Certified Mail

Certified Mail

Boot camp training, spying on coworkers, and tips for preparing for the CISSP exam.

Tough Training Encounters

Great job on the November 2001 article "Tough Training-Boot Camp Style." I went to ACREW in 1999 to become an NT 4.0 MCSE. I had used NT 4.0 for a few years at my job, but to a very limited extent. There were 16 of us at ACREW, and 15 walked away as MCSEs. The camp was the most grueling 16 days of my professional life, yet the most rewarding. Of the 16 students, two or three needed to retake an exam or two.

For Windows 2000, I tried to get my employer to send me back to ACREW, but with the economy tanking, they suggested I do the self-study route, which I did with Transcender's and Microsoft's curriculum. I started in March, and by mid-August I'd passed 70-210, 215, 216, 217 and 219 on the first attempt. I still had two to go, but as Microsoft revised things, two of my NT 4.0 exams are valid electives for Win2K. I'm done-I'm a Win2K MCSE.

As you pointed out in the article, boot camps aren't for the timid. I was pushed to the max. Now that I've done the self-study route, too, I must say I don't feel the boot camp compromised my learning in any way. With both routes, I needed hands-on experience to solidify what I've learned.
—David Fosbenner, MCSE
Maybrook, New York
dfosbenner@eazall.com

I want to commend Keith Ward for an outstanding article in the November issue and tell him that I think he's right on about boot camps. I also attended a boot camp and observed many of the same things.

I have 10 years' experience in the IT field, including five of them doing consulting and administration. I decided on a school in Michigan and found it was really no better than anyone else that I'd heard about. We started out with 15 students; two of us had been working on Win2K since Beta 1 and we both were currently implementing a Win2K infrastructure on the job. The rest had very mixed tech backgrounds. Well, two people dropped out in the first week after failing the first two tests. It was like being in a military boot camp; unless you worked well under stress, you weren't going to hang with the big boys!

Only four people walked away with the Win2K MCSE (I wasn't one of them); but what really interested me is that the one woman in the class, who had never used NT and only used Novell, passed all of the tests within the 14-day boot camp.
—Carl Cousino
Toledo, Ohio
carlcousino@hotmail.com

I just finished reading Keith Ward's article in the November issue, and I wanted to tell you how well done and balanced I think it is.

I was glad to hear that, when you did your "test call," the woman you spoke to asked you about your networking background. Also, I give her kudos for telling you that, because you had no networking experience, the Win2K track would not be for you (the A+ and Network+ were both good suggestions).

I found it frustrating that the school you attended allegedly hyped the "become and MCSE and make a gazillion dollars" claim. Our students (who must have at least two years of real-world network/NT 4.0 admin experience) usually know up front whether or not the Win2K certification is going to give them some raise in pay or if it'll give them leverage in seeking a new position within either their existing company or with a new employer.

In reading further, you stated that an instructor from the school called you and asked additional questions regarding your background. Outstanding! In my position as sales manager, I know how critical it is for a potential student to understand the pressure-cooker they'll be in once class begins. One of my favorite questions to ask is, "Tell me about the process you go through to create multiple subnets from one Class B address." If they go into a detailed description of determining how many subnets are needed and so on, I know that they're excellent candidates. If there's a long period of silence or they tell me that they don't know what a Class B address is, I tell them our program isn't for them.

Did anyone in your class use brain dumps or TroyTec material? We have a standing policy that we don't use nor do we condone the use of either of these two things. Not only is it flat-out cheating, it's illegal and will not help anyone learn how to manage a Win2K network.

I'm happy to hear that your overall experience was positive. I also agree with your assertion that a boot camp isn't for everyone.
—Brian Taylor, MCP, CCNA, Network+
Sales Manager, MCSE University
btaylor@mcseuniversity.com

I attended a Windows NT 4.0 boot camp in 1998, and Keith Ward's comments brought back all of the same experiences I had. I went to Mountain View Systems boot camp in Colorado. We had an excellent instructor (James Carrion, one of your contributing editors), but the stress level and mental exhaustion made it a difficult way to obtain my MCSE. If I decide to go for my Win2K certification, I'd prefer a longer and slower-paced training program.
— Paul Rizzo, MCSE, MCP+I
pvrizzo@pacbell.net

I just recently attended a TechTrain MCSE boot camp in Orlando, Florida, and I have a nightmare story. I'm very experienced with NT 4.0. I felt somewhat comfortable with Win2K Professional, but had zero experience from a domain perspective.

First of all, my company didn't decide to send me to this until two weeks before the first day of camp. TechTrain sent me five huge books a week before my first class and told me to have them read by the time I came to class. Yeah ... right. I skimmed halfway through the first book and that was about all the time I could find. The first day, the guy lectured 14 hours.

The next day, 14 hours of lecture again. Day three came, and we were supposed to take both Professional and Server tests that day. We hadn't even looked at a single test question! We finally started reviewing questions that afternoon. Basically, we all passed the first test and got overconfident; most of us failed the server test. They gave use a free voucher to take it again at a later date. We didn't get out the third day until 14 hours later. Day four came around and, by this time, my brain was dead.

