It is my pleasure and honor to introduce Roman Rodichev 6x CCIE #7927 ( yes six ). Roman is the first person in the world to hold all 6 active CCIE certifications!!! He is also the instructor, content developer, and owner of ieMentor
Larry: Thanks for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Roman: Thank you, Larry. It’s great to see a new online resource dedicated to the CCIE training industry. Thank you for spending time on doing this! A lot of folks who are going for a CCIE appreciate this too.
Larry: Thanks. I am hoping that the blog will become a valuable resource. The first thing I have to ask about is – 6 CCIE certifications!!! What drove you to want to go that far?
Roman: I’m not even sure what exactly drove me to this. I definitely like being challenged, I like taking tests. There is no one common reason for each of the CCIEs though.
R&S was my first and it took a couple of years to prepare for, finally passing it in August 2001 on second attempt. I just got out of college, not yet legal to drink or to rent a car. Clearly that was the most exciting CCIE to get, far more exciting compared to the last one I got this year. What an experience that was, so much inspiration, drive, fear, stress, so little sleep! First attempt was a disaster, out of excitement I threw away one of the provided pieces of paper into trash, and Kathy, my favorite proctor, wouldn’t let me continue on my second day, even though I passed the first day. She said “You are lucky we are not putting you on a black list”. I would have had to wait for almost 6 months to get another seat.
Fortunately, past programming skills helped me develop a quick script that checked Cisco’s CCIE scheduling site for available dates and grabbed a date if it became available. I was back in a month and paid more attention that time. The big driver for R&S was career advancement and desire to get through that magic $100K/year salary barrier. But more importantly, I really liked what I was doing and was fortunate enough to become inspired by a couple of CCIE Cisco folks I met around that time. One of them, Dmitry Bokotey, 5xCCIE#4460, became a very good friend of mine and was the main point of inspiration for getting drunk on Cisco Kool-Aid.
I got Security CCIE six months later on first attempt. Playing with PIXs and VPNs at that time helped out a lot. The other factor was the young age of the Security CCIE track. I always recommend students to take the CCIE lab when it just comes out and not wait for the second version of the blueprint. I realize, of course, that not everyone gets a chance to do that. The first version of the Security lab was a little raw and wasn’t as advanced as the latest blueprint. It didn’t require as much effort. I’m not saying it was easy, but definitely easier than what other folks have to go through now to achieve Security CCIE.
If Cisco could take my Security track away and let me retake the new lab, I’d like to do that. I don’t think they allow this, though.
I remember asking them the same about my Storage CCIE so that I could go and try the new second version of the lab. They wouldn’t let me.
During those two years in 2002 and 2003, I was heavily involved in some voice deployments with CallManager, Unity, IPCC, and other Cisco voice offerings. This helped me gain enough interest and knowledgebase for attempting Voice track. My sheer interest for UC (or IPT back then) held me hostage and begged me to try it. I studied for a couple of months, went and failed. I have to thank proctor Ben Ng for creating a very challenging lab. He was the most helpful proctor of all!
I haven’t seen the new security lab, but based on the six labs I took, in my opinion, Voice was the hardest.
After failing, I studied each night after work for a month, and then went back and was lucky enough to pass it.
This is where the story stops for about three years. During that time I got a chance to do a consulting gig in Europe for about a year, got married, bought a home, those dollars had to go somewhere!!
I forgot about CCIEs for a while. Finally in 2005, around the same time Storage track was coming out, I got involved with ieMentor. It was more of a hobby than a business. I wanted to do something fun and take advantage of all the knowledge CCIEs gave me and pass this knowledge on to other people. Our CCIE Service Provider, CCIE Voice and CCIE Storage workbooks came out around the same time, followed by the CCIE Service Provider and CCIE Storage bootcamps.
Writing a CCIE Storage workbook drove me to take the CCIE Storage lab. Developing labs and questions is the best way to study for the lab. Of course, not everyone would decide to use this wacky approach, but it certainly helped me pass the Storage lab on first attempt in March of 2006 and then release the workbook a month after that. In the summer of 2006, I started delivering the CCIE Service Provider bootcamps without actually having the cert.
CCIE Service Provider is my favorite track. No other track has such a collection of interconnected technologies that allows you to achieve the result only if you get every little piece right. Doing that successful final ping between two CEs is more exciting to me than making a successful phone call between two IP phones. Discovering a failed ping between two CEs is more stressful for me than discovering a broken VPN session. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but Service Provider technologies are just a lot of fun to work with! Obviously, I couldn’t teach the class for too long without having the certification. I went and passed it in November of 2006.
Finally, in 2008, a rumor spread that a CCIE wireless track was on the horizon. My brain was refusing to even think about it, while my heart was telling me “Just one more, and that’s it”. Also, the word “sextuple” had something sexy about it. Probably the only sexy thing ever associated with a CCIE. I locked myself in the room for two months studying controllers, access points, authentication, security, WCS, roaming, wireless voice, all the fun stuff you have to know for this great track. I took the lab in San Jose in May of 2009 and it kicked my butt.
