Monday, January 3, 2022

What IT certification to study in 2022 after not passing the CCNA?

I spent most of my time studying for the Cisco Certified Network Associate last year. In my previous post, I explained my experiences with the exam and why I did not pass. In the end, I was not ready and needed more time. I enjoyed my studies, especially the Boson labs but after that exam, I took some time to reflect on my career and personal development goals for 2022..."What do I do now?".

I thought very hard about what to do after not passing the CCNA exam. Should I go after it again or learn something new? After that exam, I took time off from studying and spent more quality time with my family and friends. With the holidays come and gone I decided to not go for the CCNA just yet. Why? Because I want to learn more about CyberSecurity.  I will eventually go back to the CCNA studies but for now I want to focus my learning on something else.  Even if I did not pass the exam I still learned a lot and I that is why I am focusing on CyberSecurity.  So I did some research, found a video online and went to TryHackMe.com.

Why TryHackme.com? Because I like their content, format, and labs. So I signed up for the CompTIA PenTest+ learning path. Why this? I wanted a place that would provide hands-on experience with applications like BurpSuite, OWASP, Nmap, and more. 


Will I go for my PenTest certification exam? Not any time soon because my goal is to learn the content and find my passion through learning. Not that I was not passionate enough with the CCNA but I want to go about this learning path differently and so far it has been great. With TryHackMe I now have hands on experience with Nmap, BurpSuite, and OWASP Zap. Plus, I did a little bit of Advent of Cyber 3 in early December and learned a bit on web exploitation. Why this path? 

In general, I am a curious person, I may not be the most technical person but I am a team player and enjoy learning new technologies. Plus I saw a job posting that caught my eye which required experience applications BurpSuite, OWASP, Nmap, and more. So I wanted to learn some more about those applications and PenTesting.  That is why I found the CompTIA PenTest+ path in TryHackMe.com. 

Will I go back to the CCNA? Yes, absolutely! I will but I want to learn something else that is not Cisco or networking related and that is why I want to focus a bit more on information security. I almost went to Juniper's JNCIA because their exam vouchers are not as much and sometimes provide discounts if you take their online training or practice exam. But when I saw TryHackMe.com I just got hooked.  Plus most of their courses are free but if you want to use their virtual machines longer than the allotted time one has to subscribe to their services, which is not priced bad. I am not sponsored by them for this but recommend you take a look at the difference between the free version and the paid version of TryHackMe.  Why Subscribe to TryHackMe



My approach this time is not to pass the certification but go through the PenTest exam objectives. During my studies, if I noticed myself interested in taking an exam I will then sign up and schedule a date for the PenTest+. For now, I will do the TryHackMe.com site and learn as much as I can with their labs. 



I hope you are all well and have a prosperous new year. Be safe and keep on learning!

Sunday, December 5, 2021

I Did Not Pass the CCNA Exam - I Was Not Ready

Yes, I failed the Cisco Certified Network Associate Exam!

It was not an easy exam and neither was the Network+ certification when I pass that on November 2019. I had a feeling earlier during the week of my exam I was not going to pass and should have rescheduled it.  Why did I not reschedule?    
  
I was at a point where I was burnt out from studying. I went through the Cisco exam objectives, Boson labs, watched David Bombal Udemy videos, used Todd Tammle's CCNA book as a reference, flash cards, practice exam and even took an official week long live virtual training back in the spring. But none of what I learned was enough to pass the exam. But why did I not reschedule the exam? I wanted to keep my commitment and I wanted to accept the outcome regardless of the exam results. Let me explain my experience with the exam. 

I took the Pearson Vue exam at work.  I was lucky enough to reserve a small huddle room in the human resources building because I have too much equipment in my office to move out for a two hour exam.  In the huddle room it had a small table, an office chair and network jack.  There were no pictures on the walls, no monitors, no computers and it had good lighting.  I used a spare work laptop and had it wiped and reconfigured with no firewall settings or no antivirus.  It had the bare-bone Windows 10 image to make sure I was not blocked or disconnected from the exam since I was taking the exam at work.  Also, with a hybrid work schedule for some people in the building I knew I was not going to be disturbed.  The check in process by Pearson Vue was amazing.  I would highly recommend you take the exam at home or work versus going to a testing facility.  Once I finished my I exam I got the notification right away that I failed.  I was hoping to see the details on the exam but they did not include that in the end but I knew I did really bad.  Halfway through the exam I used up to much time on some difficult questions and guessed on a few questions.  I did not want to end the exam without time and now I know. I was not ready for this exam.

