The Network Ananse: 2014 In Stats

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Giving Back To The Community As An IT Professional

The year 2014 was eventful, especially the last three months. As I reflect on the many events and happenings one fact stands out very prominently and clearly. That has to do with the need to give back to the community as IT professionals in our various fields of endeavour. It all begun with the Cisco Champions program of which I had the privilege to be a pioneering member for the year 2014. Cisco Champions are passionate experts in Cisco technologies who are happy to share their knowledge, experience, and feedback with the community. Apart from the Cisco Champion radio calls, Webex seminars and other initiatives which came along with the program, it personally gave me the urge to reach out and give a helping hand to up and coming individuals interested in Technology in all of its variants.

One of my personal initiatives was to start this blog, a platform where I could share my peculiar experiences as pertaining to my geographic environment and context.With 1,500+ views as captured by the annual report generated by WordPress, and about half of that figure originating from my home country of Ghana, these are but feeble and baby steps towards the realization of bigger ambitions. After having had the chance to speak before audiences at five different events I realized how important it is for professionals like me to lend a helping hand. I was surprised to discover that despite the boom in access to and consumption of information, there were several people out there in colleges and IT training who had little clue as to the kind of opportunities and career paths they could pursue in technology.

Being a networking professional,most of the content I shared over this period was skewed towards my field, but nevertheless there were always other resources who came in from different backgrounds to complement. The response has been encouraging so far to say the least as I have had the opportunity to give guidance and direction to a few who have expressed a genuine interest to know and learn more. I went as far as to teach a CCNA class and organize a Cisco Networking boot camp all as part of efforts to lend a helping hand in kick-starting some budding careers.

Like seeds being sown, the immediate results will not be evident, but in a few years the results will be seen in more relevant skills for the job market,job fulfillment and a better standard of living for those who decided to pursue a technology career.

I throw this challenge to every IT professional reading this piece. How can you give back to your community? How can your experiences benefit someone trying to navigate their way in Technology?
All it takes is some simple steps such as volunteering to speak to college students or in an IT training institution in your vicinity. You could even start a blog like I did to share your personal experience which can serve as a powerful channel of encouragement. If you really put your mind to it there are a number of avenues that will open up for you to share your knowledge.It will definitely go a long way to making this world a better place. Happy New Year!

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The Quest For the CCNP RS Certification

My circuitous quest for the CCNP begun almost 4 years ago while working with a medium size Service Provider. I had completed my CCNA about 6 months prior to deciding to pursue the CCNP and had spent that period ramping up on my real-world experience on the job.

I opted to take the then BSCI 642-901 Routing Exam first and proceed with the other 3 exams later on ie the BCMSN,ISCW and ONT. About a month into my studies Cisco announced the retiring of the 4-exam CCNP and its replacement with the ROUTE, SWITCH and TSHOOT exams. I knew I didn’t have much time as I was about half way through my planned scheme of study and decided to put in more effort .

Unfortunately life happened and before I realized, it was a week to the deadline. I decided to make an attempt at winging the exam and called the test center to book it only to be told they had stopped administering the BSCI about a month before then. Bummer!

Not to be deterred, I moved on to prepare for the SWITCH module with a mind to return to the ROUTE when that was done. My quest for the SWITCH lasted about 3 weeks. I didn’t have access to live switches to practice and GNS3 just didn’t cut it for me so I abandoned that as well.

My focus shifted to the CCIP as I had been put on an MPLS implementation project team and was encouraged by the Tech Manager to go in for it. I prepared for and passed the MPLS 642-611 exam first and cleared the BGP 642-661 secondly at which stage a year had elapsed since my abandoned CCNP quest. I changed jobs and moved from the SP into an Enterprise environment where I had the chance to do a lot of CCNP-level work especially with switching.

I was halfway through the CCIP and decided to complete it so my efforts in passing the first two exams wouldn’t go to waste. The QoS 642-642 exam came up next for which I prepared and passed successfully (the easiest of the 4 exams imo). It was now time to face the beast of the ROUTE exam  which would complete my CCIP and restart me on the CCNP track. I pulled myself together and in September of the 2nd yr passed what I consider to be the toughest Cisco Exam I’ve taken till date. ROUTE is a rocker and your preparation must be spot on if you would sail through successfully.

CCIP was now done and CCNP was restarted. At this stage I had psyched myself to go in for the CCIE as I felt i had acquired the CCNP-level skillset through my daily work. I proceeded to prepare for and pass the CCNA Security exam as I felt it would round off my skillset nicely. The rest of the year was spent preparing for the CCIE Written which took a good 6-7 months as I had to juggle it with a busy work schedule. I got tired of responding in the negative whenever asked if I had a CCNP anytime I mentioned I was pursuing the CCIE and explaining why that was so.

