian McGahan was in Amsterdam (so we know which Brian chose the short straw). Petr’s story is interesting. He worked at a university in Moscow. He’s an ABD (all but dissertation) PhD in Mathematics. While studying for the CCIE, he emailed Brian Dennis and offered to fact-check the Volume II labs. Petr is the one who put in all of the verification commands and output in those labs. Brian realized that Petr was very smart so he called him in Moscow and offered him a job with IE. Petr passed all 4 of his CCIEs in an 18 month time-frame! The guy is brilliant, although he has some strange fixation with soup. 🙂
If you’ve listened to the ATCOD then you pretty much know Brian Dennis’ personality. He’s pretty laid back and funny. He’s also pretty devious when it comes to labs and practical jokes. During the week that I was there Brian did most of the speaking.
Well, I have to get back to tacking the couple of hundred unread emails in my inbox. I’ll post the rest of this over the week.