My detailed exam results came in the next day.  Once they did I logged back into Pearson Vue right away and it showed the percentage scores of each category. I wanted to post them here with this blog post but I am too embarrassed to show my results with anyone. I am still upset at myself for not rescheduling the exam with how bad I score but I wanted to keep my commitment to the scheduled date.
 
I was at a point where I was putting too much pressure on myself for this exam. At the end of the day, it is just an exam. This does not define who I am and what I am capable of doing and if you are in the same just know that you are not alone.  I am thankful for my job and the opportunity they have given me at work, to learn and develop my skills.  I am most thankful to my wife who is always supportive of my goals and I could not be more grateful for her loving support.  

I am happy that I failed because I will get back to my studies after I have take a small break and spend some time with my wife and kids during the holidays.  
 
Stay strong, keep moving forward and keep on learning. 
Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Time-Saving Tricks for Subnetting by Practical Networking - My CCNA Studies 10 days Left

With my exam in ten days I have to brush up on my subnetting skills. I will be doing this every day till exam day.  If you are looking for ways to learn subnetting check out the links and video below by Practical Networking. I highly recommend you watch all of the Subnetting Mastery videos and website. If you have done subnetting before and just need a refresher check the video I included below.  The video provides great quick tips.

 By far these are the best videos on subnetting. I think being able to do subnetting quickly is a must know for the CCNA exam.  I have seen at least one or two questions within the Boson ExSim practice exams that require subnetting knowledge.

The links below are directed to their blog, website and YouTube videos on subnetting.  If you want to practice check out subnetipv4.com.  It has a clean and simple to use  tool that populates random CIDR notation to practice from.  In there one has to figure out the Network ID, Broadcast ID and if stuck it can populate the answers.  

Now I got to practice to get fast and better at subnetting. 

https://subnetipv4.com/

Subnetting Mastery Blog Post by Practical Networking

 Subnetting Mastery by Practical Networking

Sunday, November 7, 2021

CCNA Studies - Learning Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol w Jeremy's IT Lab

My exam is in twelve days and wanted to give you a quick up on my studies.  From my last post I have continued well with my studies but still have much to do.  What my focus has been is reviewing some topics that I am not that good in and use Anki flashcards through the next few days and then go through Boson ExSim exams B and C.  I redid the Boson exam A and did much better but still have some weaknesses.  Mainly that I do not carefully read the questions and would recommend that when you are taking any exam you carefully read the question and answers. Plus I am quick to make a selection without really taking an extra few seconds to make a sound decision.  

With this I wanted to shared a good video on learning about Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol.  If you have not checked out Jeremy's IT Lab on YouTube do so below.  He has tons of free videos on YouTube on all of the CCNA topics.  If you are looking for an alternative trainer online this one is highly recommended. 

Well, I would like to continue on what I have learned but I got to get back to studying and back to the flashcards. 

Next time I post on here will be on the exam results.  My exam is on November 19th.  

Till next time...later!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

CCNA Studies - I Took My 1st Boson Practice Exam

I finally took my first Boson ExSim practice exam this week and I did horrible.  I am not kidding, I only got thirty-four percent of the questions right and by question number sixty I only had eighteen percent of the answers correct.  After that score I decided to take a mental break from anything IT related including studying for the CCNA and work. So I took this weekend off from just that.

I have been working six days a week most of this year and lately it has been super busy with many people returning to their offices after eighteen months working from home.  Why am I working every Saturday…overtime pay! Out of a large team of technicians I wanted to do it so I talked to my wife to make sure she was okay since she would be by herself with the kids. I cannot thank my wife enough for her support.  Working Saturdays was a win win for us since I would get good overtime pay and use any free time to study for the CCNA.  Besides the good pay it was a nice shift to catch up with repairs or incidents from the work week.  Most shifts on Saturday were quiet and the working hours are between seven to eight hours but in September they extended the hours to twelve hours due to many staff, faculty and students returning to campus.  I enjoy working the extra hours and studying for the CCNA but I was feeling burn out and needed a mental break from it.  Especially after taking the Boson practice exam.  

 So I told my manager that I would not be covering this past Saturday and spent a full weekend with my wife and kids.  No labs, no studying, no work, just family time.  I went to my five year old son's soccer game and was super excited to see him score his second goal.  After the game we stayed a few more minutes to let the kids play on the playground in the park.  We did a lot fun things with the kids this weekend and could not ask for the best fall weather in Connecticut.  At times I wanted to pickup my flash cards or do a Boson lab but was I enjoying the mental break and being with my family.  I was due for a break and glad I took the practice exam now.

