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