CCIE Pursuit Blog

January 11, 2009

NetworkWorld: CCIE Lab Interview Pilot

Back in August of last year, Internetwork Expert posted an interesting email on their blog concerning the addition of a brief interview to the CCIE lab in Beijing, China.  I posted my take on the issue here.  There was never any verfication as to whether this was ever implemented (this could have been a fake email) or not. 

Dear Candidate:

On August 27, Cisco will introduce a pilot for the CCIE Routing and Switching lab exam in Beijing, China. The pilot will add a 10-minute interview that will assess the candidate’s ability to apply expert-level networking skills and knowledge to networking problems that are encountered on the job. After the lab orientation, a panel of three experts will conduct a verbal interview with each candidate, asking a series of expert-level networking questions (questions and answers will be in English). The ability to correctly answer these questions will affect the exam score. After completing the interview, the candidate will have the entire 8 hours to complete the lab portion of the exam.  These scores will then be calculated and then combined for a total score which will decide a pass or a fail.

Our goal with this email is to let you know that your day will extend beyond the normal testing day by approximately one hour.  The additional hour will be at the end of the day. We hope you find this interview process enlightening and helpful as we continue to strive for the standard the world has come to expect from CCIE.

Cisco Subnet recently spoke with Cisco about the issue and it turns out that this was a legitimate email:

Cisco confirmed that it is running a pilot in its exam lab in Beijing, China that involves candidates taking a 10-minute verbal interview as part of their lab exam. Cisco said that if the pilot is successful, the interview could be introduced as a requirement for CCIE Routing & Switching candidates worldwide. The company has been running the pilot since August.

Fred Weiller, director of marketing at Learning@Cisco said the pilot is another method to assess a candidate’s skills level and to “guage if the candidate has the verbal ability to explain and answer technical questions and interface with others on problems,” he said.

He added that good verbal skills would help CCIEs get better support from Cisco TACs, particularly since CCIEs are granted special access to Cisco support personnel.

Any effects of the pilot on cheating is secondary, he said.

Weiller added that the pilot was introduced in China because of the high level of demand for the CCIE exam in that country which gives Cisco a big sample base for the pilot.

I find it odd that Cisco would roll out a pilot which affects the final score only in China.  The “big sample base” seems like a canard, because your sample base is only going to be as big as the number of candidates that can be tested in the Beijing location.  Unless that testing center has many more seats then I don’t see how this makes sense.  The US has two testing centers so I would think that you would have a bigger base here.  But that’s just my speculation….based on ignorance.  🙂

The interview aspect doesn’t concern me much except that it’s not explained how the interview will affect your lab score.  I have to assume that you can only lose points in the process.   At least on the lab you know the point value for the tasks.  How many points can be lost (gained?) via the interview?

December 3, 2008

NetworkWorld: Looking For CCIE/Cisco Blogs/Websites

NetworkWorlds’s Cisco Subnet recently posted their “Top 10 Cisco Stories of 2008”.  Number one on their list:

20 useful sites for Cisco networking professionals
Our most-read Cisco Subnet post is our pick of 20 useful sites for Cisco networking professionals. We published the list in February and since then we’ve come across plenty more useful sites, so watch this space as we’re planning to update the list soon. If you own or know of a site that should be on the list, please send an e-mail to Linda Leung (

Somehow NetworkWorld included this blog on that list.  Please don’t let the good folks at NW make that type of mistake again.  🙂  If you have a CCIE (or other Cisco-centric) blog, go ahead an email Linda with your information.

November 11, 2008

NetworkWorld: CCIE Buzz Blog Launched

I’ve been really busy the last few days. I will return to (semi) regular blogging tomorrow. In the meantime allow me to pimp out a new CCIE blog:

Welcome to the CCIE Buzz blog, written by CCIE candidates, CCIE Pursuit, CCIE Talk and CCIE Journey. You may know them through their own blogs; now you can read them on Network World in one single blog (and you can go to their their own respective blogs to read more of their CCIE tips, tricks and musings).