 The exam was great.  I felt like I got punched really hard in the gut after taking the exam but it was important for me to gauge where I stand from what I have studied so far.  I have heard nothing but great things about the Boson practice exams online by others who passed the exam.  The format is great, the content is hard, and the questions are well written.  I will recommend to anyone looking for a good CCNA practice test to get the Boson ExSim and NetSims. The only thing I wish the ExSim would have is the option to break it down by chapter, subject or content.  One thing I did for the Network+ exam was study a chapter then test myself which really helped. 

Why did I take the exam now?  I schedule the exam for mid November and need to know where my weaknesses and strengths are.  It clear to me that I have more weakenesses than strenghts but when I was going through the exam I knew some of the answers.  My issue was that I was misreading the question or the answer.  After seeing my score I think I am going to reschedule my exam and if I do that is okay.  But I will wait till I get closer to that day to gauge myself then.  If by end of October I am no where close to retaining the information I will know what to do.  

 I keep hearing some people on YouTube, online or social media that the CCNA is not a destination but a journey.  If now is not the time then that is okay. I keep reminding myself that I am new to this content and many people were in my shoes.  My goal after I pass the CCNA is to be a Network Administrator/Technician or Junior Network Engineer.  Whether it be that I get into that role with my company, or somewhere else.

The reason I am thinking of rescheduling my exam is because I think I have a lot of information to retain and have about fifty days left.  I also have parts of the exam objectives that I still do not understand.  There is so much information to learn on the CCNA what really confuses me, among many things, is how packets flow.  I have an idea on how they flow with networks but to explain it to someone else I may miss a few things.  With about seven weeks and three days till my exam I have a lot of information to learn, test and review again.  

I do not know how people take the exam under eight weeks not knowing anything about networking or information technology.  I mean anyone can learn this but this is taking me a while to understand the concepts. Especially having to understand how certain commands do certain functions and then having to memorize them is a different workout. 

In all I am happy to have taken the weekend off and excited to get back to studying and learning the CCNA.  I am not going to reschedule my exam just yet.  I still have much to learn but if you are feeling overwhelmed or burned out it is important to take breaks in between.  Especially if you have a wife, kids and other responsibilities outside of work.  Take advantage of every moment of every day and take a reset day if needed. Do not stop and do not give up.  

I am ready for these seven good weeks of studying. See you soon CCNA.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

My CCNA Studies - I Scheduled My Exam for November!

It has been a while since I have posted an update on my CCNA studies and I am excited to say that I scheduled the exam for the second week in November.

I need to be honest and say that it was challenging to study this summer.  I feel like summers are not that long in Connecticut.  I took most of July off from studying to enjoy the warm weather and to spend quality time with my wife and kids. While we were on vacation my plan was to study at night when the kids were in bed but that did not turn out as planned and I am really happy it did. 

My wife and I had previous employers that did not allow employees to take more than a week at a time of vacation unless there was a major life changing event. So taking two full weeks was one of the best vacations we had since we got married.  But after we got done with vacation I knew that I had to make up some ground with my studies. 

I have been studying on and off since earlier this year but truth is that I did not have the official accountability. But now I do with my exam schedule and once I did, in the words of Emeril Legasse, I "kicked it up a notch!".  

 Learning networking technologies is not easy for me to understand but I still like it.  I am a person that loves how things are made and work.  At work I have been taking advantage of the overtime and working six days a week most of 2021. Nobody at work has wanted the overtime on Saturdays, except another technician but it is really quiet so I take the opportunity to do a full day of studying.  Even then I still feel like it has been a challenge to study eight to 11 hours every Saturday but what keeps me in check is having the exam scheduled.

As soon as I scheduled it I knew I needed a good lab to work with since the Cisco labs I got in March expired and were only available for three months. I wish they would just provide access to that for the whole year. Three months of access is not enough in my opinion unless you already have experience in networking and just need to review some things in a lab environment.  So I  went and got both the Boson NetSim for labs and the ExSim as a practice exam. So far the labs are just as good if not better than the ones from Cisco. I like the format and the way they go about it. I like how they create multiple tasks that are repetitive. It helps me to grasp the commands when configuring the devices and for anyone who is a musician can appreciate and understand how important repetition is.  


