The group will never be better than the members that are in it. I hope you followed my advice in the previous post. If you let in too many people and people that are not committed and focused the group will not be successful no matter how you run it.
Collaborate – The most important thing is to have a collaborative environment. Encourage people to share what they are working on but of course be aware of NDAs and revealing customer names etc. When you study a topic, ask questions! This is good both for your own learning but also for sake of the group. We all have different experience levels on different topics. You want to have daily exchanges taking place between the people in the group. As the admin you should set a good example and keep the group talking.
Create rooms – Create rooms, channels or whatever you want to call them where you divide different technologies into these rooms. This makes it easier to follow the flow of discussions and staying focused when there is not a ton of text about different topics in the room. We for example have rooms for data center, MPLS, multicast, OAM, overlays, QoS, routing, switching, security, wireless, but also vendor rooms where we can discuss scenarios from legitimate CCDE bootcamp vendors. To get into a vendor room you must have a valid purchase of the product as we discourage all form of pirating.
Schedule study sessions – The most important part of the study group is to have regular study sessions where a technology or scenario is discussed. We normally use Webex to setup the session and have these every weekend. Don’t get stuck trying to get everyone to attend, as long as you have at least 4-5 people joining that’s more important than trying to reschedule to fit everyone’s calendar. We normally record these so that people can watch them later but not if it’s a session discussing material from the vendors. You will of course learn the most though if you actively participate in the study sessions.
Apply the rules – To keep the group motivated it is important to have rules and that you stand by these rules. In our group it’s not acceptable to be a silent member. If you are in, you have to collaborate. If you haven’t typed a thing in two months, that’s a pretty good sign you are not committed or that you are only leveraging the study group for your own benefit without giving anything back. Every now and then we do a cleanup and tell members they have to start getting active or get out. Maybe something got in the way in your life, in that case take a break and come back later. Having too large of a group and members not contributing will lower the morale of the group. Do cleanups!
Create scenarios - One of the best ways of learning is to create your own scenario and have the other members of the group go through your scenario. Schedule a session where you debrief and discuss the scenario. The goal of this session is not to look for binary right/wrong answers but instead get a discussion going. You might be surprised to find how there are a lot of different angles to something you thought there was only a single solution for. There are only so many legitimate vendor scenarios available out there. If you get people creating scenarios, the pool gets larger and the collaborative effect becomes greater.
For our group we use Slack but any tool where you can chat, create rooms etc. will do fine like Spark, Ryver or whatever is your favorite tool. If you follow my advice in the first post and then do the things I recommend in this post, I’m sure you can run a successful study group as well. We have some ongoing efforts to help people form these groups – see how to reach out on the links below.
Good luck in your studies and see you next time! By the way, if you are going to Cisco Live US and are studying for the CCDE, don’t be afraid to say hi. I won’t bite. I promise
About the Author
Daniel Dib, CCIE #37149, CCDE #20160011, is a Senior Network Architect at Conscia Netsafe. He works with creating scalable, modular and highly available network designs that meet business needs. Daniel started out in implementation and operations and got his CCIE in 2012. In May 2016 he became the second person in Sweden to get CCDE certified.
He often acts as a subject matter expert for his customers with deep expertise in routing, switching, multicast and fast convergence.
Here are a few additional ways for us to engage and keep the conversation going:
- Cisco Learning Network CCDE Study Group
- Connect on Twitter too
- CCDE study materials for the Written and Practical exams
- Related Unleashing CCDE blogs: How to Form a CCDE Study Group by Daniel Dib, Top 5 CCDE Study Tips, Business Requirements in the Network Design Process with Daniel Dib, Network Design and CCDE by Mark Holm, Constructing your CCDE Practical Exam Strategy Part 1 with Nick Russo, The A-Ha Moment by Michael “Zig” Zsiga, A Milestone Approach to the CCDE Certification