We began with network implementation and design. We only had class 12 hours a day the next two days, still not looking over as many test questions as I would've liked. Day six came; we finally looked over a few questions after he lectured half the day away. We took both tests that evening, one right after the other. Most of us failed both exams. A few squeaked by on one or the other, and only two of 14 people passed them both. I failed both. Here I was, taking four tests and failing three. My back was to the wall. I had basically eight days of class left and six tests to pass-three of them make-ups!

I basically abandoned class at this point and started studying on my own. I researched Web sites, downloaded questions and studied-really studied. I scheduled my own tests, took them in the afternoon, blew off the rest of the afternoon for a few hours' rest, went to bed early, and then got up and studied and did it all over again for the next six days straight. I'm proud to say I'm an MCSE. Do I feel confident to walk into any Win2K environment and redo its whole AD design? No. Do I feel like I can do it from scratch? Yes.
—Chad McDaniel, MCSE
Melbourne, Florida
kidshark@yahoo.com

What Difference Does the MOC Make?
I just finished your November article about the boot camp. It couldn't have come at a better time. I enjoyed it, very well done.

I'm the president of the San Francisco NT Users Group, and have assisted Microsoft in updating the NT exams and assisted in the creation of the Win2K exams. This allowed me to get an inside scoop on Microsoft's direction.

One item you didn't mention is whether or not the boot camps use Microsoft Official Curriculum, (which shouldn't be confused with Microsoft Approved Curriculum). If the MOC isn't used, a student can become an MCT, but not be Microsoft-approved to teach any of the MCSE classes. Only Microsoft could make something this convoluted.
—Douglas Spindler
San Francisco, California
spindler@dnai.com

Some Things are Just Wrong
Dian Schaffhauser, in her October 2001 Editor's Desk column, "The Yuck Factor," asks, "How would you even come across this stuff in the normal course of technical support?"

Easy. A co-worker "lost" a file and needed my help. Looking by extension didn't work, but they were "pretty sure" they had named it with a key word. Because that word had multiple forms/endings, I simply did a search that used part of the root of that word in order to cough up everything that might be the "lost" file. Of course, this yielded a lot of files; to simplify the next part of the search, I ordered the results according to name.

As I was scrolling through the list, I saw a multitude of names that had that the root word as well, but could only indicate salacious content. I don't know what your acceptable use policy states, but ours says these are verboten. It wasn't just a "one time" or "accidental" swerve. These .html, .gif and .jpeg files-that stretched back over several months-demonstrated a willingness to steal the company's time and resources.

I came to the conclusion that not only was this a gross violation of the acceptable use, but it represented a growing problem for the individual. I contacted a mutual friend of the co-worker who could be trusted and set up a meeting time. The three of us had a long, very difficult conversation that ended with some strong commitments to change and the people to whom this individual made himself accountable contacted me to let me know that he was taking steps to change.

I simply can no longer take the idiotic '60s viewpoint that "you do your thing and I do my thing and if we find each other it's beautiful." It was crap then and it still is. We're members of a society, not lone rangers. Our society needs to weigh in again on morality. We don't all have to be members of the same temple, church or synagogue to come to the conclusion that some things are wrong-whether popular culture agrees with you or not.
—Bob

Truck Driving Better Than Being an MCT
The announcement that NT 4.0 MCSEs who haven't upgraded to Win2K won't be decertified has proven to me that it's time to get into another line of work.

I'm an MCT. I'm not one of those who took that ridiculous three-day Microsoft class and then called myself one; I earned it through the brutal Novell testing for real instructors (the IPE). I have 17 years of experience in the computer industry and am an engineer, a certified ASE auto mechanic and a licensed journeyman electrician. I've "been there, done that," and I bring real-world focus into the classroom, something the majority of so-called MCTs can't claim.

The technical training industry has been especially hard hit due to recent events, and the first thing corporate America does during a slowdown (now a massive economic recession) is eliminate training immediately.

With more than 24,000 MCTs currently licensed to teach MOC and the slowdown of the demand for training , I saw this planned decertification process as having two very positive effects.

First, it would have gotten rid of so many worthless and useless educators from the ranks. The majority of the MCTs I've met in the last five years are simply reading out of the book. Most of them have no clue how do something as simple as looking at an IP address and its mask to determine the host's network number. This decertification would greatly improve the level and professionalism of instruction and benefit the students.

Second, with the number of MCTs much smaller, it would have put guys like me back to the head of the class; I would once again be in high demand. My career was looking bright, now it looks dismal.

So, there you have it. The good instructors leave and the dregs remain. I think I'll start driving a truck and see America while we still have her.
—Bill Rhinehart
Riverside, California
wrhinehart@earthlink.net

How Do I Prepare for the CISSP?
I'm a systems consultant, am very interested in getting certified in CISSP and wanted help from someone who has gone through the training and has had first-hand experience. Can you tell me the things I need to know to prepare for this rigorous certification such as what kind of training I need and any resources that will help me.
—Gregory Kreymer, MCSE, MCP+I, CCNA
gkreymer@home.com

The first place to look is in an article I did for Certcities.com, entitled, "Testing Your Mettle: The Six-Hour, 250-Question CISSP Exam"; CertCities.com is a member of the 101 communications family, just like MCP Magazine.
—Roberta Bragg

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