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The Journey to CCDE, a Private Story by David Peñaloza Seijas- Cisco Blogs

This visitor submit was authored by Cisco Designated VIP David Peñaloza Seijas.   


Since I used to be a child, I used to be fascinated by many issues I discovered attention-grabbing. I grew up being the nosy child, or “preguntón,” in Spanish. I used to be virtually all the time asking “why?” every time I bought one thing defined or instructed, which might drive many of the adults to madness after a few hours with me. 

My mother, in an try and get this matter solved, gave me a ebook known as “El porqué de las cosas,” which roughly interprets to English as “The why of the issues.”

I might spend hours studying and asking much more questions. It was an countless loop I loved as a (un)naturally curious child. To my shock, the ebook had a number of volumes explaining issues all of us surprise about, however not many people have the drive to search for, or “to Google,” in at this time’s parlance. 

Years later I thank my mother for such an excellent transfer; I picked up studying in my early years and continued to develop keen on it. Encyclopedias (do any of you bear in mind Microsoft Encarta?), novels (Potterhead right here!), tales, newspapers, and my profession discipline: IT. 

I began tweaking my very own laptop when it felt gradual, as I wished to play the cool video games different youngsters had been taking part in. Over time, it morphed into cracking video games, modifying registry keys, disabling/enabling companies, troubleshooting issues, and working a shared LAN (Hamachi) to play with my associates — the probabilities had been countless! 

Touching and troubleshooting methods, putting in gadgets, and connecting cables and printers (gadgets from hell!) turned pure, and I began making a dwelling out of it after I was 16 years outdated. It naturally grew into networking, and that’s precisely the place my story with Cisco, being it Academy, certifications, boards, all of it! 

As I turned a community engineer, the urge to understand how issues labored simply made it satisfying and compelling. There was an invisible world to us beneath cables, numbers, and blinking lights. I discovered an countless curiosity effectively (or hose) I might drink from daily. 

Why CCDE? 

Round 2016, after a number of years as a community help engineer, I made a decision to review community design. However why? By that point, I labored with many engineers and will see a distinction between them. Some had been pleased to implement issues and see them working, generally with out them being fully clear to them. And another engineers, although, knew very effectively how issues labored and why the adjustments had been being launched. They’d a unique perspective.  

That instantly caught my consideration; I wished to know the explanations behind issues. I was curious! At the moment, the CCDE neighborhood was rising and everyone was so vibrant and welcoming that I bought lured into it. I made a decision that though it might be a tough factor to do, I wished to review community design. 

You might be often instructed that CCDE is a certification for knowledgeable engineers and, given the quantity of information required, you need to have no less than one CCIE earlier than trying it. It initially discouraged me—till I spoke with folks like Elaine Lopes, Daniel Dib, Jeremy Filiben, Mark Holm, and Andre Azevedo. They assured me you that don’t want a CCIE to aim the examination, however you do want the data that comes with it. (Be aware that each one of them have no less than one CCIE!)

Like my good buddy, Peter Palúch, instructed me a number of occasions: “You have to be on the similar stage. Make expertise your second nature, and perceive issues all the way down to the bone.” 

That 12 months, I began finding out and assessing myself actually, searching for areas to enhance. I aimed for CCDE and the huge data it might require.  

I initially took the CCDP* examination to gauge myself, which lined not solely fundamentals but in addition greatest practices; what was really helpful given sure circumstances. After passing, I bear in mind feeling energized and prepared for extra. 

Again then, I believed: “What if I strive the CCDEv2 written examination? 

Narrator:And with out realizing, David was setting himself up for a candy and skin-scorching lesson. 

My Cisco certification examination journey 

It took me three makes an attempt and loads of finding out to move the CCDE written examination. The primary one was my manner of gauging myself, whereas the second failure felt excruciatingly shut. Lastly, my third try was a candy move. 

CCDE Success Story

The CCDEv2 written examination was a beast. It primarily mixed Enterprise and Service Supplier matters, whereas additionally including some safety as effectively, making it a mighty difficult examination by itself. 

Was all my finding out sufficient to move the written examination? Sure. Barely. 

