I have been asked so many times what I did or what was my learning path to achieve my CCDE. I have never shared my story before however many people asked for more information so I decided to write up something, which I am hoping will be helpful for other people dreaming about the CCDE certification..
One thing to note that before you start your own journey to achieve the CCDE certification, you have to understand that this is a huge time and energy commitment, and you will have to put your family, friends, hobbies, etc. aside to fully dedicate yourself to this program in order to be successful.
On November 17th 2017, I was able to pass the CCDE Practical exam in London and became certified as CCDE #20170060.
Please be aware that what I’m sharing, worked specifically for me, and it might or not might work for you.
In order to become CCDE certified, a candidate must pass the two required CCDE exams. There is a good Cisco Live presentation whcih describe the exam itself https://www.ciscolive.com/global/on-demand-library.html?search=ccde#/session/LTRCCDE-3006
It took me 6 months to pass the CCDE Written Exam (I was able to pass it on my 1st attempt), and an additional 3 months to pass the CCDE Practical Exam (which I was able to pass on my first attempt too). So, I spent a total of 9 months to successfully become CCDE.
At the time I decided to take CCDE exam I was possessed CCIE R&S and CCIE SP and over few years of network design experience – a mixture of exposure to Enterprise and Service Provider which was beneficial for me. When I decided that I wanted to become the CCDE certified I actively started to study for a few hours every day (in the Evenings and throughout the day during the weekends). At that point I thought I had the right background to pursue the certification.
In order to pass the CCDE, you need to be intimately familiar with advanced inter-networking theory and practical design principles across the R&S, Service Provider and in addition, you should be familiar with Security and Data Center technologies. Having a CCIE really helped me to pass the CCDE, especially because I had solid background across RS and SP domain.
The CCDE Written exam
I spent 6 months preparing for the CCDE Written Exam. How did I prepare myself to pass the CCDE Written Exam? Over a period of 6 months, I read a lot of books, watched a lot of Cisco Live videos and read some Cisco White Papers. Before going into my reading list, there’s something else that I really want to highlight. During the CCDE Practical Exam, you only have a finite amount of time to go through a lot of information and you need to be able to decide what is important, what can be ignored, and what information is really related to any given question to avoid re-reading multiple times the same information. So, reading a book is a good thing which will help you master you reading skills with understanding what you are actually reading and memorizing the important information. That kind of skill is very important during the exam. You don’t have to read every book from cover to cover. If you are already familiar with specific topic or there is some config output or packet header detail in the book, skip it.
My reading list, in no particular order
- CCDE Quick Reference Guide
- Optimal Routing Design
- Definitive MPLS Network Designs
- MPLS Fundamentals
- Routing TCP/IP Volume 1 and 2
- Top Down Network Design
- Building Resilient IP Networks
- CCDE Study Guide
- The Art of Network Architecture
- End to End QoS Network Design
I watched plenty Cisco Live videos in total. I watched some of them more than once.
Some of CL session which I would highly recommended:
- BRKRST-2336 – EIGRP Deployment in Modern Networks
- BRKRST-2337 – OSPF Deployment in Modern Networks
- BRKRST-3363 – Routed Fast Convergence
- BRKRST-3321 – Advanced – Scaling BGP
- BRKSEC-4054 – Advanced Concepts of DMVPN
- BRKSEC-3052 – Advanced DMVPN Designs
- BRKIPM-1261 – Introduction to IP Multicast
- BRKIPM-3017 – Advanced mVPN Deployment Models
- BRKSEC-3011 – Advanced IPSec with GET VPN
- ITMGEN-4220 – IPv6
- BRKRST-2301 – Enterprise IPv6 Deployment
- BRKDCT-2218 – Scalable Midsize Data Center Designs
- BRKCRS-2661 – Designing Layer 2 Networks – Avoiding Loops, Drops, Flooding
- BRKCRS-2501 – Campus QoS Design-Simplified
- BRKDCT-3378 – Building DataCenter Networks with VXLAN BGP-EVPN
- BRKDCT-2404 – VXLAN Deployment Models – A practical perspective
- BRKSEC-2206 – Security and Virtualization in the Data Center
- BRKIOT-2025 – Building Large Scale IOT Architectures
- PSOSPG-2002 – Cisco Network Function Virtualization Infrastructure
- BRKSPG-3616 – SDN and NFV for Service Providers
During my studies, I did not take any notes. I usually do not take any notes for any exam and that works fine for me, but it might not work for you. If you struggling to memorize a lot of information I would highly recommend taking as many notes as you can.
After clearing the CCDE Written Exam, I had few weeks to prepare for the CCDE Practical Exam. At this point I bought Jeremy Filliben Online Self-Paced CCDE Practical Exam Training and joined his study group at Slack. Jeremy material was huge contributor to my success and I would highly recommend it to you if you’re serious about passing the CCDE Practical Exam. In addition, I bough Martin Duggan – CCDE Practical Studies – Practice Lab 1. I spend some time to practice with these scenarios to prepare my mindset for CCDE practical exam.
Because at that time I was preparing for the practical exam I had access to INE, I also watched INE CCDE Self-Paced Bootcamp which is very comprehensive and really useful to go through.
Lastly, I advise you to look at Cisco Learning Network, where there is a blog section called Unleashing CCDE which contains numerous posts related to the CCDE program where other CCDE candidates share their knowledge.
So until the day before the exam, I read a lot of book and watch a lot of CL sessions. I practiced some design scenarios focusing on design principles, and “how” certain technologies worked.
The day before the exam
On the day before the exam, I spent 3 hours in the gym to make sure I get tired, also before I went to bed, I drank a shot of whiskey to help me sleep as much as possible. Because I had good gym session I was really tired in the evening so I slept very well. This is very important to be fresh on the exam day.
I woke up and got proper breakfast. I also brought some protein bars with me to exam facility. I had a very clear and concise exam strategy, and I was mentally prepared for the entire day also, was prepared for a failure. This is one of the most important contributing factors to passing this exam – you need to be completely mentally prepared for the day of the exam. Make sure to have a planned exam strategy for the entire day from the time you wake up, to the time that you finish the exam itself.
I used up almost all my allocated time during the morning and afternoon exam sessions. During the morning, I got one protein bar and drank a lot of water to keep my brain up and running. At lunch time I took a walk to stretch my legs and get some fresh air. I bought small sandwich and I ate it waking around the exam centre. I was trying to not think about the exam and the questions I got and what particular answers I choose. This strategy worked for me, but again, I had a very strict and planned exam strategy in place. I used up the entire hour allocated to me during the lunchtime break. After completing the last and final customer design scenario, I had few minutes left before exam timer expired. I left exam completely exhausted but it was a good experience.
I had to wait for my results over 11 weeks which was really frustrated but when result come over I was really happy that I passed that exam at my first attempt.