Over the last few years I have made the transition at the company I work for, from Support Engineer to Network Engineer. In between this I became a Managed Services Engineer dealing with the configuration, installation and maintenance of Cisco 1800 series routers. During this time I decided I would use the knowledge gained in my day job to go on the certification trail. 4 months later I gained my CCNA accreditation and a thirst to obtain more understanding in networking in general.
Within our network we used Juniper routers and I would always be asking questions re configuration or having a look at the configs, which looked completely alien in their hierarchical nature and XML style layout. In January 2010 a Network Engineer job was posted within the company and I jumped at the chance. After an interview or two where I was grilled on my networking knowledge, I was advised I was successful in my application.
Now this is where the real story begins.
A few months later I was starting to get to grips with Junos and starting to see the real benefits of it over IOS. Little things like tab completion of firewall filter names and the ‘commit’ feature had me hooked. We had also started to use J Series routers as CPE and I would get queries from the Managed Services team on configuration and fault finding. It was at this point I thought I would start to test the knowledge of my new found Junos skills. I booked my JNCIA-ER (which is now replaced with the JNCIA-Junos), bought the Junos Enterprise Routing book and started my journey again.
I passed the JNCIA-ER on 28th May 2010 and decided to move straight onto the JNCIS-ENT, which was release on 30th September 2010. A little bit of friendly rivalry between myself, Chris Jones (@ipv6freely) and Kurt Bales (@networkjanitor) to see who could pass first made it even more of a challenge. Sadly Chris won that round, but that made me study harder and I passed on the 21st October 2010.
I took a break from full on studying, but was always lurking on the J-Net forums and was following a few Juniper employees (@JuniperCertify and @JuniperNetworks). Once the JNCIP-ENT was announced I thought I would get back into studying properly and started to set around 1 – 2 hours an evening studying. Now you may not think this is much, but with a full time job and 2 children (ages 4 and 2) vying for attention, 2 hours is a lot of time. Thankfully my wife is understanding and I would be studying away long after she went to bed.
During this study period a post was put onto the J-Net forums asking for beta testers for the JNCIE-ENT exams. I jumped at the chance and put my name forward. I also had some interactions with @JuniperCertify on Twitter which is run by Liz Burns on the certification team. So, I bombarded her with requests. Whether it helped or not who knows.
I received confirmation on 16th June 2011 that I was accepted on to the beta and to take the exam on 11th August 2011 in Munich, Germany. Was less than 2 months enough time to learn all the information required for a JNCIE level exam?
I ramped up the studying to 3 hours per evening and would study on lunch breaks at work as well. The week before the exam I studied for around 10 hours a day (9am – 5pm at work and then at home) and thankfully due to working for an ISP/MSP, I had access to Juniper routers and the EX series switches to create a lab with.
I arrived the day before the exam and sat in the hotel with Juniper books all around me trying to study up until the last minute. I even got to the Juniper offices an hour before the exam with my Enterprise Routing book thumbing through it making sure I hadn’t missed anything!
Without giving anything away and breaking the NDA, the exam covered all aspects of the blueprint. If you have studied enough and are confident in all areas of the blueprint the only thing left to do is work on your speed. Even though 8 hours seems like a long time, it passes quicker than you know during your lab.
My journey to certification was started to gain more knowledge of the Junos platform to help in my day job. The certification itself has given me more than this. It has provided a validation of my skills and given my employer the ability to provide consultancy services to customers from an engineer with an industry recognised qualification. Would like to hear about your certification journey, please share your experiences below within the comments.
Don’t forget to join me on my webinar, where I’ll be talking about my certification journey in more detail, it’s on 5th October for 1pm EST (link here)