Since then I have been able to understand more how NAT and PAT work along with many other protocols and configurations. I also change it up and use David Bombals CCNA and Packet Tracers courses.  His Packet Tracer course on Udemy is great.  If you do not have enough funds to purchase the NetSim from Boson get his course.  You wont regret it but definitely get the ExSim if you do not have a practice exam for the CCNA.  I went through a few questions on exam one and they are really good. I heard others online say how the Boson ExSim is close to the Cisco exam. 

I like David Bombal's Packet Tracer courses because he challenges one to go about real-life-like scenarios before providing the how to. I think it's important to do so to force one to learn the process because in real life we will need to do our own research to troubleshoot and configure a network. 

For books, I had the digital copy of Cisco Cert Guide but somehow they got removed from OReilly Books from my company so I have Todd Lammle's book and will say it's an easier read. I should have used these a long time ago because the OCGs are a tough read.  




In all, I am excited and nervous to take the exam in three months. August almost gone but I have learned a good amount from earlier this year.

What I might do next is just go through the first of the three available exams by Boson to get an idea of where my strengths and weaknesses are and focus on where I don't know anything. 

Let me know if you have any struggles and successes. I like to see what people have done to pass their exams and their experience with the exam taken at home or work. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Today you win! (Massive Giveaway) by David Bombal on YouTube

If you are looking for some free content in Networking, David Bombal on YouTube is working with Aruba to giveaway some free courses on Udemy. 

If know me I recommend Udemy as a platform to study courses and have used it to help me pass by Network+ certification. 

Check out the video and get some free courses while they last! 

Thanks to David Bombal and Aruba



Saturday, June 12, 2021

CCNA Studies - Hitting a Wall

With spring already here, the weather warming up, and the COVID 19 vaccine well on its way. Things seem like we are well back into some normal routine. I have been back in my office for at least three months, my kids are back in school and daycare and things seem somewhat better. I know that some people are struggling during these times from the effects of COVID and with that I would encourage you to utilize your time wisely. I know what it is like to feel stuck in a career that you do not want to be in long term.  Take this opportunity to learn a new skill in information technology. No matter what age and where you are in your life just start. With that also comes some rough studying days ahead. Lately, I have been struggling to get any motivation for the CCNA. I think taking five eight-hour-per-day CCNA virtual training was a lot to learn in one week. 

Having to absorb so much information from the lectures and still have only 2 months lefts to use the Cisco labs and study for the CCNA is a challenge. After that, I found it hard to continue studying for the CCNA. Sometimes I even wondered if I should even continue. I know I am not alone when I say this. Not only specific to the CCNA but for studying for any important exam or certification.  

Many times we have work and personal responsibilities that take priority over others. I keep asking myself if I really want the CCNA? I still say yes but sometimes wonder if I really should because I like where I am at in my company and do not want to leave my job and company. One of the main reasons is I finally completed five years here and I feel like I can still do more. One big perk that I find motivating me is once an employee completes five years the company provides added vacation time. Which for me is huge when having two kids under the age of five.  

So why am I writing this? Honestly, because I want to let you know that you are not alone. There are days when I need to give my brain a mental break from studying. There are days when I know I should be studying and I do but feel like it is not enough.

What should I do? How should I continue?  

I think that is part of the journey. Knowing that some days and weeks are not going to be as easy and finding that consistency is key, not motivation. I also think that my why is not the same. When I was studying for my Network+ certification in 2019 I felt like I had a lot weighing on me to pass that exam. It was my first IT certification, I wanted to prove it to myself, my peers and show my kids how important it is to continue learning after college. 

But now I find myself against not wanting to and this is okay.  I understand that I will have these days and that life is about prioritizing what is important to me and to me that is family, friends, health, and more. Things could be worse for me but it is not.  I am lucky to have a job, a roof over my head, a loving wife and beautiful kids.  Maybe now is time to reset and refresh the studies.  

Knowing when this comes up could be different for you.  If you are in a situation where you have no job and have a family to care for, I could understand that you are running as fast as you can to reach the finish line.  That is why I would say if you are in a similar situation as myself.  It is okay to take a mental break and enjoy the warmer season now that things seem to be somewhat "normal".  

In the end write down your goals and keep them posted up.  Writing down my why is important to me.  Maybe right now is no the time but tomorrow is.  Many people who are into fitness give themselves breaks between days.  They work on legs on Monday but Tuesday they work on arms.  Mixing it up helps. 

I hope you are doing well during these times and with your studies.  Let me know how you are doing with your studies and what you do to help yourself to stay consistent and motivated and what you to do relax from work and your studies.