I decided to finally get the CCNP over and done with. I set a goal of passing the SWITCH and TSHOOT exams within 3 months which I did with focused revision, training videos and a lot of practice as I now had access to physical switches for practice purposes. The TSHOOT exam was a consolidation of all that had been learnt in ROUTE and SWITCH which inherently had the need to know how to troubleshoot the technologies taught. Overall it was a good feeling “nailing” the CCNP down as it served as a validation of the skills that I had picked up in the years pursuing other certs.

The material I used for my preparation is in the links below

Cisco Press CCNP ROUTE Certification Guide

How to Master CCNP ROUTE

How to Master CCNP SWITCH

CBT Nuggets SWITCH Training

Chris Bryant CCNP SWITCH Training

Chris Bryant CCNP TSHOOT Training

How to Master CCNP TSHOOT

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How I Became CCNA Certified

I gained an interest in the Cisco Certified Network Associate credential after being introduced to it for the first time in 2005 at a career seminar in university. It was a very esoteric field back then but it pricked my interest nevertheless and I decided to find out as much as I could about Cisco networking technology from that day.I was resolute.

Getting the study material was a big challenge as the few DVD’s which had been distributed during the seminar mysteriously “vapourized” and no one seemed to know who exactly was in possession of a copy.The bright light seemed to grow dimmer. Fast forward 3 years later in 2008 and a Cisco Academy started in my school. I signed on to the CCNA Exploration but dropped off after the first few classes. It wasn’t engaging enough and I found the content delivery boring.

A colleague informed me of a 4-day boot camp scheduled to take place over two weekends on campus in February of the next year. This was to be delivered by networking professionals from the industry accompanied by hands-on sessions with real routers and switches. The idea got me very excited although I had to squeeze water out of stone to pay the relatively expensive course fee. Somehow, I felt it would be worth the investment and it surely turned out to be!! Over the next two weekends we were introduced to the OSI model, TCP/IP, IP Addressing & subnetting, Cisco IOS management, routing and switching concepts which totally blew me away by the coolness factor.

The hands-on labs solidified the concepts we had been introduced to and gave us a firm understanding of networking. At the end of the bootcamp, we hadn’t covered the whole CCNA syllabus but had received the impetus to continue on our own with the materials we had been given. We were introduced to GNS3 with which we were able to continue practicing scenarios on our laptops…We couldn’t go wrong from this point onwards.

After completing university in May, I set myself a 90-day challenge elapsing August-ending to get CCNA certified. Armed with Todd Lammle’s 1000+ page CCNA Study Guide and CBT Nugget Videos from Jeremy Cioara, I proceeded to study with all vim and vigour. It was an exercise in endurance and discipline as I left home each morning on my bike with my comb-bound printout and two laptops(One for GNS3 and the other for Packet Tracer) in a backpack to find a quiet place to read and lab till evening. When I had internet access I would Google up the topics I found a bit challenging. On a few occasions i reached out to my instructors with questions via email when I was stuck. Several days I would continue reading at home till 2AM and sometimes 3AM crunching through chapter after chapter. Self-study is no joke as one needs to be very disciplined, focused and be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices in order to make time to study.

Life happens, and by the time August had ended I was not done. Fortunately I had told a number of people I was studying for an exam which made them keep asking how my studies were progressing. I had a social support system in place for free as their continuous asking gave me the endurance to keep on studying. I was finally ready early October and booked a date. I arrived at the testing center with my heart thumping in my chest. After going through the pre-exam checks the proctor was loading the exam and it wouldn’t load!! I waited for 4 hrs and was told to return at another date while the case was logged with the testing provider. Bummer! I was so fired up for this.I used the one week wait to brush up on the  WAN and IPv6 concepts I wasn’t too solid on while waiting for the second attempt. The situation repeated itself at the center on the next attempt!! Unbelievable. At this point I was restless and itchy to get it over and done with.

I decided to change the test center for the 3rd booking to avoid any further show stoppers. The D-day came and the receptionist at the test center commented with a smirk after i had signed in, that many people were unsuccessful with that exam. Duh!! The exam started with adrenaline rushing through my veins as I clicked through, mindful of the time constraints that had been drummed in my ears by almost every CCNA instructor I had come across. Simlets, testlets, multiple choice, drag and drop, simulations…the whole kaboodle. Then came the final question after which the exam results would be displayed. With heart in mouth I answered and clicked the button to end the exam…the screen flickered…PASSED!!! With a huge sigh of relief, I gathered my personal effects, walked to the proctor to pick up my score report while revelling in my newfound CCNA status.

I made it. The feeling of achievement and excitement was insurmountable as I called family and friends to give them the good news. It had taken 5 months & 120 days of actual study to become CCNA certified and what a fruitful journey it had been.

The material which can be used to prepare and others is in the links below.

Todd Lammle CCNA Study Guide

How To Master CCNA – Rene Molenaar

CBT Nuggets by Jeremy Cioara ICND1 and ICND2

GNS3 Network Emulator

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The CCIE SWAT Team Video…Prepare For War!

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