Was I able to take the CCDE sensible examination? Probably not. Not emotionally… and much much less technically. However that was a lesson I realized over time after incomes myself a few scars. 

From August 2017 till Might 2018, I studied extra, I mentioned extra, and I believed it was time. I had heard so many issues in regards to the examination; the type of the take a look at, the quantity of data, the studying and highlighting. It appeared doable. 

Then, my examination day got here! There I used to be in Madrid on Might 30, 2018, arriving sooner than anyone else! The testing middle wasn’t opened till 10:00, though the examination was supposed to begin at 09:00. Don’t ever ask a Spaniard to get up early, or you might be setting your self up for failure! 😀 

It was precisely like I had heard—however on steroids! The knowledge, the emails, the diagrams, the questions. I believed I used to be prepared for it, however I wasn’t. The examination made me notice that rather more was wanted; extra data, extra studying, extra expertise. 

Generally, that meant that I didn’t perceive a selected expertise effectively sufficient. Different occasions, that meant I had missed acknowledged necessities or constraints or was not capable of focus for the complete time of the take a look at (8 hours). 

This occurred twice in 2018, in Might and November. On each events, it was a FAIL for me. 

CCDE Success Story

After getting overwhelmed twice, I continued attempting. Out and in, it was robust to get on my toes once more. 

In between my makes an attempt in 2018 and 2019, I additionally took different exams to check my data and get myself nearer to the “CCIE-level” data I wanted earlier than I confronted the beast as soon as extra. 

CCDE Success Story

I used to be capable of move the CCIE R&S** and Service Supplier exams whereas getting ready for the following accessible makes an attempt for the CCDE examination. It felt nearer, knowledge-wise, in addition to in examination expertise. 

In 2019, I went for it once more. Twice. Each occasions, I used to be visiting Frankfurt. And sure, though it felt higher, smoother, and clearer, it wasn’t sufficient. I failed each makes an attempt that 12 months and considered taking a break earlier than going through the examination once more. I didn’t know, nonetheless, that my break can be all that lengthy. 

Taking a break

Between 2019 and 2022, so much occurred in my life. (And possibly yours too!) A pandemic, adjustments in my private and work life, amongst different issues. I devoted time to understanding myself (I began visiting a psychologist) to discover what else was inside past the technical acumen.  

I used to be not prepared but, technically and personally. However I wasn’t capable of see it. I used to be too proud to confess it and too cussed to cease attempting. I used to be solely bullying by the makes an attempt and pushing additional. 

What would you assume after an try? 

  • I used to be not studying quick sufficient. 
  • I used to be studying too quick. 
  • I missed the necessities. 
  • I missed that constraint. 
  • Did they are saying you couldn’t do X? 
  • I should have missed X expertise. 
  • I couldn’t keep centered all through the complete examination. 
  • I introduced preconceived notions into the examination. 
  • No person does that in the actual world! 
  • I mustn’t have second-guessed myself… 
  • God, I hate tables! 

Every a kind of makes an attempt teaches you one thing, however you must concentrate. In any other case, it goes over your head, and you find yourself bumping into the identical stone once more. Every lesson burns your pores and skin within the course of, or no less than, that was the sensation for me. Taking the examination was akin to being a meteorite getting nearer to the earth: the extra you strategy it, the mightier the burn and items of you proceed to fall except you brace your self. 

In my case, I used to be not capable of see the forest due to the timber. Though it sounds humorous, it was the case. I used to be an issue as a substitute of zooming out and searching on the massive image with all the transferring items. 

What else occurred throughout my break? Nicely, CCDEv2 was revamped to CCDEv3, and matters had been adjusted, together with the exam-taking expertise. Much less Service Supplier, and extra Enterprise, extra Safety, extra Knowledge Middle, extra enterprise, extra Cloud, and extra Wi-fi! 

Earlier than persevering with with my story after the break, we might discuss which issues are necessary in your CCDE journey. Don’t fear. We shall be shedding some tears in a bit. 

What do that you must move the examination? 

