On Tuesday this week, I took and passed Cisco’s DevNet Specialisation “Automating and Programming Cisco Enterprise Solutions“ (300-435), or as it’s known amoung friends ‘ENAUTO’. I thought I’d write a bit about how I found the exam as when I was researching it I couldn’t find much written about the exam online, given that it is less than a year old.
First, a bit of background on how I came to ENAUTO, and my programmability journey so far. I passed my Cisco DevNet Associate (DEVASC) exam about 6 months ago, but I had been building up to DEVASC for about 6 months prior to that. So I’ve been working on programmability for about year. In the beginning, I was particularly focused on improving my Python skills. Being new to Python as well, I decided to aim for and pass the Python Institute’s PCAP exam, as a grounding in the language. ENAUTO is going to assume you are a reasonable, intermediate python programmer. It looks at how to use various libaries within scripts, which I think it would be hard to consume without being moderately literate in Python.
My ENAUTO studying was done in bursts. It started in January this year (2021) and I didn’t take the exam until early May. However, February and March were extremely difficult for me due to external pressures from work, which took me away from studying. Given the distinct lack of more formal resources for studying such as an official Cisco Press book, I followed Nick Russo’s 10 week plan fairly religiously. I also completed the Cisco Learning Network ENAUTO course, which puts structure around a number of the relevant Learning Labs from the Cisco DevNet team. Nick also uses the Learning Labs in places, so there is a little bit of cross-over – but not as much as you might expect.
For those who aren’t aware of Nick’s 10 weeks plans – he’s very kindly done them for multiple DevNet exams, he distributes them for free and they are very comprehensive. It is worth starting with Nick’s overview on You Tube. Nick’s courses on Pluralsight (a subscription video service) form the backbone of each of his study plans, but he also uses other free resources on YouTube, the Cisco DevNet website and elsewhere. The Pluralsight courses are excellent and I have found my annual subscription to be great value for money, as Nick course’s have got me through DEVASC and now ENAUTO. As I continue to study for Cisco’s other Programmability exams, I will be using Nick’s Pluralisght courses whereever possible. There are also courses on a range of computer languages and cloud services to choose from.
I can honestly say Nick’s DevNet courses and studyplans were invaluable to me for both exams, and without them it would have been a lot, lot harder and I don’t think I’d have been able to progress as quickly. If there’s one disadvantage it’s that Nick’s coding is so clear and well-written, that when I’ve gone to write my own code after watching his videos it’s hard to think outside of the pardigm or structure which Nick has established. I imagine that’s a testament to great code.
On ENAUTO exam itself, I will say a little bit but I want to also try and ensure I stay within the Cisco legal requirements for information sharing on exams. The exam is 90 minutes with 61 questions. I didn’t find I had much time pressure – unlike ENCORE and other Cisco exams, I finished with a healthy 5 -10 minutes to spare and I didn’t feel rushed.
Having already done DEVASC and felt quite confident in content, I found I could revise many of my previous notes for the first two sections of ENAUTO – Network Programmability and Automate API and Protocols. While I understand why this is for students who haven’t done DEVASC, it meant that the main area of new theory in the exam is “the Day 0 Provisioning methods” only. I would have enjoyed a little bit more new theory.
Therefore, ENAUTO was a deeply practical exam for me. It is important to know well how to use and deploy NetMiko, ncclient, requests, and Ansible as python libraries. Naively, I was also surprised at how deep into the Cisco APIs the exam went. I struggled with this area, because despite focusing here, implementing and deploying these APIs in the lab many times, I found it was hard to remember all the intricacies off by heart (where I’d normally just revert to the documentation in real life). Prior to the exam, I spent a lot of time revising the structure and format of different URIs, and the structure of the returned data, and the process steps. Although, I (wrongly) imagined I might not get asked about them all in the exam. As it turned out, I am very glad I did.
Because it’s such a practical exam, it would be very hard to do it without the Cisco DevNet Sandboxes, which open up the possibility to interact directly with the solutions (Meraki, SDWAN, and DNA Center). In the main, you can do pretty much everything on the courses through the Sandboxes (with a small number of exceptions), and get an excellent feel for real life deployments. The reservation Sandboxes will be your friend.
ENAUTO does require a reasonable degree of understanding of the three core technology stacks – Meraki, SDWAN and DNA Center. I am still in the early stages of learning Cisco SDWAN product, and so I found these areas challenging, in particular around how templates are built and deployed. If you already have a good understanding in these products, then this will benefit you.
Through the course of the exam, I became much more comfortable with my programability set-up and felt I’ve truly started to adopt my own perferred ways of working – for example, my preferred libraries, how I manage variables and git, and the structure and testing of my projects. I know this will stand me in good stead as I continue my programability journey.
On the whole, I found ENAUTO to be a challenging, but fair exam, as long as you expect to go deep into the APIs. There were no surprises nor did any of the questions feel out of place. I’m looking forward to moving onto “Developing Applications Using Cisco Core Platforms and APIs” (DEVCOR) for which I’ll also be using Nick Russo’s Pluralsight course and studyplan. I am also considering doing the Cisco Meraki Solutions Specialist certification shortly, as I deeply enjoyed working with Meraki APIs on this exam, and I feel this would compliment my learning.
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