I always find training people about the technical details of Exchange to be an interesting but time-consuming (and draining) activity. Right now I’m in the middle of a set of Exchange 2013 training events where fellow MVP Brian Desmond (more famous for Active Directory but also highly capable around Exchange) and I are helping HP to train their consultants and architects. So far we have run events in Lyon (France) and Plano (Texas). Next time out we’ll be in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) to complete our round-the-world tour.
I’ve long been committed to the idea that well-executed in-person training is the way to bring technologists up to speed by giving them the insight and knowledge required to deal with complex projects. During my career at Compaq and HP, I was the executive sponsor for a series of “academies”, intensive five-day training events focused on topics such as Exchange, Windows, and SharePoint. Many of these events were delivered to customers afterwards and people still come up to me to reminisce about their academy experience in places such as Cannes (France) and San Diego.
After I retired from HP, I really enjoyed the challenge of working with MVPs Paul Robichaux and Brian Desmond to run a series of “Exchange 2010 Maestro” events around the U.S. The most famous of these events occurred in Boston for no reason connected to technology. Paul bit down on a sandwich during a lunch break and a cockroach popped out to the disgust of all around him at the time. We also had a laugh. Paul did not.
Like the Maestro events, the 2013 edition of the HP academy is a three-day event. It’s interesting that the content of the academy has changed so much over the years. When I was first involved (Exchange 2000 in late 1999), the product was harder to understand because Microsoft published much less information about how it actually worked. This was partially because Exchange 2000 was built on a new architecture and had a huge dependency on Active Directory, another new component that wasn’t well understood at the time. The product documentation was flawed, at too high a level, and missed out a lot of important detail. Microsoft has greatly improved their documentation in TechNet over the years so there is less “secret sauce” for trainers to pass on to their students.
It’s also true that far less information was available elsewhere on the Internet to inform people how products like Exchange 2000 and Windows 2000 really worked in production. Blogs didn’t exist and the available magazines and newsletters that covered Exchange were expensive and didn’t appear all that often. In short, we often operated in an information vacuum when it came to understand how technology worked. Compare the situation to today where a vast array of blogs are published daily to cover even the most minute and obscure detail of products and to explain just what happens when technology is deployed in real-life situations.
The new reality is reflected in the content of the HP Exchange 2013 academy, which is being led by Thomas Strasser, a Microsoft Certified Master (MCM). An assumption is made that students know previous versions of Exchange, that they are competent Windows administrators, that they know networking inside out, and that they know clients. Aside from a brief overview, no attempt is made to cover the basics of Exchange 2013. Instead, the focus is all about understanding new areas of technology (such as site mailboxes, modern public folders, and data loss prevention) plus the areas that cause most problems during deployments (virtualization, coexistence, hybrid connectivity). In addition, some sessions are dedicated to discussing the “issues of the day”, such as BYOD and the choice between on-premises and cloud. Finally, HP uses the opportunity to update their people about HP specific content, which I cannot discuss here.
Some three and a half years after leaving HP, it was great to meet up again with so many experienced Exchange consultants at the HP Exchange 2013 Academy. HP is fortunate that they have some great people who are very experienced and understand the nuances involved in making technology work and solve business problems. It’s kind of intimidating to face a class containing many people who have 20+ years’ experience with email. But everything went well and we’re now off to Malaysia (I’m definitely taking the slow route via Ireland and France) for the last event in the series.
On a wider level, at Exchange Connections last week, lots of people asked if we would run an Exchange 2013 version of Maestro. The answer is “maybe”. Running a three-day event is more complex than you might imagine. The logistics involved in identifying, booking, and operating the location, sorting out audio and video, defining and running any labs, producing documentation, and all the rest of the work that surrounds the actual teaching are considerable. And we haven’t even mentioned setting up a web site to allow potential students get information about the course and then register (and hopefully pay). Anyone who wants to run a three-day course therefore needs a lot of support, often from a company that specializes in this kind of technical education. Suffice to say that a few irons have been placed into the fire on this topic; we shall just have to wait and see whether it’s possible to run some Exchange 2013 in-depth training events during 2014. The combination of too little time and too much work means that nothing will happen until then.
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