CCIE Buzz blog is here.

The CCIE Buzzers are engineers like you who will be sharing their CCIE journeys with you. CCIE Pursuit will post information about each stage of pursuing the CCIE; CCIE Talk will discuss how to get started with the CCIE; and CCIE Journey will discuss CCIE technical topics.
We hope you will enjoy the blog. We’d also love to hear your CCIE journeys as well, so please use this platform to chew the fat with your peers.
Please join me in welcoming the CCIE Buzzers.
Linda Leung
Cisco Subnet Editor

Each Monday I’ll be posting an entry covering the steps to becoming a CCIE.  My first two posts are here and here.  CCIE Talk’s first post is here.  CCIE Journey – who must have naked pictures of someone over at NetworkWorld 🙂 – will be posting on Fridays.

April 7, 2008

Go Ahead, Nerd Out!

Filed under: Cisco,OT: Humor — cciepursuit @ 10:32 am
Tags: , ,

File this one under stuff only a nerd would love – an article that combines a popular SciFi show with Cisco:

How Cisco lost out in networking Battlestar Galactica

I don’t watch Battlestar Galactica so I’m sure that I’m missing half of the humor, but the Sale Representative character’s speech and behavior is all too familiar:

“Our main operational need is to kill the enemy,” interjected his Executive Officer, Colonel Tigh. “Can your integrated computer network help us do that?”

Of course, it can! I started to explain how the hardened, Cisco Cosmos Integrated Network (CCIN), by converging voice, data and video, in a redundant topology over a multiterabyte fiber backbone, can cut the time for the initial firing solution of the main batteries by 15%, leading directly to more deaths. (The original presentation had a high-def clip of CGI warships blowing up at this point, but of course they didn’t see it.)

The Executive Officer asked how Cisco would protect the network from a Cylon attack. Which was a ridiculous question, really, given that no one had even seen a Cylon for 40 years. I punted, and told him Cisco was developing a comprehensive Anti-Cylon Security Package option for CCIN. I thought I had dealt confidently with his questions and overcome his objections, but, strangely, he expressed skepticism. In rather abusive terms.

—Read The Rest Here—

February 20, 2008

Network World’s 20 Useful Sites for Cisco Networking Professionals

You may want to read this with your eyes closed as I am going to indulge in a little self-congratulatory revelry.  I was surprised and delighted to see the following comment today:

Hi CCIE Pursuit, I couldn’t find a contact address for you so I am posting my message here. I wanted to let you know that your site is one of Network World’s 20 useful sites for Cisco networking professionals

Nice job!

Linda Leung, Network World Assistant Site Editor.

I was pretty excited to see my blog make the list (I’m on page 18).  That is,  until I found out that CCIE Journey had made the cut as well.  The bar must be set very low for him to make it in.  🙂  Just messing around.  Mad love to CCIE Journey.

I can always count on my better half to deflate any small victories I might achieve:

“Check it out.  My blog made a top 20 list in Network World”
“Great.  Can you translate that from Nerd to English?”
“No, I can’t dumb it down for you.”
“Well, I just made a list of 20 useful things you can do around the house.”

Everyday she kills another little piece of me.  🙂

Anyhoo…check out the list.  Any list that doesn’t include CCIE Candidate is incomplete, but I think that they did a good job.  I strongly encourage you to check out the sites that they list.  I was acquainted with most of the site, but the article did expose me to a couple of interesting sites that I had not seen before:

Networking Forum

TechWise TV

January 23, 2008

Network Device Naming Conventions

Filed under: Cisco,Personal,Work — cciepursuit @ 8:09 pm
Tags: , ,

I stumbed across this posting by Michael Morris concerning naming conventions:

When I started working on global enterprise networks it got much more interesting. Now you had thousands of routers at hundreds of sites in different rooms and closets/IDFs in all parts of the world. Now naming conventions became very important. A very large bank network I worked on was terrible: 5,000 routers with a cryptic naming convention that was (1) hard to understand and (2) not well followed. Adding to the problem was the city name of the router was often not an actual city. It was a name the bank liked to refer to the site as. Good luck trying to remember all those names. The rest of the name had some good points, but also several bad ones. It was not something I enjoyed.

