Well, I figure it's my turn to write something about the CCDE exam that, as Brian M. noted, he, Petr and I suffered through.... errrr... took yesterday! :)
It was... ummm... a long day! Definitely be prepared to sit and digest information as you go through. The catchy part is that there is not a whole lot of information out there on the concept of the CCDE Practical. Well, with it still being a beta and all. If you managed to catch the Networkers presentation from Orlando, that's a good bit of information.
If you worked with the online Demo of the exam (link in Petr's blog) than you have some clue on the format there. It will be interesting to see what all comes out of the beta in terms of scores and pass/fail results. It was NOT an easy exam by any stretch of the imagination! Hats off to Russ, Bruce, Bill, Steve, Sarah, Theresa and the myriad of other folks involved in the program's inception.
Were there glitches yesterday during delivery? Sure. It's a beta. It's Adobe Flash, which isn't exactly the most stable thing in the world, and some interesting creation tools to go with it. Some people had other hardware problems (which the folks from Pearson/Vue were wonderful about fixing IMHO). But there were plenty of people from both Pearson/Vue and Cisco around at each of the testing centers to log, evaluate and resolve (if possible) anything we ran into.
Now, like Petr pointed out, those who may be used to sitting for 8'ish hours for a CCIE lab, you still have a big difference between that exam and this one! In the CCIE lab, you often wonder where time goes because you are busy typing, configuring, verifying (you DO do that, right?) and possibly troubleshooting. The point is you are active the entire time.
At this exam, there's reading to do. Then there's questions. Then there's staring back at the reading or your notes or your pre-conceived thoughts on the "customer" that has whatever issue you are presented with. And there's staring back at those "documents" coming up with some answer to the question. And after several hours of this, you are looking around for a white-hot poker to possibly stick in your eye. I'm happy to report that there were no confirmed maimings at the event!
Design, as you know, is an incredibly subjective concept! Sometimes there are definite right/wrong answers. Sometimes there are many flavors of right-ish answers. This exam is a lot about thought-process, which is really quite interesting but difficult to convey in a short period of time.
There were almost 50 very well-known folks throughout the industry spread across two of Pearson/Vue's testing centers in downtown Chicago yesterday. And then there were many of us who went to a wonderful reception that Cisco sponsored afterwards! Kind of a celebration/commiseration drinking opportunity! (grin)
Then, of course, there's bar-hopping afterwards. But why should this have been different than any other gathering of network engineers! No, seriously, it was good to see many of the people there and the caliber of the people involved in this beta. Cisco is doing quite a bit to assure the success of the program, and I think that was evident throughout the evening.
No matter what the final scores happen to be (although I had decided there was a 20-point bonus per "major error" spotted (major being very subjective, because the world did not end with any of them!) and therefore I have at least 60 points!), I think it will give the folks on the team plenty of opportunities to look at this and evaluate how this assessment actually went.
There were opinions all over the place being shared at the party. Some good, some not as good. Some believing they had the right answer and the CCDE exam went a different way (did I mention there's no "back" button?). But that's to be expected. Isn't part of being a successful networking engineer revolve around the "fact" that you are right all the time? :)
It was a long day. I was proud of myself for not falling asleep in the afternoon! Although I thought that pillows should have been provided for that! But now the difficult part comes: WAITING. Our "score reports" were basically "Thank you for playing" notes, similar to any beta, that the results would be released soemtime in the future.
So now comes the HARD work on Cisco's part! Cisco has to grade them. As long as I don't get 0, I'll be happy! :) And Brian M. will be happy as long as he score 1 more point than I do! All in all, it was a very interesting day!