Completed: ENAUTO (and CCNP)

Brief Journey Overview

My ENAUTO (and really my CCNP) journey began at least a year ago. No, I did not begin studying for these exams a year ago since the blueprints themselves didn’t exist at this time last year, but I did know they were coming due to the announcements at Cisco Live US 2019. What I mean by my journey is my shift in mindset to focus on automation and regain traction to achieve my CCNP. I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but I attempted my CCNP a couple years ago (late 2018) and failed the Route exam. I realized that I failed because I did not agree with all the topics on the exam (i.e. Frame Relay being the biggest), which caused me to push aside studying and ultimately fail. I tried bringing myself to terms that the exam topics were what they were, but I just couldn’t shake it.

At the same time I was trying to study for the Route exam, I began experimenting and building my first Ansible playbooks, which ultimately began my network automation journey. I fell in love with network automation immediately and knew I wanted to learn more about it. I couldn’t understand why I had to spend time labbing up Frame Relay on an exam that’s supposed to set you up for a job now and provide further value in the future when there was the magic of Ansible playbooks that needed to be understood. Don’t get me wrong, I understood Frame Relay was on the exam because it’s still out in the wild, but I’d argue that at this point in its existence, it’s a whitepaper read on an as-needed basis. Luckily, I was at Cisco Live US 2019 in San Diego when they announced the revamp of the certification tests and the new DevNet certifications. I was ecstatic to hear all the changes. Finally, Cisco bringing automation to their traditionally networking exams and introducing a new lineup of DevNet exams. My goals were set, mind focused, and I knew what I had to do next… study, study, study!

My ENAUTO Experience

Now if you’ve been keeping up with my journey, you are probably wondering, “Didn’t he just take the ENCOR exam last month? This ENAUTO exam must not be too tough since he only needed a month to prep.” I want to preface and emphasize that before I began officially studying for ENAUTO, I’ve had work and personal experiences working with the topics presented on the ENAUTO blueprint. I was familiar with Netmiko and have produced Python scripts that utilized the DNAC and Meraki APIs. All my studying and prepping for the exam did not occur within the past month. I’ve had many experiences over time that have prepared me for this exam. With that being said, I still spent a good amount of time prepping for this exam. Pretty much every day (including weekends), I spent 1-3 hours a night studying. I’ve always preferred putting in consistent time on a regular basis versus shorter studying sessions during the week and long study sessions on the weekends (5+ hours). Not to say long study sessions are a bad thing, they just have just not worked effectively for me in the past. Also, I was blessed to have a pretty consistent schedule to study with minimal interruptions. I know life can get in the way a lot, but don’t let that discourage you! You can always find time by sacrificing time somewhere else in your day (i.e. watching TV or Netflix).

Let’s begin talking about the actual studying and exam experience. Overall, the exam was extremely fair and I wasn’t caught off guard by any of the topics. My exam prep helped with this, mostly due to the fact that I read each exam blueprint topic thoroughly. For example, when a blueprint topic begins with ‘Implement…’ or ‘Construct…’, you better have done that specific task in a lab environment. All of the errors and troubleshooting you go through while labbing help solidify your knowledge of the topic. For other exam topics, I would also consider labbing them up for safe measure. If you do not have a personal lab environment (physical or virtual), I would highly encourage you to use Cisco’s DevNet sandboxes. There are two types: Always-on and Reserve only. The Always-on provide a read-only environment, but are great to test most API calls. The reserved sandboxes provide a read-write environment and free reign. You can perform any necessary task, which is crucial when it comes to configuring or running code. These environments are awesome. The popular sandboxes can sometimes be tough to reserve, but you will definitely need to reserve a few during your ENAUTO studies.

I will not get into specific or technical details about the exam, but I will say that on top of knowing how each protocol or product works (i.e. RESTCONF vs. NETCONF), you should understand WHY one may be preferred over the other in a given situation. I’m not saying that an exam question is going to ask you, “Why is RESTCONF preferred over NETCONF?” or vice-versa, but by learning the WHY, you can better understand how the components of each protocol work and know their differences. Learning more about the WHY has always been stressed in my blog posts and I consider it to be a good study technique. If you know WHY a specific protocol or product was created and the challenges it solved, then you’ll gain a better understanding.

Personal Study Tips

With the lack of an official certification guide or your typical text book, the ENAUTO may be tough for some people to begin their study journey. However, the best part of the DevNet certifications is that there are a TON of free resources on the web. For me, I personally like to have one book resource, 1-2 video resources, and of course, a labbing environment. Since ENAUTO does not have an OCG, I used publicly available Cisco white papers and (mostly) DevNet documentation for my reading resources. For video content, I went to my ol’ trusty CBT Nuggets and also tried a new one: Pluralsight. While I’m not going to compare them, they both presented their content in a way that complemented one another. I watched CBT Nuggets first, so that gave me a good introduction and overview of the content. I personally love the way their content is presented, so it kept me engaged. I went through their 10 hour ENAUTO course within a week. Pluralsight has a slightly different structure from CBT Nuggets, but they ultimately have a collection of skills that make up a complete course. The ENAUTO course is taught by Nick Russo – he is awesome. He dives deep into labbing each major exam topic and really puts the onus on you to really the learn the content. He provides reference files for each course, which is great for when you go back through the content. Overall, I highly recommend both, CBT Nuggets and Pluralsight, to anyone searching for ENAUTO video training content.

One last note before I begin discussing my next steps. In the final week leading up to the exam, I had a discussion with some of the people in the The Art of Network Engineering Discord server (which you should join if you want to be surrounded by some awesome networking people!) about final prep steps. My main concerns were, “Do I know enough? Did I dive deep enough into each topic?”. This may be a common theme for everyone before a Cisco exam, but it was more difficult for me because, unlike other Cisco exams, the automation and DevNet exams are more focused on programming, which if you know programming, can be very open-ended. There are many ways to solve the same problem when it comes to programming. It’s not as straight forward as knowing the different LSA types in OSPF or some other concrete networking fact. With that being said, I received words of encouragement from many people in the Discord, which really helped! I highly encourage anyone, who hasn’t already, to join an online IT community (The Art of Network Engineering is a good place to start!). These communities can really help and make you realize that your problems are not always specific to just you.

Next Steps for Me

As I wrap this up, I want to shed some light on my future plans. After studying (pretty aggressively) for the past few months, I’m going to take a break from certification tests during the holiday season and pick back up in early 2021. My next goal is to pass the Cisco DEVCOR (350-901) exam, to ultimately achieve my DevNet Professional certification.

If you have any questions or feedback, please do not hesitate to reach out to me on here by sending an email (check the bottom of my homepage) or by hitting me up on Twitter (@devnetdan). Thanks for reading!

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