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Since so many people asked me what it took to get the CCNA. How I did it and what resources I used. I wanted to explain the journey as my first blog post.

Disclaimer: Of course, this is my version of it, there are some people that managed to get it fairly quickly(and with fewer resources) and others that failed and stopped pursuing it.

Incoming some autobiography mixed with motivation.

Before all of this, I was never quite interested in networking. Yes, I needed to know how to set an IP and gateway on a PC or laptop, but never saw the potential and complexity behind it. Safe to say I wasn’t seeing the “bigger picture” in networking, and how it connects everything. Not just machines, but people too!

I was working with electronics day in day out and required by my job I needed to know what ping, traceroute, and what TCP/IP is in order to check if the equipment I’m repairing works. But that was about it, never was fond to learn more on a deeper level on how that computer sees the other one but doesn’t see the printer on the network :).

And then, it just happened, something in my mind clicked and suddenly I wanted to learn more. I wanted to learn about networks, I wanted to go on a deeper level and truly understand how everything communicates. I don’t know when that started or why I just became more and more curious about the Internet and how it connects everything. How someone clicking like on Facebook gets projected and displayed on someone else’s page.

Then I started searching, reading, watching, about networks. I was aware of Cisco’s magnitude, and their sheer power to dominate everything in that segment… Which led me to read about their certifications and validation of an individual’s knowledge of networks. After which I started searching more about the famous CCNA certification. How it was hard to get, how most of the people trying-fail, how much their passing bar was high. At that moment I was aware that I wanted this, I wanted this knowledge required to get it, and the goal was set.

Net Academy Course

By some coincidence, while at work I saw an ad from a local private educational center providing a full course for Cisco’s CCNA Routing and Switching track. That was it, that was the thing I need. And in a split of a second, I wrote to them an immediately booked a seat.

To clarify this course is official. It is directly supervised by Cisco and a part of their Networking Academy. Along with their grade system, tests, LMS, as well as materials. Not to mention that the instructor needs to have CCAI in order to teach.

I didn’t care about the cost of the course(and it was expensive!) nor the exam, I just wanted to get started with it and satisfy my eagerness to learn.

So the course began, it was in the after-work hours, so every student can join. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday rushing after work I would go to class. I had only 30mins to spare in order to get off work and arrive on time. It was truly exhausting, and yet you needed to be concentrated in order to go through the material. But nothing was getting in between me and my thirst for knowledge.

The course run for around 4 months, with total classes of around 200h. It started in October and finished end of January. When I started it I was truly lost and everyone there seemed like they knew their thing, except me. Coming from electronics and trying to cross to networks was a hard thing to do. Everyone was already involved heavily in IT, sysadmins, net admins, engineers, programmers, I thought I made a mistake coming here. Still, I pushed through it.

We began as a group of fifteen people and halfway through the course, we were seven or eight. By the end, we were just four.

Every day after class I would go through the material, do all the homework, lab everything, question everything and search everything. I would handwrite every critical info from the chapters in a notebook. I ended up writing over 300 pages in 5 different notebooks throughout the course.

After I was done with the academy I didn’t feel prepared to take the exam. I wanted to further increase my knowledge, as well as attack the material from a different angle.

Video Courses

So I searched this time for video tutorials and the no.1 that came up in searches was CBT Nuggets. The author of the CCNA video course was Jeremy Cioara. Jeremy’s enthusiasm was really refreshing, and the board-style drawings of the theory were excellent for grasping the concepts and material. The tutorials run just shy under 40h, not to mention the constant need to take notes and lab.

Book

Again, I still wasn’t quite sure I should take the exam. I felt like I’m missing all the details, those pesky timers, protocol addresses, algorithms, what not… For the final level, I chose a good old book, no ebooks, no virtual, just plain old book in my hand. Searched a bit about this, and two authors were popping on google either Wendell Odom or Todd Lammle. I personally chose Lammle’s book from Sybex.

Which you can find here: https://www.amazon.com/Routing-Switching-Complete-Study-Guide/dp/1119288282/ref=sr_1_1

The book was around 1100 pages, a scary number for sure! But I wasn’t bored, the book was excellent, even had some humor dropped to keep you going. After every chapter read I would go through the practice exams provided and mark how much answers I get correct. Reading this book further motivated me as I got closer and closer to my goal. (I’ve spent around 2-3 highlighters to mark critical info!)

Endgame

Just as I’ve finished the book I said to myself, this is it, I’ve reached the end. There is nothing more I can do, months have passed since I began. So I skimmed through my notes, drilled more into my weak areas and was ready to take the exam. I called Tuesday in the testing center and booked my exam for Thursday.

Exam

Booked the composite 200-125 exam. I personally didn’t want to get the stress of going two times and taking the exam in split fashion. Although many folks suggest it, going first for ICND-1 and then ICND-2.

“10 questions in, and I was sure I would fail”. Many who took tests or certifications like this will tell you the same. I too felt it.

Cisco’s sky-high threshold bar for passing surely took a toll on you, not to mention the exam no-going-back-to-previous-answer policy was also troublesome. You had to answer the question correctly and move on to the next one. I was sweating, you blink and you see that you wasted precious 10mins on one question or simlet and you aren’t even halfway done.

I answered all the questions to the best of my abilities and clicked finish. The exam software froze for a second, and I said to myself this is it, you failed. Just as that thought passed through my head I saw the words PASSED!

I couldn’t believe it, turned my head and the proctor got the automatically printed page from my exam. I exited the room and went to talk to the proctor.

I was greeted with “Congratulations Kristijan, you passed the exam!”. I couldn’t believe this. I went home, took a shower, called my friends and colleagues to share the news but still didn’t think that this was real. I wanted to hear from Cisco. The next day I got an email from Pearson VUE as well as Cisco to confirm that I truly passed the exam.

Aftermath

All that effort was finally justified, everything that I sacrificed and questioned if I should push through this, was clear.

Since then the CCNA has opened a lot of doors for me, as well as my own satisfaction of having this knowledge.

I have to mention that this couldn’t be possible without my excellent mentor from the academy. I haven’t found a teacher that devoted to transfer knowledge to her students.

tl;dr what it took me to get it:

  1. Net academy course. Started October, finished January. 200h.
  2. CBT Nuggets CCNA R&S videos. 40h
  3. Sybex CCNA R&S book 30h
  4. Total run time was from October to July = 9months