Reflections on Studying

Since this past August, I’ve been going through and studying for 20-30 hours per week to prepare for my CCIE exams. In that time, I’ve been able to pass my written exam and have continued to press on towards my ultimate goal of taking and passing the CCIE lab exam. Over the past several weeks, I’ve read articles that continue to dismiss the need for the CCIE, especially the Routing and Switching version that I’m working towards. I’ve seen some valid points, but this hasn’t deterred me.

Let me back up a bit and start off by saying that studying has never been something that I have particularly enjoyed or even known how to do properly. For the most part, my educational career involved very little studying but I was still able to get through my primary and secondary schooling with a high GPA and little effort put in. I’m not saying this to gloat, but I honestly wish I had learned how to study at that time in my life. College was similar, but I quickly found that in order to reach that level I had to put in more study effort. It was difficult, but I managed to get through it.

Fast forward to my CCNA and CCNP, and those didn’t require too much effort to get through. I’m not saying they were easy by any stretch of the imagination, but I was able to cram through about a month per exam to get through them. I worked through what I needed to in order to pass, and I passed them. I then decided to move to my CCIE with a similar approach. This is where I hit the mother of all road blocks, as I quickly found that every method in my life that I had approached for learning was not truly correct. I was studying to pass an exam, but that didn’t work for the CCIE due to the massive amount of information that one needed to actually have a complete understanding of. I first passed the written in 2013, but then fell off the wagon and didn’t get much further until a few years later.

This time around, I decided that I needed to figure out how people approached the CCIE differently than other exams. Most people who had passed that I had talked to said that the 20-30 hours per week of study time was a necessity. I discussed this with my wife and found a schedule that would permit this. I highly recommend discussing this with your significant other if you are in a relationship when you begin working towards your CCIE, as it will effect both of you.

The biggest effect that I’ve found over the past almost 7 months of studying is that I have a confidence in areas that I didn’t before. This is especially true when it comes to my career. As many people will admit, we networkers seem to struggle with the imposter syndrome more than we’d care to, and I was someone who always felt that this was the case. I knew what I was doing, but I always felt afraid that I was a fraud. After putting in the effort and work to truly understand what is in this exam, I’ve found it has given me a confidence in the work I do outside of my studies.

In the end, the single best thing that has come from studying is that it’s started a passion in me for learning and understanding how these things work. I’ve found other like-minded people to have discussions with, and I’ve rediscovered how much I enjoy learning. I’m already looking forward to what I decide to do after I complete my goal, but I hope that if you are on this same path, or somewhere else in it, that you continue towards whatever goal you have set for yourself.


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