My Work and My  Journey to CCIE #9502
(updated on 23rd June 2002.)

It started out as a dream three years ago in 1999 June. I was a fresh graduate then and it was tough getting a job in the networking field. After 4 months of searching and 18 companies' interviews, I finally landed a job as a technical support engineer in Compex Systems.  It was not Cisco, but okay to me as I need the basic network knowledge to build up my fundamentals. After 4 months of "deep sea swimming" under my manager, my comfort level with Compex's networking products went up and I was able to handle my job more efficient. I am thankful to him for making me learnt the hard way, for not spoon feeding me, and taught me a valuable lesson  : ) , That's  " To learn how to learn"

In April 2000, things got settled down and I started to have more free time. This is the start of my first certification - MCSE NT4.0  - I took a paper each week and got MCSE in May 2000. After that I prepared for the CCNA, even though I have no relevant Cisco experience, I managed to be a "paper CCNA" in July 2000. At this point of time, I knew that if I want to progress further in networking, it is time to move on.

In Sept 2000, I joined my current company Singtel Aeradio  and began the Cisco Way. With my "learn how to learn" approach and my excellent supervisor (darren), I really enjoyed that period when I went to customer' site for installation, every day is a new learning experience and somehow I find Cisco products extremely "friendly" with me. I love "playing" with them : ) . And of course, the initial learning stage was toughl. After few months, my comfort level with basic Cisco products shoot up and I began the CCNP, which I achieved in Jan 2001, a paper fortnightly . Then I passed CCDA next and started preparing for CCDP, but I could not find the time to take this exam, and so I never got CCDP. The reason was that I got a new challenging assignment of being outsourced to a huge Campus Network. Imagine 800+ x 3500 edge switches and 30 x Cat6509, it was so exciting that I worked till 10 pm almost every nights. And yet I never felt tired.  But hey, I got my heart attack moments too, and it was real "exciting" to work with local Cisco and Cisco TAC. Trust me, they are a bunch of great people to work with. We even have a NSA engineer from Cisco to help preventive maintenance and stop short of getting the CAP engineer for those P1, P2 days, haha!!  

 In May 2001, due to undisclosed reasons, I felt the need to begin my ccie journey. I knew the road ahead will be hard, but neither do I want to make it easy (or it will become another cert like mcse or ccnp). I passed the written on 1st June 2001 with first try, it added to my confidence and desire to achieve CCIE. And as the ccie story begins, I lost my "life".

I spent every nights with Caslow, Doyle, Halabi, Scatterlee, Thomas, Nam Kee, Parkhurst, Benjamin and many others (if you know what I meant, haha!!!). And every weekends in my company ccie lab. However, as I do not want to be bonded with the company, I was given the lowest priority in using the ccie lab equipments. Sometimes, I came to the Lab as early as 7 am, then return the "peak" hours to the other candidates, and return to office lab after 7 pm to continue my practice. It was tough, but I accepted the fact since I was not on the ccie candidate list of the company. The ultimatum came in Dec 2001 when I was finally told to stop using the lab for personal justification. So I question myself; "How can one pass without practicing? How can I then achieve ccie certification?". Believe me, it was a very stressful period for me during that time.

I got my family support and managed to find some $$$. It was a big investment, but do I have other options? I bought 9 routers + ISDN simulator  from (Brad) and nodir (ccie too). And loaned another 2 routers  from one of my best customers. I do not need a switch as I know the CAT OS inside out. Then with advices from others, I also got Marc Russell ccbootcamp Lab Subscription and few other online labs. Trust me, excellent investments.

In Jan 2002, after getting the lab and bought 10+ ccie books, I also got a lot of TAC Guide from Cisco CCO and other certifications site. I thought I can finally practice at home ....but came another shocking issue. My home electricity supply was insufficient to power up more than 6 routers, and it tripped once it got overloaded. I was worried, but does nothing until one day while practicing, it tripped again and my computer cannot boot up anymore :(. I am going crazy, and my road definitely are tougher, harder and look almost impossible to achieve.

