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December 20, 2008

More Reading for the Stats

I finished reading Cisco Express Forwarding last week. The book has been sitting on my desk and I finally put it in the stats so I can put the book back on the bookshelf. Yeah, that's my process to insure that the pages get recorded. I'm also doing some things with arranging the books on the shelf so that I can get a visual appreciation of how much I've read and how much is left to read. This is just out of the books I already have for the CCIE Written. Since there was a good deal on Cisco Press books at one time, I already ordered every last book on the recommended reading list. Now I have to plow through them. And it's taking exactly that - plowing through them. Most of the books are a good 4 inches thick and the entire stack is 2 1/2 feet tall.

The Cisco Express Forwarding book was a very good read. It was not part of the original bunch. I ran across it while I was doing my Black Friday shopping at Microcenter. I saw it and thought...'wow, a whole book on CEF!" I figured that if there was a whole book on it, the book must go into the nooks and crannies of it. And yes, it really does give you a better understanding of how CEF operates and how to troubleshoot it. But it also gets into some very interesting details. Like someone said to me who saw I was reading the book -- "Can't that be summarized in a paragraph or two?" Well, of course it can -- if that's the depth of knowledge that you want. If you're studying for the CCNA, yes, summarize CEF in a paragraph. If you're shooting for the prized CCIE, well... you'll have to know a little more. No, I can't say that what I learned in that book will or won't help me pass the CCIE exam. But, when you think about it, it's not really just about the exam. What I do know is that I learned a few things from that book that I would not have learned if I merely stayed strictly with what I 'should' read.

Yeah, I learned a trick or two. And that trick or two may come in handy when I'm sitting in front of a device and trying to figure out a problem (or even try to prove/disprove that a particular issue is caused by this or that). That's one thing that the book elaborates on very clearly - how to determine if certain issues are 'caused' by CEF or not. As I was reading the book, I could see that knowing this information would be one of those things that separates the 'experienced' from the 'guru'...

The experienced person is valuable. They've seen a lot and learned a lot. But, for the most part, they only know what they've seen. The more difficult issues that haven't been experienced before are even more difficult just for that reason. On the other hand, the guru has experience PLUS a theoretical knowledge base and a deep understanding of the inner workings of the protocols and devices. A guru is the one who can look at a problem and knows how to peer deeper into the issue to determine the real cause and the proper solution. The experienced person tries everything they've ever done before to fix things and tends to throw the kitchen sink at a problem until it appears to go away. When the smoke clears, they say..."I'm not sure what happened, but I know what fixed it." That's simply not good enough for me. I want to be the person who says -- "This is what happened and this is why it happened. And here is how you can prevent it from happening again." Those people are _highly valued_ and I want to be in their number. That doesn't just happen by luck or birthright. It takes work.

I really think that such things are the difference between a 'paper' CCIE/MCSE/etc and a guru. I also believe that once you earn the title CCIE, you will be -expected- to be a guru. And if you can't instantly and decisively demonstrate such prowess, the people around you will dismiss you as a 'paper' whatever your cert. And you will have to work 10 times as hard to change that opinion once it's formed.

So, yeah, the exam process itself is tough. But, real life is tougher. No matter what you know, if you can't explain it to both junior technical people and non-technical people (especially management - and in their business terms), then you don't really know it, do you? You might have a general idea. You might have a good hunch or experience-based probability that a certain solution may work. But that's not good enough to earn the respect that goes with the title. It's not good enough to make you a guru. And that's why it's taking so long to get to where I'm going.

The Cisco Catalyst QOS book is next on my list.

Posted by BlueWolf on December 20, 2008 10:26 AM