This guest post was authored by Cisco Designated VIP Christian Kellerer.
If you’re an aspiring CCIE, you know that achieving this prestigious certification requires hard work, discipline, and persistence. My name is Chris Kellerer, and as a Cisco Learning Network VIP, I have successfully climbed the Cisco certification mountain from bottom to top. I hope that my story provides valuable insight and inspiration to help you reach your own CCIE certification goals.
From apprentice to discovering Cisco certifications
My networking journey began when I finished my apprenticeship in 2014, but I was still unsure of my long-term career path at that point. Then, in 2017, I found myself working alongside a CCIE-certified contractor on a complex networking project.
He patiently taught me advanced networking technologies such as NX-OS, ASA, FirePOWER, ISE, and PRIME. After sharing his own CCIE Lab experience, it was the advice he gave next that started my certification journey.
“If you really want to become certified, you need the passion for it and must do it step by step. Start at the bottom. First, get your CCNA, and then if you’re still interested, do the CCNP. Finally, if you really want to dig deep, get the CCIE.”
That’s what started me down the path to certification.
Tackling the first hurdles: CCNA and CCNP
Using Cisco whitepapers and official E-learning courses, I began my CCNA Routing & Switching studies (now simply called the CCNA) in early 2018. I completed it in just six months. After passing the exams, I immediately dove right into the CCNP Routing & Switching (now CCNP Enterprise) certification, completing it by March 2019.
I found TSHOOT to be the most enjoyable exam, and in retrospect, it felt like a teeny-tiny baby version of the CCIE lab exam. While passing the exams boosted my confidence, I was still uncertain about my career direction.
Cisco Live and the redesigned CCIE Certification Program
My journey was not without its roadblocks. Despite my early success with CCNA and CCNP, it was at this point that I found myself stuck and uncertain about my career path. Not only was the CCIE blueprint intimidating, but it also felt somewhat outdated from a technology point of view.
I stopped studying for a few months. However, that all changed when Cisco Live 2019 brought the clarity and motivation I needed to continue. That year, Cisco announced the coming of a redesigned certification program, including the successor to the CCIE Routing & Switching: The newly named CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure (CCIE EI) track.
The updated blueprint included traditional networking while also introducing modern topics like SDx and programming/automation. That’s the moment I became determined to take the next step and earn my CCIE.
The CCIE lab exam: First, second, and third attempts
My first attempt at the CCIE Lab in October 2020 was a nerve-wracking experience. Even though I felt prepared for some aspects, I felt underprepared for others.
I found myself struggling with the tasks, going through them in an unordered sequence—not to mention the large number of tasks was intimidating. The redesigned CCIE program added to the challenge, as the new lab environment was still in its early stages. Disappointed in my performance, I received the news that I had failed both modules. The failure hit me hard, and with the lab’s uncertainty due to the pandemic, I stopped studying for several months.
When I restarted my studies in January 2021, I was more determined than ever. This time, I developed a “simple” 7-step strategy for the CCIE lab exam itself:
- Read the material.
- Read the material again.
- Answer the question.
- Read the material again.
- Check the answer.
- Read the material again.
- Recheck the answer.
My second attempt in July 2021 went better than the first, but as I approached the 2.5-hour mark in the DOO module, I panicked. I realized I had made some mistakes and done some illogical things which caused me to run out of time and only finish 2/3 of the tasks.
After the second lab, I again knew I had failed but it was because of simple mistakes and overconfidence. But when I received my scores the next morning, I saw my preparation had massively increased my scores this time around: I passed the DESIGN module, but still failed the DOO module.
For my third attempt in September 2021, I booked the exam just seven days after the second try.
The extra preparation paid off. The DESIGN module went well, and I felt confident approaching the DOO module. Despite getting stuck at one point, I pushed through.
At the very end, with only 25 minutes on the clock and almost none of the tasks having been reviewed, I made a bold decision. I decided to save the running configuration to the startup configuration for every device, making sure they were all in privileged EXEC mode, and used the remaining time to do at least a little bit of configuration verification. With only 10 seconds to spare, I hit the End Exam button.
After my best attempt yet, I received the news by 5 p.m. that same day. I had passed the exam and earned my CCIE EI certification! The journey had been long and tough, but the setbacks only made the win more satisfying.
Life after CCIE: Embracing new opportunities and personal goals
Becoming a CCIE requires hard work, discipline, and persistence. It wasn’t without its challenges, not to mention the substantial investment of time, energy, and cost. With my CCIE in hand and newfound free time, I’ve rediscovered my old hobbies and passions of playing piano… and finally getting back to my private life. I’m excited to discover where my learning journey will take me next. I will always be grateful to the CCIE contractor who introduced me to the world of Cisco certification.
If you’re interested in pursuing a CCIE certification yourself, I invite you to read CCIE Study Materials, Costs, and Preparation Tips. There you can find my study tips, cost breakdowns, and other useful tips that I gathered along my own CCIE certification journey. I also made my lab notes available to everyone at cice.cknetworking.de. Whether you’re just starting out or well into your studies, I hope you find these resources helpful in your pursuit of this challenging certification. Best of luck!
Hear Christian Kellerer tell the story of how he became CCIE #65551 on the Cisco Learning Network Podcast.
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Read next: “What It Takes to Become a CCIE” by Yusuf Bhaiji, Director of Cisco Certifications. Read blog.