The government network I worked on was minimalist. It was [city]-r1. For example, BUF-R1. Really boring and really useless. Some small company networks like to be cute and name devices after beer brands or rock bands or cartoon characters. That starts to fail quickly when the small company gets just a tad larger.

—Read The Rest Here—

My previous job was supporting an international WAN with over 3000 routers.  Not only did we have a ton of routers, but nearly 30 separate business divisions –  each of which had their own naming convention.  To add even more fun, most of the router “hostnames” were not the same as their FQDN names.  We kept a database with circuit IDs mapped to router names.  Of course, there were many deleted circuits and typos in the database.  This always made it fun when a vendor called to report a circuit down and we could not find out which device it terminated on.  Not to mention all of the tiny sites that we supported that shared a city name with a more famous, larger city.  A router named “miami” goes down and you start looking at Florida…wrong!  It’s in Miami, Oklahoma.  We had three Pittsburgh sites – none of which were in Pennsylvania.  And (as Michael Morris mentioned) there were a bunch of places (including our corporate headquarters) that were referred to by any number of local cities.  This lead to a lot of lost “support cycles” just trying to narrow down what device was being affected. 

My current job supports a uniform naming convention and it is an absolute joy to work with.  There are still the occasional anomalies, but it’s infinitely better than the mess I came from.  Our naming convention is similar to the one mention in Michael Morris’ post.  We have unique five-character real estate codes.  Prepended to that is a code for the device type.  At the end is the floor and IDF that the device is located in.  Very little time is lost trying to determine where a device is located.

I’m sure that there are a number of readers who do/did server support and have MUCH worse naming stories.  🙂

November 7, 2007

CCIE Lab Swapping

I missed this posting when it came out on 11 October, but Brad Reese has a must read post concerning swapping CCIE lab dates.  The post started off very promising with the mention of a site that acts as a central point to exchange lab dates.  I clicked on the hyperlink and quickly discovered what I would have found out if I had read Reese’s article a little further: the site went up in February of this year and has exactly zero responses. 

From there Reese mentions the Group Study lab swap page, which is similarly dead.  He then lists a few more lively sites, including the Routing and Switching Lab Swap forum at  Still, with as many request for lab swaps as I see on various forum, you would think that these types of sites would be vastly more popular.

The great thing about Brad’s blog is that he is often able to go directly to Cisco and bounce question off of them.  In this case he uncovered some surprising and – for many CCIE candidates – disappointing answers from Lang Tibbels (PR Manager Corporate Communications for Cisco).  I encourage you to go to Brad’s post and read it in its entirety, but here are Lang’s responses (emphasis mine):

“According to the policies that govern our CCIE certification date swapping is not allowed.”

“If you give up a date you must reschedule via the online system.”

“If another candidate wants that date they must request it via the online tool.”

“A photo ID is required for the lab test and thus the ID must match the individual registered.”

“Our lab backlog varies by location, but on average is 1-3 months.”

“Our no show ratio is very low given candidates are charged if they don’t show, so many simply reschedule.”

“We are aware of the lab backlog and continue to work on expanding lab capacity.”

“CCIEs don’t have to take the lab test when recertifying.”

“New CCIEs have 18-months to schedule their lab test after passing the written.”

I’ve never delved into the exact process behind candidates swapping lab dates, but I always assumed that it was a simple matter of getting the two parties to agree to swap dates and those two candidates somehow got Cisco to go along with it.  I am surprised to find out that Cisco says that date swapping is not allowed as I’ve seen plenty of posts from candidates who have successfully swapped a lab date.

Blog at