Examine group and associates – AKA neighborhood 

Your examine group could possibly be the important thing useful resource that you must move. The extra views you get, the higher your technical arsenal shall be when going through the examination.  

Throughout my CCDE journey, I had the posh of finding out with folks like Mike McPhee, Jason Beltrame, Bruno Wollman, Fareed Fakoor, Remington Free, Ronald Lopez, Anti Sourdi, Freerk Terpstra, Nicolas Vallet and Fabian Beck. All of them are good engineers/architects, they usually all taught me one thing alongside the best way. We shared suggestions and data, had classes to show others about what we had been good at, and naturally, made stunning bonds within the course of. 

On prime of that, I had fantastic associates who weren’t finding out to take the CCDE examination however had been supporting me and instructing me issues (educate me your secrets and techniques, grasp!) or supporting me as an individual, as a buddy: folks like Peter Paluch, Daniel Dib, Mark Holm, Martin Novak, Ivan Zlatkov, David Chapcak, Matt Saunders, Kurt Claes, Peter Haluska, and Martin Duggan. 

A gaggle of associates and examine buddies, folks to debate with, folks keen to pay attention, a flooring that might help me… a neighborhood. With out them, I’d not have handed it. This late success was because of them for his or her unwavering help and motivation. It’s as a lot mine as it’s theirs. 

Each time I felt like quitting (particularly the final two makes an attempt) I used to be supported by them. (Particular point out to Peter, Daniel, Kurt, and Mark!) By individuals who, no less than at that second, believed in me greater than I did. They stored me on observe, pulled my ears when wanted, and hugged me laborious sufficient to drag my items collectively once more after I couldn’t do it myself. 

Know your self 

One other necessary a part of your journey is to know your self. This would possibly sound like a cliché for a lot of, however it’s tremendously necessary, or no less than it was for me. 

The CCDE examination is totally different from another CCIE examination. It doesn’t depend on muscle reminiscence or quick typing. It’s essential to contemplate every choice, learn each doc, and consider each alternative. It’s an 8-hour-long studying comprehension examination with technical and enterprise matters. Your psychological state is paramount. 

  • Have you learnt if you examine the most effective? Is it through the morning, afternoon, or evening? 
  • How briskly are you able to learn? 
  • How a lot of that may you keep? 
  • Are you able to deal with eight hours of finding out? 
  • What about 4-hour or 2-hour blocks? 
  • How good is your focus? (I get distracted simply.) 
  • How do you address anxiousness? 
  • How do you calm your nerves? 
  • Are you into meditation? Or do you do a fast sequence of 20 pushups and really feel like new and centered? 
  • What about your emotions in regards to the examination? 
  • How do you’re feeling when getting into, leaving, and through the examination? 
  • Anxious? 
  • Nervous? 
  • Scared? 
  • Relaxed? 

All these items had been necessary for me, and I want I’d have considered them beforehand. I needed to be taught to contemplate them after each failed try. 

Initially, my drivers after I began all this had been: ambition, pleasure (slightly hubris), and concern. I wished to get as excessive as doable, to be actually good at one thing, to be acknowledged, to close up each mouth that mentioned (there have been many) that I couldn’t make it or it was too laborious and I used to be going to fail, and in addition, my concern of lacking out (FOMO). 

An exquisite track about that is Vienna, by Billy Joel. 

Through the years I realized (because of my expensive buddy Peter Palúch, my psychologist, and a ridiculous quantity of introspection) that though my earlier drivers helped me to remain motivated and go away the nation, I used to be not going to make it any additional with damaging feelings, they’d chew me up ultimately. What can be higher? Discovering optimistic motivation! 

I did my greatest to cease evaluating myself with others and solely evaluate myself with David from the previous. All of us have failures, everyone knows one thing any individual else doesn’t, and all of us can be taught one thing from others. Even the folks we don’t like can educate us one thing. 

I began wanting on the journey in addition to the aim. I didn’t cease chasing the solar, however I began to benefit from the view whereas I used to be doing it. I additionally began to understand extra of what I used to be doing, what I used to be studying, and what I used to be making, as a substitute of considering, “I gained’t have sufficient time in my life to do all of the issues I wish to do; I need to go sooner.” 

