When I was approached last quarter of 2012 by some VMUG members individually and asked what options we had for increased learning I thought that what would be better than workshop or study group. The idea grew in my mind when I started talking with some training material providers like David Davis from TrainSignal. Btw, TrainSignal has some excellent stuff as far as self learning using DVD is concerned. And I am not doing any marketing for TrainSignal by any means because 1) I am not affiliated with them, 2) anyone who has used their resources before can attest to my statement.
Anyways, getting back to the discussion – the study group needed more planning but more than that needed resources. During the last VMUG meeting I had streamlined sponorship information for my local VMUG event to ensure we had funds to buy atleast some books that can be distributed amongst professionals who were willing to give their time to meet once a week in person and for one hour remotely (webex) to have consistency in the learning pattern and schedule. The next challenge was finding a location. We could meet at someone’s office and learn that way but it wouldn’t have been the most logical choice because everyone has restrictions at their office – whether it is visitor time limits, usage of office resources, or what not. This is where I thought that the Public Library would be the best choice but only if we were able to secure a room. Meeting outside in the public area is counterproductive to a focussed learning. So I enquired about a learning room and there were some excellent choices available. Also, we had one free room in the library (for non-profits) that logically became my first choice if available. Got the room, got some educational material, and now came the turn of sharing screens so the requirement of a projector. The VMUG being a non-profit organization does not allow purchasing any equipment like projector, microphone, projector screen etc which are essential to conducting meetings. While I wouldn’t require a microphone and could do without the screen in a small setting I absolutely needed the projector. When I enquired about the possibility of keeping a small projector which can be used for VMUG events and also for the study group I was given a firm ‘No’. Was a bit surprised because we required it to foster more learning but I did not pursue it further because I don’t like unnecessary discussions or foster conflicts. There is always a calmer, easier way to do things and I thought I will approach the VMUG board directly later since they might understand better why such important resources should be provisioned at each local VMUG.
Finally, I decided to approach vendors to see if we could borrow the projector from them and the local EMC team stepped up at the right time. Some other key hardware vendors surprisingly – those who actually sell projectors were surprisingly not too helpful. But that’s not the point – the point was to get a projector when we need it and with the flexibility that we needed. With the key resources all set I have now ordered some books and we are ready to hold our first meeting. More on how it went, will be discussed later but I have a pretty good handle on how to structure the learning from this group.
Some key ideas that might be helpful for others are noted below to get going:
1) A lab is very important – I am setting up my personal lab and will share the setup details with the study group members during our meetings. Lab infrastructure costs money so I am attempting to see if vendors will pitch in again and actually setup something at their premises that we can use.
2) There are key resources like the vBrownBag session videos, Maximums and Minimums, Exam Blueprint, a certification preparation book from Pearson IT certification, and independent blogs that are very useful. Simon Long(sLOG), Scott Vessey, and many other bloggers have posted very informative posts of their experiences and thoughts to prepare for the exam certification. We plan to use them.
3) The study group’s final result is not to ensure everyone leaves with a certification. The goal is to increase learning – whether someone gains certification or not. Even if we are able to increase the knowledge by more than 50% our goal would be achieved. The reason I say this is because VMware requires exam participants to take an official course before they write the exam. Many smaller organizations are not willing to invest in new training courses everytime a major release comes out. So shelling out the money from personal pocket to take a course so you can write the exam is a little bit of problem for some members. I personally would not have a problem and understand VMware’s rationale that you should atleast learn from the official source and not cram up to give exams.
4) Dedication and focus towards learning is important – Studying for the VMware certificatoin or any certification requires dedicated time commitment outside of office hours. It also requires focus for extended durations so be prepared for this one. We all have our families and personal life that is already quite hectic. The study is just going to make it more difficult. But the benefits are great 🙂
Many IT professionals are really good at excelling in their exams. But a majority of them are good at reading and remembering everything – not knowing everything. They have minimal practical experience and would fail when it comes to hands-on practical examples. This is where the higher versions of the VMware certifications weed out the less knowledgeable as I like to call them.
That’s it for now and I will come up with a follow-up post once we have crossed another major milestone in our study group.