Experience

Answered Question
Dec 23rd, 2008

I passed the CCNA exam and am now almost through with CCNP. I have noticed that even though I can read some books and pass the exams I still don't quit get it. It's real easy to memorize questions and become a paper tech but that's not what I'm looking for. The school I attend does have a rack full of Cisco routers and switchs but I find myself aimlessly typing in random commands with no goal. I have thought about getting my own equipment for some home practice but I'm afraid I will be in the same rut at my house that I was in at school. What is another way I can practice setting up different configs? Is this just something that comes while working in the industry? Or is there a way to practice and gain some useful experience?

I have this problem too.
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Correct Answer by scottmac about 7 years 11 months ago

Experience is always the hard part ...

Check with some charities or religious organizations, they are often happy to hacve some (free/cheap) help with their networking needs.

The only issue is that most places don't mess with standing infrastructure unless it's to upgrade or update ... which doesn't happen all that often.

So working the practice racks is still the most likely hands-on time you're likely to get.

There are books and web sites with scenarios; I used to try to replicate the setups in the books I was reading at the time.

You can always do paper slips in a hat ... or several hats ... like "LAN A," "LAN B," "WAN" and draw a couple slips from each hat and set up the network accordingly.

Try teaching someone the stuff you've learned, and set it up on the rack as part of the discussion. Teaching is a great way to learn, especially if the person you're teaching asks a lot of questions. I think you'd be surprised how one "simple" question can challenge your understanding.

You'll know you truly understand it when you can translate the tech-speak in the books to "common english" and explain it to to the non-technical people (versus just repeating the text of the book).

And, of course, there's always the forums here ... try answering a few questions. Take a question you are interested in and do the research to find the correct answer, and explain the answer to the OP.

As I think you're finding out, sometimes you have to make your own experience just like sometimes you have to come up with "something to do" at work when all the normal chores are done (notice many of the job ads have verbiage like "self-starter," "motivated" ...

Good Luck, Happy Holidays!

Scott

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dbeare Wed, 12/24/2008 - 07:20

Understanding the theory is a good first step, but without practical application, the certifications don't really have much use. I would highly recommend trying to get a job, or an internship if you're in school, with a company that is in a field you want to work. It sounds like you have the knowledge, but no direction. Try to find someone who is in the field you wish to go into and see if they can mentor you and help to give you the direction you need. Setting up equipment in a test environment is completely different from the real world where there are many other variables. Best of luck to you!

Correct Answer
scottmac Wed, 12/24/2008 - 07:38

Experience is always the hard part ...

Check with some charities or religious organizations, they are often happy to hacve some (free/cheap) help with their networking needs.

The only issue is that most places don't mess with standing infrastructure unless it's to upgrade or update ... which doesn't happen all that often.

So working the practice racks is still the most likely hands-on time you're likely to get.

There are books and web sites with scenarios; I used to try to replicate the setups in the books I was reading at the time.

You can always do paper slips in a hat ... or several hats ... like "LAN A," "LAN B," "WAN" and draw a couple slips from each hat and set up the network accordingly.

Try teaching someone the stuff you've learned, and set it up on the rack as part of the discussion. Teaching is a great way to learn, especially if the person you're teaching asks a lot of questions. I think you'd be surprised how one "simple" question can challenge your understanding.

You'll know you truly understand it when you can translate the tech-speak in the books to "common english" and explain it to to the non-technical people (versus just repeating the text of the book).

And, of course, there's always the forums here ... try answering a few questions. Take a question you are interested in and do the research to find the correct answer, and explain the answer to the OP.

As I think you're finding out, sometimes you have to make your own experience just like sometimes you have to come up with "something to do" at work when all the normal chores are done (notice many of the job ads have verbiage like "self-starter," "motivated" ...

Good Luck, Happy Holidays!

Scott

richard.m.gilbert Thu, 12/25/2008 - 17:40

One thing I am doing is creating every network shown in each chapter. I will read the book part first ... then set up that network, trying replicate what the book is trying to teach ... then after I got a good grasp of the hands on portion I re-read the relevant part of the book. I do that for each chapter/section and then do the practice labs at the end of each chapter. This has helped a lot in being able to conceptualize what the book is trying to convey.

The books I refer to are the self-study guides and exam certification guides.

Hope that helps.

Jon Marshall Fri, 12/26/2008 - 12:39

Jeremy

Scott has hit the nail on the head.

If you have access to a rack of kit then get involved with NetPro. It really does test your understanding of things having to explain how something works and one of the reasons i use NetPro is to keep my skills up to date. I can't count the number of times i thought i understood something, started to explain it and then thought "hang on, that's not right.... :-)"

If you can make someone understand something then you really do understand it. And there are many questions where people post their configurations and you could use these as a starting point to setup on your kit. It will surprise you how quickly setting up networks becomes second nature and how much of a deeper understanding you gain.

And don't worry about making mistakes, the people who post in these forums are some of the most approachable people i have come across in forums.

One other thing you could do is visit http://www.cisco.com/go/srnd where Cisco publicize their design docs. If you look at the campus docs for example there are topology diagrams of the layouts. You could use these to build an example network on your kit.

Jon

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