Lastly, and the toughest one: I did my greatest to cease worrying in regards to the examination’s consequence. In any case, I had already failed a number of occasions. Will it burn extra? Possibly a bit. Will it’s a disaster? Probably not. Simply choose up your items, regroup, and deal with it once more. The examination is already aggravating sufficient, and worrying about failing earlier than taking it’s going to solely make me really feel extra anxious.  

Don’t beat your self up beforehand. Give your self an opportunity, forgive your self, and be form to your self. All of us make errors. Belief me, you might be sufficient. You are able to do it. You might have it in you. 

Throughout my final try, I used to be centered on the examination itself, and the evening earlier than I believed: Well, no matter occurs, I’ll give my greatest through the examination. Cross or fail, will probably be the most effective of me.

I didn’t know if I handed, and I used to be about to test the following accessible date for the examination. Little did I do know that I’d move this time, however extra on that later.  

Narrator: After which David ugly cried for hours as a result of he was a llorón when he knew he handed. 

Again on observe 

After the break, I used to be again on sq. one: the examination was revamped to model 3. Its contents had modified, and my written examination (legitimate for 3 years) had already expired. 

What was the very first thing to do? Take the written examination once more! I used to be fortunate sufficient to have a final likelihood earlier than the CCDEv2 written examination can be retired on November 1, 2021. 

I brushed up on all of the matters and studied for some weeks earlier than feeling prepared and, in fact, having the looming shadow of the soon-to-be-retired examination over my head. To my luck, I handed, as soon as once more with a candy 860. I can not lie about this: it was superb. 

I earned the best to take the sensible examination once more, but it surely was a brand new model. The examination matters had been step one to take. I had new issues to be taught: Wi-fi, Cloud, and Safety. And in addition others to brush up and at last be taught effectively: QoS, and multicast. 

Now, the examination was supplied in Brussels like another CCIE examination, so I didn’t must juggle balls to ebook an examination in a Pearson Skilled Middle in Frankfurt or Madrid. I might go to the Cisco workplace in Brussels like everyone else! 

Additionally, a number of associates work there, so it’s a acquainted place for me. 

CCDE Success Story

In the middle of ten months, I visited Brussels 4 occasions. Each time, I used to be welcomed by my expensive buddy Peter Palúch and supported until no finish by him and Kurt Claes. 

My first try was an exploratory one. I had completely no hopes of passing. I needed to see what was totally different: the brand new engine, the brand new situations, the type, the expertise. And, God, I did. 

I got here out of the examination wanting like a fish in a fridge: eyes and mouth vast open, however I couldn’t see or say something. So many new issues to meet up with, extra tech, extra enterprise, and the testing engine was cooler and simpler to make use of. (Not all the pieces was damaging!) 

I spent loads of time studying about Wi-fi, one of many weakest areas in my technical acumen. Freerk Terpstra and Fabian Beck gave me a masterclass on many issues, they defined particulars, deployments, authentication, and the character of wi-fi networks, it was intense! Freerk even created a mini CCDE state of affairs and defined it to us intimately. 

I went once more in February with loads of hopes, nonetheless, it wasn’t but my time. Though I felt higher, extra assured, and happier with my efficiency, it wasn’t sufficient. I spotted I wanted extra cloud, extra migrations, extra enterprise acumen, extra studying expertise, and extra focus. It was an countless checklist! 

I stored an inventory of matters I felt uncertain about and added extra after each try. The checklist began enormous and continued to shrink over time whereas I addressed extra matters—till the final try. 

For the June try, I put loads of effort into finding out. My Cisco Reside US session catalog was all about issues I wanted for the examination, together with a CCDE techtorial with Mark Holm, Zig Zsiga, and Rick Bauer, and a number of other classes about design. 

There I used to be within the CCDE Techtorial: “Dude, don’t inform me this bull****, I already took the examination!” (I’m sorry, Mark.) 

