Being Successful, My Journey to Stay Sharp

By December 31, 2012Cisco, How To, VMware
IT, IT vendors, journey, IDS, learning

Learning is the one word that comes to mind when I think about being successful in the world of technology. In previous years I bought into the traditional method of learning by taking vendor training and follow-up exams. After failing an exam last year I began to understand that I had to develop a new methodology of learning. I wanted to pass IT exams on the first attempt and retain the required knowledge. I had to adapt my style of training.

Traditionally, companies understand that in order to keep their IT employees from leaving they have to offer incentives beyond money; most employees want to learn. The majority of companies I have worked for seem to follow a similar approach to training.

1. Determine the technical proficiency required
2. Train and learn the material deemed important by the vendor
A. Attend an authorized training course
B. Read books or PDF’s related to the subject
3. Take the exam
A. Re-take the exam if needed

training, journey, IT vendor, vendors, learning

I found that learning had a profound ripple affect well beyond my personal advantages. The company I worked for benefited from vendor partnerships as certain accreditations earned provided access to different markets and lead generation. When consulting with potential customers on the front-end (sales) or the back-end (implementation) the opportunity for additional business with the customer grows substantially. This happens because the customer feels confident that you are a subject matter expert. You become their trusted adviser.

When I was hired as a Post-Sales Engineer at Integrated Data Storage (IDS), I was informed about the training curriculum and introduced to the company’s learning methodology. The major issue I encountered with the learning cycle was how much there was to learn.

I recall the pain and aggravation of re-taking exams for EMC ISM, VMware VCP 4.1 and VMware VCA4-DT. Even though I spent suitable time studying the content, I was overwhelmingly devastated when I failed these exams. It was my goal to pass these exams on the first attempts; I was determined to diagnose the problem and change it.

One year ago I reviewed my approach to studying and I quickly discovered that all habits resembled that of the traditional learning method. Take a course then take a test. This structure was not working for me, so I began to create my own roadmap for success. I created a list of tools and resources that became indispensable, such as books, PDFs, computer-based training (CBTs), home labs, specialized learning centers, vendor specific training, blogs, and knowledgebase articles. I was immersed in training and embraced my new learning methodology.

In February 2012 I put my new study methods to the test. The results were immediate and positive. By combining multiple study strategies I took and passed the VCP5, VCP5-DT, NetApp NCDA and Citrix XenDesktop on my first attempt(s). Through a restructured training curriculum, I obtained my goal of passing these exams on the first attempt.

While revamping my studying habits I found several training secrets which contributed to my success.

TrainSignal is a Chicago-based company with CBTs that I loaded on my tablet for offline viewing. The instant online access interface is intuitive and easy to use and they offer transcender practice exams with select courses. The trainers at TrainSignal are some of the most respected, certified, talented and personable individuals in the industry. I was able to follow each of them on Twitter and ask questions through social media. The bonus for me was that TrainSignal offers a majority of their individual training courses for around $400.

Current Technologies Computer Learning Center (CTCLC) is a Portage, Indiana, learning center maintained by a team of certified instructors. CTCLC is authorized by vendors across many different technologies which allow easy access to exams and certifications. By being devoted to this local learning center, I was able to obtain extra stick time with valuable classroom hardware. Also, another great benefit to CTCLC is their flexibility in rescheduling courses. When an emergency at work required my immediate attention, the staff at CTCLC was kind enough to help reschedule my courses.

Benchmark Learning is an authorized learning center that specializes in technologies for specific vendors. I used Benchmark Learning for my Citrix XenDesktop certification as I was very impressed with their style and outline. Benchmark Learning kept their training status up-to-date on Citrix’s website. They were very responsive and accommodating to my request for scheduling.

Vendors provided additional training, which helped me obtain additional time learning specific solutions and technologies. Aside from the three companies mentioned, vendors like Nutanix, VMware, Citrix and EMC provided in-depth knowledge through partner related training videos, PDFs and white papers.

home labs, training, lab, exam, tests

Home Labs provided actual hands-on experiences for my training. Combined with the theory-based knowledge learned in classes, CBT videos and online material, I was able to solidify my knowledge about the specific solution and technologies by having these items available at my house. After checking E-bay and Craigslist, I found a VMware vSphere compatible server and began building my lab. My home lab now consists of several Dell servers, a free iSCSI SAN using OpenFiler, WYSE P20 Zero Client, HP laptop as a thin client, iPad, Mac Mini and a handful of trial licenses for VMware, Microsoft, Citrix, VEEAM, Liquidware Labs, TrendMicro and Quantum.

2013 is here and my vision for this year is to rebuild my home lab with even more hardware. My goal is to provide real design examples built on VMware and Citrix technologies to continue to take my learning to the next level.