Get Some Training, It’s Worth It
I was working with a new customer the other day, we were just running a routine audit on their Exchange Server when I came across some pretty bad flaws in the way it was setup. The Manager said “wait I’ll go get the consultant that set it up for us, he’s working on the next floor”. Anyway, the consultant turned up and I asked “why did you configure it like this?” the consultant then said “well, when I took my Exchange course, that’s how the instructor said it should be setup”.
What I am actually trying to get at in the last paragraph, is that even though you might have taken a training course on Exchange or Windows 2000 or “how to bake bread”, it does not always mean you have learnt the right things. If you learn “how to bake bread” wrong its not really that big a deal, but if you learn how to administer Exchange wrong it’s going to cost your company a whole lot of money and ultimately its going to cost you your job (unless you can talk your way out of it real quick or you get some form of divine intervention).
So what I am going to talk about in this article are some of the methods that are available to learn Exchange. We will focus on Instructor Led Training and how to find a good training provider.
As a trainer, I have come to understand that people learn in different ways, so the training market has adapted over the years to accommodate people’s learning styles. What we have now is a veritable feast of training options available, such as:
- Online Learning
- Computer Based Training (CBT)
- Instructor Led Training (ILT)
- Self Study
- Boot Camps
Which option is best for you? Only you can answer this question, but my personal recommendation to everyone is to get some Instructor Lead Training, but you have to make sure you choose the right training provider.
Instructor Led Training is not the cheapest option, a 5 day class could run up to around $3000 but it’s a good investment if the class is taken with the right provider.
Microsoft has a number of programs that concentrate on training. One of these programs is the “Certified Technical Education Center (CTEC)” program. In order to become a Microsoft CTEC, the training provider has to meet certain guidelines and must continually meet certain goals that Microsoft set. However, just because Microsoft has laid down guidelines and goals, does not mean all training centers are equal. It’s like in any industry; there are always “bad apples”. Hopefully this article will help you find a center that is going to provide you with a high-quality service.
At this point I would just like to mention “Boot Camps”. Personally I am not a big fan of Boot Camps, but they have there place in the market and they are not going to go away. The whole concept of a Boot Camp is for you to spend a set period of time (not always a long period of time) learning how to pass the relevant exams and at the end of your Boot Camp the idea is for you to go away with some form of certification (MCSE, MCDBA, MCSD, CCNA etc). This is all well and good, but did you actually learn the product or did you learn just how to pass the exams? So be careful about Boot Camps if you are interested in learning the product.
What Courses Should I Take?
Microsoft has the largest selection of courses compared to other software vendors (Novell, Lotus etc), but this is only to be expected being as Microsoft has the largest selection of software. Deciding which course to take is not going to be easy, it all depends on your level of experience.
We are just going to focus on the Microsoft Exchange 2000 courses. First, I must make sure you understand that if you have no experience with ‘Windows 2000 and Active Directory’, you MUST get yourself booked on a ‘Windows 2000 and Active Directory’ class before attempting to take the Exchange 2000 classes. Sure its going to cost you more money, but the money you spend on attending just the Exchange 2000 class is going to be wasted if you do not understand ‘Windows 2000 and Active Directory’.
Following your ‘Windows 2000 and Active Directory’ classes, there are three Exchange 2000 courses for you to attend. These would be of interest to an Exchange Administrator. They are as follows:
MS1572 Implementing and Managing Microsoft Exchange 2000 (5 Days)
MS1573 Designing Microsoft Exchange 2000 for the Enterprise (4 Days)
MS2355 Upgrading from Microsoft Exchange 5.5 to Microsoft Exchange 2000 (2 Days)
I would recommend that if you are moving from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2000, you should take the MS1572 class. Even if you are an experienced Administrator for Exchange 5.5 you will learn all the new features of Exchange 2000 in this class. Then proceed with the MS2355 course.
The 1573 course is an excellent course but if your company is only going to have a couple of Exchange Servers in one location, it’s a bit of an overkill taking this class. The MS1573 is a design class which means you will learn how to design and plan the implementation of Exchange 2000 from the ground up.
How do I Find a Good Training Provider?
This should not be too hard! The first thing you need to do is find a Microsoft CTEC in your area. If you visit www.microsoft.com/train_cert they have a tool that enables you to find a training provider in your area. You can also look in your local Yellow Pages (normally under “Computer Training”). Training Provider advertisements will show the Microsoft CTEC approved logo in their advert.
Once you have a list of the providers in your area, the hard work begins, which is finding the one that is going to provide you with a high-quality service. So here are some pointers:
- Visit the Training Center
- Ask to “audit” the second or third day of a class. What this means is that you can sit at the back of a class that is currently in progress and see what it’s like. You will not be able to ask the instructor questions or disrupt the class in anyway. It is also possible that you will not be able to audit the same class that you are hoping to attend; it depends on the training provider’s schedule. A lot of people ask me why the second or third day, why not the first day? Simply because by the second or third day the students know the instructor fairly well, the class is well into the swing of things and you will get a better feel for the atmosphere.
- Get references from organizations that the training provider has delivered training to and contact them. The same can be accomplished by contacting individual students that have attended classes.
- Find out who the instructor will be. Ask for their resume; obtain copies of their evaluations for the class you wish to attend. Ask how many times they have taught this class and if they do field work as well as training (an instructor with real-world experience is going to help you out a lot more).
- Talk to the instructor, don’t quiz them, just chat and see if you would be comfortable learning from them.
As the expression goes “there is no such thing as a free lunch”! Some training centers will offer you training courses at very low rates. Course fees vary according to what type of class will be attended. As a guideline, for a high-quality 5 day Instructor Led class, the cost could range from $2500 to $3500. Do not be tempted to go with the cheapest (easy for me to say it’s not my money).
How Do I Get The Most Out Of My Class?
As a trainer, I meet many students. Some of them really want to attend the class to learn, some are just thrown in because another student was unable to make it, but I am happy to say that every student I have taught has gone away happy and most importantly gone away having learnt something.
Here are a few tips to make your learning experience a good one:
- DO NOT upset the instructor on the first day; your life will be hell for the rest of the week.
- DO NOT upset the student sitting next to you; they can make your life even more hell.
Only joking!!!! Here are the genuine tips on making your learning experience a good one:
- Go into the course with a clear mind.
- Make sure you know why you are taking the course (the instructor is going to ask you).
- Remember, the instructor is probably just as nervous as you are on the first day. Think about it: number of student’s equals 12, number of instructor’s equals 1. Within the first hour of the class, the ice will have been broken and the students and instructor will then begin to relax.
- Take notes, take lots of notes
- Try not to jump ahead in the class.
- Do not get upset if the instructor cannot answer your questions straight away, or if the instructor mentions that the topic of the questions asked will be covered in a future module. A good instructor will make a note of the question and address it at the appropriate time.
- Do not be afraid to ask questions, the only silly questions are the one’s that are NOT asked. There is also nothing wrong with asking questions based on a topic being covered that you wish to relate to your own implementation.
- Try not to be late for your class, this will disrupt the other students and you could just miss that important piece of information that you have been waiting for.
- When doing labs, make sure you understand what you are trying to achieve. If you don’t understand, ask the instructor, don’t just follow the manual blindly. After all, another great reason for choosing Instructor Led Training is so as you can ask questions and the instructor can dutifully give you the answers straight away or at the latest by the end of the course.
Well, hopefully this will give you some indication as to how you can select the best training provider for your own needs and also how you can fully maximize the amount of information you learn during your training experience.