I wasn’t making any associates throughout that session. Seems that some discussions aren’t about absolutes or sides, they slightly fall right into a grey space proper within the center, and there are a number of shades of grey to take care of. Some assumptions are truthful, however an excessive amount of of that journeys you off. You find yourself strolling on a tightrope like a circus performer whereas the drums resonate within the background. 

I felt assured and proud. I did my greatest and felt prepared for the examination. Proper after Cisco Reside US, I headed again to Brussels for my third try at CCDEv3. 

I labored on my data, note-taking, studying, and focus and mentioned with the already-certified CCDE people I knew. I felt prepared. This was my time. I used to be excited whereas taking the examination. It felt good, it felt like a breeze, and I used to be virtually positive. 

I got here out hoping for the most effective and was shot down by a FAIL. It was, by far, probably the most painful of the makes an attempt. I felt misplaced, that I didn’t know what to work on anymore, and that I used to be not capable of conquer such a titanic aim after so lengthy. My scores had been displaying some enchancment after each try, and but, I failed once more and was terribly confused. 

It took me a number of days to even course of so many issues and deal with my emotions. And after I was about to throw the towel, my associates had been there for me. As soon as once more, they held me up, they assured me I used to be shut, they usually gave me extra encouragement than I might have requested for. 

I felt like Spiderman (Tobey Maguire) getting carried over their heads after saving the folks on the practice from an imminent crash. However this time, I used to be the one being saved, in addition to carried. 

The final straw 

With their assist, I used to be nonetheless a bit hesitant, however I picked up my items and tried to do one thing totally different for the October try. 

Was it about data? What else was I doing through the examination? Sooner or later, when you take care of the data gaps (otherwise you assume you probably did), you must fear about your exam-taking expertise and technique. 

I labored extra on my focus and on workouts to maintain myself lively. I introduced loads of sweets, caffeine, and water and did many, many pushups through the take a look at. 

Each time I felt my thoughts was slipping away from me, I’d step up, do 20 pushups, stretch myself, wash my face, and are available again to my seat. 

Through the examination, I used to be consuming vitality drinks, water, espresso, sourworms, and Nutella biscuits. I used to be glad I might deliver these items to the testing room! 

I additionally supplied from my arsenal to all of the folks taking the examination with me. Most of them responded to my proposal with incredulous seems and awkward silence. However a few them did get nearer. They bought Nutella crackers and an vitality drink, some candies. 

This time my angle wasn’t about passing the examination. It was about having fun with the experience, doing my greatest, and feeling happy with how far I’ve come. 

This time I didn’t really feel anxiousness crawling over my shoulder through the examination, worrying in regards to the consequence. I used to be centered, entertained, and optimistic, all about having fun with myself whereas it occurred. 

This time the anxiousness wasn’t within the driver’s seat. I felt advantageous, I felt calm (regardless of the irresponsible quantity of caffeine and sugar in my system), and I felt current.  

There I used to be, telling Peter the way it was, how I felt, what I noticed. I wasn’t positive if I handed, however I did my greatest, and I used to be happy with it. I checked the outcomes someday after whereas sitting subsequent to my associates. To start with, I couldn’t consider it, I believed the web site was damaged, and I couldn’t see the standard “FAIL” I used to be anticipating. 

I believed: “That is kaput, the place is my fail?

I continued to go looking the underside proper aspect of the display screen. 

And there it was, on the prime left of the display screen. It wasn’t damaged. It wasn’t unsuitable. I actually handed, all the pieces was all proper. 

It was the top of an period, the closure I a lot craved for. I couldn’t do anything however cry. I used to be all the time sufficient, I used to be all the time prepared, and the journey lastly made sense.  

CCDE was and shall be, for me, probably the most profitable set of failures I’ve ever encountered. And I’m happy with it, just like the quote attributed to Thomas A. Edison:

I’ve not failed. I’ve simply discovered 10,000 ways in which gained’t work.

—Thomas A. Edison



*The Cisco Licensed Design Skilled (CCDP) certification was retired from the Cisco Certification program on February 23, 2020.

**The CCIE R&S, or Routing and Switching certification, migrated to the CCIE Enterprise Infrastructure certification on February 23, 2020.


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