Past experience taking these labs taught me a lesson:
1. Document the entire lab even if you think you passed it. This takes about 3 days. Don’t be lazy!!
2. Practice your lab at home and research every topic even if you believe you will get a different lab next time
3. Don’t wait after failing, schedule the lab for the soonest date possible. The most studying you will do is between the attempts.
After coming back from the wireless lab, I locked myself in a room for a month again, went back in July and was lucky to pass it. It was a very nostalgic experience coming to San Jose for the last CCIE, the same location I went to get my first one eight years ago.
In conclusion, what helped me get six CCIEs? A different thing each time:
1. R&S = lots of studying for about two years, a true CCIE preparation experience that most go through
2. Security = experience with PIXes and IOS security + luck
3. Voice = experience with IPT + two months of non-stop studying
4. Storage = writing a workbook
5. SP = teaching a bootcamp
6. Wireless = two months of non-stop studying
Some people who don’t know me think I have no life and that all I do is study. I would say that studying for CCIE R&S was really like that, no partying, lots of lab hours, lots of sleepless nights. Other tracks involved short but intense study methods. I would simply lock myself in a room with equipment and books for a couple of months. Another thing that helps me a lot is that I enjoy reading technical literature, Cisco Press books, but mostly Cisco’s documentation. The problem is that 90% of reading I do is in my car. I certainly don’t recommend it! At any point in time, you will find around ten 20-30 page Cisco website print-outs on my passenger’s seat. I don’t know why, but it helps me better digest and remember the information.
I don’t like long and boring tasks that don’t require some knowledge transfer, like driving, running on treadmill, waiting at the doctor’s office. I can’t just sit and stare at something, I need to read. Yes, reading while driving is not a good idea, but I never had an accident because of it, I usually feel more distracted talking on the phone while driving.
Larry: Wow – that’s quite a story . I think that all of us that have passed, taken or are preparing for a lab can relate in some way. As an instructor, how do you keep up to date on all of the tracks and the changes to the labs?
Roman : Various sources can help. I currently teach SP track and since the blueprint hasn’t changed for a long time, it doesn’t require too many changes to the curriculum. I make sure that I cover all topics on the blueprint. I also monitor IOS release notes to be aware of any changes or new features introduced. I listen to what students are saying or what they hear about from other people preparing for SP. I myself learn something new in each class.
Larry: That is definitely something to remember. We can always learn something new!!
Do you have a favorite technology area? One that really interests you more than the others?
Roman: I enjoy working with Data Center, Virtualization, Unified Communications and Wireless. I like them all equally as long as the project is challenging.
Larry: There are a lot of folks that are currently studying for their first CCIE. They have problems balancing work, studying and family. Do you have any advice for them?
Roman: First of all, I need to mention that my wife and I don’t have kids yet, so I’m absolutely in no position to make recommendation of how to balance your time between kids and studying. For my situation, my success at getting CCIE and how quickly I can achieve it depends entirely on how much I am interested in the technology. If configuring MPLS VPNs is more interesting than watching TV, I will pass the lab quickly.
Find time to read. Print out a 10-20 page section of a configuration guide or a tech note and read it the same day. Do this every day. There are plenty of moments in your day, wherever you are, when you are idling and could spend that time reading.
Finally, again, it’s all about INTEREST and ENJOYMENT. If you are truly interested in the technology, if you are really enjoying studying, you will find time how to balance work, wife (can’t speak for kids) and studying. People who “can’t find time for studying”, don’t actually enjoy studying that technology.
Larry: That is an important item to consider. Having a passion for what you are studying makes it more bearable. What is your reaction to the major changes to the R&S lab structure? Do you have any advice for folks that are studying for this “new breed” of lab?
Roman: I’m not very familiar with it. I’ve heard about new troubleshooting section, but can’t speak much to it. I live in the SP and Storage world.
Larry: One question that I get quite often from people is – Should I go for a professional level certification before moving to the CCIE? What is your advice on that?
Roman: If you are going to do CCIE, why waste time on CCNP? If you are ready for CCIE, you can go and take all CCNP tests in one day, and you’ll pass them. Getting CCNP might get you a $10-20K salary increase, but probably only if you switch jobs. If you think that CCIE is your ultimate goal, go for CCIE, don’t think about CCNP. These two certifications require a different approach in studying. Some people choose to study with pass4sure and pass the CCNP within a week. I would rather prepare first for a CCIE, and then take CCNP tests without preparation a week before the CCIE lab.
Larry: Thanks again for taking the time for this out of your busy schedule. One last closing question – If Cisco brings out another CCIE track will you go for it?
Roman: Well, it’s kind of obvious that Data Center CCIE will be the next track. It would be interesting to see if Cisco keeps Storage CCIE alive or if it decides to merge them. I love Data Center technologies and therefore will do this track. Now, if Cisco decides to make a track on TelePresence, that’s a different story!
Please visit the ieMentor website for information on the products and classes that Roman delivers.
As a special bonus to readers of this blog Roman has offered a 10% discount on ieMentor products through March 1st, 2010!!!! To claim the discount, visit ieMentor , select the products you are interested in and email firstname.lastname@example.org referencing that you are a reader of the CCIE Study Resources blog