Thanks God for solving the electric issue! My relatives got a empty apartment some blocks away and I moved all my routers and ccie stuffs to live there since March 2002. YES! I finally got the confidence to take my first attempt in April 2nd. I had postponed from last year Sept to Oct to Dec to Jan to March and finally to April due to those events above and work-related issues. I wanted very much to pass at the First Attempt and placed a lot of pressure on myself. I took 2 weeks annual leave for intensive practice , took sleeping pills so that I can stop doing redistribution in my sleep, took Ginko to help improve my brain power, took every little advices from anybody so long as it sound helpful. 

The BIG Day Comes! 

First Attempt in Singapore - 2nd April 2002.

I was so exciting to see the lab questions, I knew this and I knew that, and I finished the lab in 4 hours.  I made a lot of stupid mistakes due to inexperience of the lab environment, but managed to get most technology up and running. I rechecked and verified every items. At the end of the day, I missed only one task (a 5 pointer), but was confident that I was doing very well. 

The next day I checked the email and saw the "Lab Score Report", when I went to CCO to check the results, I was shattered and believed me, it was not a pleasant experience to fail. I was frustrated because I got every items working, but still failed. And worst of all,  I got only about 60% and it seem to me it is useless to do a re-verification of the exam. That was a big sad day, one that I will not forget :(

Second Attempt in Singapore - 8th May 2002

I recovered the next day to schedule another exam. I was determined to make it this time round and buy more labs to practice. On the actual day, I stepped into the lab and receive my lab file, I was shocked in disbelief. It was impossible to pass that lab, too much!!! I finished most that I knew before 3 pm, and spent the rest of the time on the Doc CD. I guess I completed only about 84% of the questions, and I knew I will be preparing for my third attempt while walking out of the lab. It was another draining experience. However, as a consolation, I got about 71% .

Third Attempt in Singapore - 14th June 2002 

I booked another date as soon as I returned from my second attempt. Now, I am broke. I borrowed some more $$$ from my family and paid the lab. Then strangely, I started losing confidence. I started to think of the ccie who passed after 23rd attempts. I really saluted him. Here I am, losing my drive, my determination after my 2nd attempt. I told myself there is more to life than just ccie, and I need to put a stop someday if  I really cannot make it. Maybe ccie is just not my cup of tea, maybe it is not fated to be mine, and I just can't let my life struck in the pursuit of ccie forever.

The day came and I told myself :" I done every things I could possibly have done.  I have no regrets about my decision, so give my best today".  I saw the lab file and quickly flipped over it. It was as tricky as my second attempt, and I referenced the Doc CD to look up a number of obscure stuffs. I was done at 1 pm and spent the rest of the 4.5 hours checking and re-checking. I read every single word slowly, I verify even the simplest configuration with the Doc CD. At the end of the day, I only miss one task ( a 4-pointer). Just like my first attempt, I was confidence that I had done well. But after walking out of the Cisco Building, the doubts appeared :" Did I do that correctly?" " Did I interpret the questions correctly?" "Oh no ..... I must have miss that task,  .... oh no.... i think 2 tasks missed " 

That night I took a hot shower after I got home. It was a long day for me and I was really very very tired. When I check my email,  I was hoping not to receive the results so as not to disappoint myself. And, I told myself to prepare for the worst. " To fail, is as expected. To pass, will be the greatest bonus". When the email arrived, I saw the usual ccie lab response " Lab Score Report" and my heart sunk. I started to think how impossible it is to prepare my 4th attempt? And the recent new changes are affecting my mood, where to find money to buy a 3550? But Hey, wait a min, I saw another email from Cisco ccie, subject:" Congratulations ..........." I quickly opened the mail and from that moment, Everything comes back to life :)

This achievement is impossible without the support and help from my family, friends, colleagues and many others :). I only have in my heart a simple word for all of you. That's " Thank You". 


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