You bring up a good question. It's true. I do to spend the majority of my time at work and working for the company - whichever company it may be. The fact is I have to pay my bills first and foremost, while the certifications come next.
If you'll also notice, I'm forced to maintain a variety of skillsets, some of which have nothing to do with the CCIE RS for example and do tend to draw away time and energy.
Yes, I think if time were allotted away from the job (100%) and even without budget (in my case I own mostly everything I could ask for in terms of equipment and materials) I could probably take out the CCIE RS once and for all and make it look pretty easy in 6 months, if that.
I've seen/read of many over the years by now who have done just that. I've also read about or even know a few CCIEs who tend to work for partners more often that not that have done something similar on-the-job in a similar timeframe - recall they are working the materials, have lab access (not building their own lab usually - a little extra stress is endured building/paying for one's own lab gear that has to be accounted for), and these guys have passed the lab usually in 1-3 attempts or so.
Yes - If the time and materials are available and there are little to no distractions then I'd guage 6 months as a fair time frame for a person with about a CCNP to be able to overcome the CCIE Lab or at least be skilled enough to take it and reasonably expect to pass, given the current materials that are on the market today and access to the various blogs/forums/lists for any issues that one may still find elusive.
I've backtracked my own studies. I spent last year working pretty hard on say switching. Right now I study every available hour on OSPF, etc.
I don't mean just read it, think I have it, and maybe do it, and walk away thinking I have it and still coming up shy of being the expert.
I mean read it, watch it, and do it. Then repeat the process like groundhog day again... and again... If I can sit and tell someone what every bit of output is as I'm typing and if I can explain the entire process of the bulding the neighbor relationship and then forming the adjacency and using the language down to the database descriptors, etc. Then I might be able to understand that I'm actually getting close to the CCIE level prep required for the lab.
That's how I'm studying this year for it. I was hoping a week per topic. That has now turned into a month. And I can can see 2 months on the horizon just for OSPF alone.
However, I expect to be explaining OSPF every chance I get to everyone I can after that to keep it sharp as I go back over RIP/EIGRP to the same degree of explicit understanding. I don't want to have to rely on a single packet going by that I am assuming is doing something I may not understand. I've done this in the past and it has returned to bite me. Everything must be fully understood, else wasting trips to classes and to the CCIE Lab at places like RTP are wasted trips.
I've learned a lot in a lot of classes - no doubt. I've not learned the really nitty-gritty of what needs to be totally understood however. Some things are not taught in the CCIE classes - let's face it - 40-80 hours in a week is a lot of time, but it is severely limited.
There's not a single topic in the lab that can be mastered in 40-80 hours from A-Z and labbed up accordingly for the newbie (CCNP or so) and not one topic is given that much time for obvious reasons.
I might argue for Multicast or RIP and some one-off topics. However, I've found that even these little topics after studying continuously we sometimes have the tendency to get bored and satisfy ourselves with the stuff we do know. Fair enough. It happens. We are human.
Things like the boredom and some of the posts I read where people have said the exam seems easy when taken can easily dull one's senses... and worse people who pass somehow think you know more than you know and congratulate you on you passing attempt, when in fact, you are just going on to the lab to help make the statistics a little more impressive and hopefully enjoy a delighful mean with the proctors.
So that kind of obligatory congratulations that is usually unqualified makes one feel a little strange when the lab itself is not passed time after time.
If you can get away and study for at least 6 months and not lose sight of the target, that would be excellent. I'd have that lab paid for, cabled, and ready to go before day one started. I'd also have my materials in my hand and a firm plan on what I am going to cover with the flexibility and common sense to realize that I might need to spend more time on one or more areas than originally budgeted for.
Finally, I would not let "covering a topic" overcome mastering a topic. If you went 6 months and for some reason only mastered switching, then you've got one amazing bullet covered and it may well take 6 months to fully understand a complex topic like switching. Don't be mad at yourself it really takes most people years to comprehend everything encompassed by the Cisco 3560 Switching manual. I promise it probably took longer than 6 months for the authors to write it the first time and it is sorely condensed by any measure of the word.
So be wise and realize that some of these topics are not "time-bound" and some need time to fully appreciate what is happening. Alternatively, just debug the hell out of each one and get to the point you can understand the entire conversation from the start to the finish. It sounds like I'm joking, but I a smile didn't even cross my face. Nope. I'm serious.
Hope this kind of helps out a bit. Remember everyone takes a little different approach to the CCIE Lab. Some get there quicker than others for a variety of reasons.
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