How I Got 5 Juniper Certs in 2 Months!

Junos Genius. That’s it, end of the article. Just kidding… Sort of. Read on!

So, in late July I passed my ENSLD (EN-Salad) Exam, 300-420 Enterprise Design. This completed my CCNP Enterprise. I was in shock! I went to my manager and shared with him this exciting news. He said “Congratulations, I’m really excited for you. Now, I need you to go get these 5 Juniper Certifications before the end of September.”

I was having a difficult enough tackling just the two I completed for CCNP Enterprise. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through 5 Juniper Certs in just two months…

First, why 5 certs in two months?

First off, why am I being asked to get 5 Juniper Certs with a deadline? Well, I work for a VAR, a Value Added Reseller, aka a Partner. We partner with all the major OEMs, like Cisco and Juniper. As a partner we get access to resources that help us help you as our customer. In order for an organization to become a partner they have to meet specific requirements, based on the level of partnership they want to achieve. The different partner levels “unlock” special discounts, access to training, resources and other things. One of these requirements is Certified individuals. The company I work for was looking to improve our partnership with Juniper and to meet a certain partner level we had to get some Juniper Certifications. Now, lots of engineers in the organization were asked to get some Juniper Certifications. However, I was one of only a handful of engineers asked to get five. The five were:

JNCDA – Juniper Networks Design Associate
JNCIA-Junos – Juniper Associate – Junos
JNCIA-DevOps – Juniper Associate – DevOps
JNCIS-DevOps – Juniper Specialist – DevOps
JNCIS-SP – Juniper Specialist – Service Provider

For more info on the Juniper Certification program checkout: https://www.juniper.net/us/en/training/certification/

Resources

Since several other engineers had already started down this path they highly recommended the Junos Genius content. Junos Genius is absolutely free! I lucked out and was able to get free vouchers for the Associate level Certifications by completing the training and passing the exams at the end, before they changed the program…

Each training track aligns to a certification. There are videos with recommended labs. The videos were very thorough, the labs were informative and just challenging enough. At the end of the training they even provided one or two practice exams. You had to pass both practice exams before being allowed a shot at a voucher exam. With the voucher exam you only had three attempts to pass.

Due to a recent change with the Junos Genius program you can no longer get vouchers for free exams, but you can get a voucher for 75% off! That’s still a significant savings over the full fee, currently $200 USD.

The questions on both the practice exams and the voucher exam were very similar to the questions I faced on the actual Juniper exams for each of these certifications! So, use those practice exams!

Labbing

Apart of any good study plan when preparing for certifications like these is labs. In talking with others in the It’s all about the Journey Discord one member, Carl Zellers, recommended to me the vSRX virtual appliance. It’s available license free for 60 days to try out. What’s nice about SRX is that it’s part firewall, part router, and part switch – so you can practice all of the skills you need to using a single platform.

Also, available are Juniper vLabs. These vLabs are preconfigured topologies that allow you to try out routing and switching, service provider technologies, and even DevOps in virtual labs on the Juniper platform. Some of these labs are the same labs referenced in the Junos Genius training.

My Path

So, coming fresh off the Design exam I decided to tackle the JNCDA first. I felt like that might be the easiest entry point because the JNCDA covers network designs, common protocols that are the same across vendors, and then some Juniper specific stuff, like product line knowledge. There was no requirement to dig in and become familiar with the Juniper CLI.

That came next on the JNCIA-Junos exam. Now, a lot of people like to compare the JNCIA-Junos to the CCNA. I think this is an unfair comparison as the JNCIA-Junos strictly focuses on the Junos Operating System, and not a ton of networking fundamentals like the CCNA includes.

After JNCIA-Junos was the DevOps exam. I think the only saving grace for me here was this was not my first introduction to DevOps. I already had a lot of experience with Ansible and interacting with APIs. None the less this was still a challenging exam!

So, I was able to take and pass these exams once a week for three weeks. I was only able to do that because work was a little slow and I was allowed to focus on these due to the deadline. It was literally my job to go get these certs. After I got those three it was time for a family vacation so I took a week and half off from work. After I returned though, it was on like Donkey Kong as I turned my attention to those Specilist Certs!

So, as far as my plan goes I was right on target. Grabbing those JNCIA’s so quickly left me additional time to tackle the JNCIS-Service Provider and DevOps exams.

The Service Provider exam was extremly routing heavy. But, I’ve been studying for the CCNP for the last 18 months, so I was no stranger to routing. The only new-ish topics to me were MPLS and IS-IS – two major service provider topics. Additionally, while I was familiar with routing protocols like static routing, OSPF, and BGP I, however, was not familiar with the Juniper way. So, there was still a learning curve there.

I failed my first attempt, just barely, at the SP exam. I quickly went back, studied some more and scheduled my retake ASAP and got the pass on the second attempt!

So then it came down to the DevOps exam. Work was starting to pick back up. I was actually scheduled to be onsite in Maine the last two days of the month so it was the 28th of September or bust, or so I thought!

I studied as much as I could, in between meetings and other tasks. The 28th comes around and my exam was scheduled for that afternoon at 3:15PM EDT. I login to Pearson’s site, locate my scheduled exam and click begin to download OnVue. I took my pictures and got into the queue to have my exam kicked off. And I wanted… and waited… and waited… I waited nearly 45 minutes and then bailed.

Now, as I’ve said in previous articles, with testing from home I always take the exams in my son’s room. My home office is, well, less than compliant as a testing environment. There’s too much in there. So, I put a spare desk in my youngest son’s room and use that to take my exams. You can see the Tweet above, and the follow up comment about never being pushed into exam mode.

Which is exactly what happened! I never took my exam. I had to bail because an hour past my scheduled start time I still wasn’t taking the exam and I had to go pick up my son from daycare.

Well, the Juniper Certifications Twitter account saw my Tweet and jumped into action. For some reason Pearson’s system had me scheduled to take my exam at 8:15PM EDT, rather than what I was seeing as 3:15PM EDT. I sent them a screen shot showing them my… Vue.

Within an hour they had the issue resolved and I was able to reschedule my JNCIS-DevOps exam. So, I did the only thing I could and scheduled it for 8:45AM the morning of the 29th. As soon as I finished my exam I would have to jump on the road to Maine, a 5 hour drive from Vermont, to be onsite with a customer.

Luckily, somehow, I got the pass!!! The JNCIS-DevOps exam, rightfully so, was more challenging than the JNCIA-DevOps. But, again I was able to use Junos Genius, supplement some Juniper Documentation on a few topics, and got the pass!

Some Final Thoughts

I can’t recommend Junos Genius enough. I also highly recommend just exploring some other vendors. I’ve been mainly Cisco my entire career. I have worked with HPE (pre Aruba acquisition) and some Dell Networking gear, but by far most of my experience is with Cisco. It was a great challenge to jump in with a new vendor. Things are completely different, command syntax and config stanza wise. I feel like some other vendors I’ve worked with try to copy Cisco, maybe..? But Juniper is definitely doing something all their own and it was a pleasure to spend time with them. I look forward to my first project with Juniper – coming soon!

If you got any questions please feel free to reach out to me or leave some comments on here. Good luck on your cert journey and if you aren’t yet in there please consider joining us in the It’s All About the Journey Discord – where you’ll find like minded IT Pros, and probably some new friends!

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