Note: This is part 2 (actually part 3) of my long, rambling review of the Internetwork Expert Mock Lab Workshop in Reno. See here and here for the other posts.
I ventured down to the training room around 7:30 am and found a handful of people seated there. I asked if this was the Mock Lab Workshop and was told that it was. It turns out that Internetwork Expert was running a 12-day boot camp which is a the 5-day boot camp plus weekend sessions plus the Mock Lab Workshop. That explained the “Routing and Switching Boot Camp” sign in the hall.
I got settled in and tested the wireless connection. I had installed Ubuntu on my laptop during a layover on my outbound flight (my XP CD was too scratched to work) and had not been able to verify the wireless. I’m happy to say that the Hardy Heron worked fine sans wires. It’s a good thing too, because my backup laptop had an old B radio card in it. I don’t think that anyone would appreciate me dropping the connection to 11Mbps. :-)
The room was catered with fruit, juice, coffee, and pastries each morning. After lunch the breakfast items were removed and a selection of sodas were made available. For those who need their energy drink fix, there is a gift shop on the main floor of the hotel which stocks Red Bull and Rockstar (yuck).
Soon enough Brian Dennis and Petr Lapukhov joined us and the class was underway. One of my classmates pointed them out and said “There’s Brian Dennis.” I had heard his voice (over and over again) on the IECODs so it was interesting to put a face to that voice. I was very surprised at how young he was. Then I figured out that I was looking at Petr and not Brian. :-)
There were about 20 people in the class. All but a handful of them (like myself) had been there for the previous seven days. As I stated earlier, we had a virtual United Nations going in the class. There were students from many different countries. We did brief introductions (name, experience, and lab date). Most of the students had scheduled the lab within the next 1.5 months with about 5 of them going within a week.
The format of the workshop is lecture in the morning (starting around 8 am and ending around 11 am) followed by a mock lab each day except for Friday. Monday’s lecture was about the class structure and (mostly) about lab strategies. If you’ve completed the IECOD or viewed the free COD on lab strategies, then you will have already seen a lot of what was presented. To my surprise there was a lot of new (to me) information presented. Here are a few of the things mentioned (these may or may not be verbatim):
What you can take into the lab is generally up to the proctor’s dicretion. Officially you cannot bring in anything.
The lab is in a binder with about 15 – 20 pages with plastic covers on each page. You can pull the pages out of the binder. Do that. Put them back at the end of the day. Do NOT take the pages out of the plastic cover.
The old version of the lab was on red paper with black ink (difficult to copy).
Most redistribution will take 30 minutes. Do a workaround and come back to it.
The Brussels lab location is incorrect on Google maps. Don’t stay at the Cisco recommended hotel in Brussels as you cannot walk to the lab center and driving there is difficult.
Make sure to put a slash on the end of univercd (/) or the web filter will filter.
The telnet client is SecureCRT running version 4 (or something close to it). No menus. No tabs. You can change the colors. You can change the keyboard mapping. Brian mapped the ~ key to perform copy and paste. Set your scrollback buffer to max (9999 lines). You can use access server or open a unique window to each device. IE recommends to practice labs with the lab restrictions for the last two weeks so you are used to them when you get to the real lab.
Draw your own diagram. IE says that you will get a routing protocol diagram in the lab.
The goal is to try to finish 2 hours early and then use the remaining 2 hours for verification.
There is quite a bit of grading by script in the Routing and Switching lab.
BGP is usually mentioned at the end of the discussions by Cisco, so it’s likely at the end of the test.
You don’t need to build scripts if you are running short on time. Just ping some sample routes.
When you’re done with “full reachability” you should have around 40 points.
Save your configurations after each task.
You want to score 95% of the Frame Relay, IGP, and Ethernet sections in order to pass the lab.
As I mentioned earlier, you will receive $40 worth of meal vouchers for each day of your training. These vouchers are good anything (booze included) at a number of restaurants in the resort. There is a buffet, bistro, sport bar, hamburger joint, sandwich shop, and others in the resort. IE also had a Starbucks gift card available for anyone to use to get free coffee at Starbucks (also in the hotel). You’re not going to go hungry. :-) Do keep in mind that the vouchers do not include gratuity, so bring some cash to tip the waitstaff.
After lunch, we started the first mock lab. I had done this lab months ago and scored an 89 on it. It was a difficulty level 6 lab and did not have a lot of interlocking questions – or so I thought. I was given the opportunity to substitute a different lab for this one since I had already taken it. I decided to do the lab because of the breakdown lecture and because I was coming into the workshop with very little time on the CLI in the prior month. My moral was at a low point and I needed an “easy victory” to get my spirits up again.
One thing that I’ve learned that surprises me is that I am not memorizing labs. My experience with practice exams is that I quickly memorize the question (and answer) so repeated attempts really don’t do me much good because I tend to remember the answer. This has NOT been the case with practice labs. I was initially worried that repeating labs would be fruitless because I would remember the answers. Not so. Maybe it’s due to the length of the labs or the fact that when I do repeat a lab it’s usually been weeks or months since my previous attempt. I did Mock Lab 1 back in March and have not looked at it since. Keen readers will sense that I’m setting the scene for a poor showing on this lab. :-)
For the first time, I followed the advice of completing the core task first and then going back to complete the non-core tasks later. This worked out really well. Brian stated in his lecture that there are certain people who have a hard time skipping tasks. I am in that camp. I can skip (most of the time) non-core tasks that I have no clue how to solve, BUT if I think that I know the answer then I will wrestle that sucker until I complete it. This has thrown me off on a couple of timed labs. I eventually finish the task, but lose so much time and momentum that I screw myself over on the rest of the lab. By sticking to core tasks only, I was able to get full reachability in around 3 hours. Of course I would lose that advantage later when I spent about an hour trying to mine the documentation for a 3 point task instead of verifying my configuration. :-(
I finished all of the tasks that I knew how to do with about 1.5 hours left. My false sense of confidence – “this is an easy lab and I’ve seen it once before” – plus my mental exhaustion lead me to skip the verification stage and try to mine points on the tasks that I was unsure on. I’m still hitting the wall about 6 hours into a lab. At that point I had zero fucking interest in going through each task line by line. I do verification after I complete each task so I should be golden right? I think we all know the answer to that question.
The start times of the labs were slightly staggered so once you were done with your lab most people went back to their rooms or went to dinner. Most would reconvene in the conference room later to take advantage of the rack rentals or just the free wifi. The labs were all graded by the start of the next morning’s session. Brian mentioned that the labs are hand-graded by a CCIE in India. That guy really earned his pay during the week. He had to grade up to 20 (there were a couple of students who did not do the mock labs) mock labs a night. Many times my grade report was done by the time I got back from dinner.
I was unable to download a (free) telnet client that worked with Ubuntu. I DID get Putty installed and working, but could not figure out how to cut and paste. I eventually just used the terminal program in Ubuntu. While using this lead to bouts of anger because of the difference in the copy and paste function (I use Tera Term in “real life”) it was good practice as it made me adjust to a different environment.
One other surprising thing: I was not affected by the noise around me. I had brought ear plugs just in case, but I was able to focus on my lab and not get thrown off by the surrounding noise. I will still bring ear plugs to the lab (VoIP phones ringing will most like throw me off) and it should be noted that there was not a lot of noise in the workshop outside of the occasional groan and the constant clicking of keys.
Anyhoo…I’ve droned on long enough. I’ll try to get this review completed by the end of this week. If you’ve been reading these reviews so far, you know that it’s pretty unlikely that I will be able to hold to that schedule. :-)