It´s 6 a.m. I wake up somehow disoriented next to my fiancée. I cannot believe I´m in Brussels and that in about an hour I was going to walk out of the hotel to take a walk into Cisco’s wonderland.
I arrive pretty early, so early that nobody was around yet. I start to wander between buildings until I find what it looks like the Cisco main entrance.
The receptionist pointed me kindly to wait together with other candidates in a table. Nobody talks. We shared names and number of attempts. For a brief moment, we share the fear.
Quite fast the proctor arrived and took us up in the lift to our playing ground for the next 8h. I feel sick, but we all came to play, so we play.
Soft fans noises coming from the adjacent racks, bright lights, double monitors and one mouse.
After introducing my user and the password that I was told to use, the game would start soon.
My heart, that until now was dead quiet, starts to move and I feel my heartbeats.
I take a few deep breaths and I click “Start”.
Tip #0 : Breathe
I used to play a lot of videogames (a lot) so I was used to fast mouse sensibility. Now, the exam mouse dial was set to “Roadrunner, hold by beer”. I did not spend 10 sec to adjust it, but please allow yourself 10 seconds to fix that.
Tip #1: Make yourself comfortable, adjust the chair, change the mouse sensibility or whatever you need.
The first part of the exam it is called Design and you will be facing complex questions with multiple answers based on whatever information they will give you.
You have 3h, but probably you could finish in around 2h, having the last hour to use it as you please like going to bathroom and taking a glass of water.
Right after the Design part, it comes the Final Boss which is the practical lab itself which is 5h. To me, the worst part is that you can see a digital clock running out of time. That’s a lot of pressure.
You can go bathroom, you can go take a coffee or just water but that clock will keep counting down. Better hurry whenever you are out of the computer.
Now, there is a mandatory lunch break in which you will taste the most expensive sandwich of your life. A tasteless bread, that could been baked the day before, with some questionable filling for a premium 2000 euro(after taxes) exam.
Anyway you are not going to taste anything at all, as your soul will be still on the exam room while your skeleton moves without driver into the eating room.
Tip #2: Take the lunch break as a break. Try to relax a little, breathe and go to bathroom. These are valuable minutes to get some needed energies back.
You are not going to be finishing at nighttime at all, but is the end part of the exam where you can notice how far away is the end goal. The end goal is to pass, even there is no rule that says it has to be in the first try.
For me it was not the first try, I knew I was going to fail as many of my config couldn’t ping the required IPs to be considered correct. So I knew. Nevertheless I stayed until the last very second to try to get more points.
And that’s okay, the important thing is that you survived to one of the most stressful exams that you’ll ever face. It’s a 2000 euro fail, but it comes with a lot of experience that will take you further next time.
I learnt a lot about myself, about stress, about calm and how far I was in my knowledge. I call that a win.
Tip #3: It’s okay to fail, just learn something useful out of it and you’ll be closer next time.
I didn’t pass yes, but I think the first attempt was more a “let’s see how far am I from actually passing” instead of “I’m ready, I’m going to pass on the first try“.
Experience is valuable and in this case…expensive. Many people need 3 tries to pass for a reason, and I was starting to understand why.
After I get the fail score report, I immediately scheduled another attempt for the next month, as I was not going to let this to drag me down.
Let’s meet in the second exam attempt post!!
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