Wednesday, July 2, 2014

CollabCert's CCIE Collaboration Bootcamp

Around a year ago I completed a 9 month journey to attain the CCIE Voice. There were a lot of ingredients that contributed to achieving this goal. One of the most valuable ingredients was the CCIE bootcamp program I attended. I am of the opinion that incorporating a bootcamp program into your IE training plan goes a long way to ensuring success. Moreover, my belief is that the effectiveness of an IE bootcamp program is primarily rooted in the abilities and effectiveness of the instructor not the company selling the program.

The instructor of my IE Voice bootcamp was Vik Malhi. Vik recently launched his new venture, CollabCertwhich is a training company specializing in the Cisco CCIE Collaboration track. I was invited to participate in the inaugural bootcamp of this IE training program. The following provides my thoughts on the bootcamp experience.
The Format

CollabCert is offering two bootcamps, the CollabCert ILT and the CollabCert Workshop. The ILT is a 5-day bootcamp that is approximately 50% lecture and 50% hands-on. The Workshop is a 5-day immersive experience that is primarily hands-on and geared to helping the candidate work on their speed and efficiency. The Workshop is designed to target candidates who are ready to sit for the exam in the near future. CollabCert also positions the Workshop as a good option for those of us who recently achieved the IE Voice to transition into the world of the IE Collab track.

I really appreciate the fact that CollabCert is offering two separate 5-day bootcamps as opposed to a single 10-day bootcamp. I think the ILT fits well into a training program where the candidate is 1 - 3 months into their studies. I view the Workshop as a finishing school and should be used 2 - 6 weeks prior to making an attempt at the real exam. 

The bootcamp I sat in was the ILT. Since most everyone in the bootcamp was already an IE Voice, the lecture time was focused more on what has changed in the blue print. This meant we had more hands-on time. Which is always welcome. 

Class started at 8:30am PST and "officially" ran to 5:30 or 6pm. However, we all stayed until 8 or 9pm. This is what happens when you gather a group of people who like to dig into protocol traces, debugs, and log files to see what is really happening. Bootcamps are where all the cool nerds hangout!

The Facility

The CollabCert facility is located in downtown San Jose, CA. It has convenient access to the VTA so you can easily get to the facility from the airport and surrounding areas. Caltrain is nearby, which is just awesome (I discovered Caltrain on this trip, very happy). If there is a gap in your commuting coverage, you can always do "the Uber".

There are plenty of hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores in the area. The pre-requisite Starbucks located 1/2 block away from the CollabCert office. To unwind after a hard day of labbing it up, you can drop by any of the numerous pubs in the area. The way of the IE ninja: Caffeine, Lab, Alcohol, Repeat. Throw in some bacon and 99% of the IT population would mistakenly think they died and went to IT heaven. 

The class room is set up to support 8 student work areas. There is plenty of room for each student to spread out and be comfortable. The phones are all 9971 and 7965 models. Each 9971 comes with a USB camera so you can host a video call between any two lab "sites", as well as calls between the backbone (emulating a B2B scenario) and any lab "site".

There are 8 student pods and one instructor pod. The gear in the pods (including the backbone equipment) is built to replicate the official blue print. One of the first things I noticed was that the UC hosts are incredibly responsive. When I started my studies for the IE Voice I used remote rack rentals and one of the serious downsides was performance. That didn't seam to be a factor with the CollabCert pods. These pods scream and they are accessible remotely. Vik built the pods using the Cisco OVAs. He made sure he isn't oversubscribing compute resources, and he decided to use all SSD disks. 

The Content

At our bootcamp we worked through a full lab covering a lot of the core concepts you will find in the new blue print. The lab I had went through EMCC, homogenous video conferencing, CUBE, point-to-point video, Jabber, URI dialing, and the other standard components (CCX, UCMx2, Unity Connection, QoS,  etc.). The lab was also "trunk heavy". There were SIP trunks of various flavors all over the lab. I found the labs interesting and challenging. The lab was clearly relevant to the current blue print. 

For those that have attended Vik's bootcamps in the past, his lecture style hasn't changed much. He likes to use an electronic whiteboard so that he can save everything that comes up during the discussion. His presentation style is very organic and the content flows based on the questions posed by the students. Vik's style is best suited for candidates who are willing to participate. If you want to sit and have someone lecture at you then you will probably get lost rather quickly. There are no powerpoint slides and all lecture topics come with a combination of live demo and white board illustrations.

The Wrap

As I stated earlier, I believe that a bootcamp should be a key ingredient to any IE candidate's recipe for success. What makes a good bootcamp is relevant content, responsive equipment, and an environment that is conducive to learning. A great bootcamp is all about the instructor and his or her ability to help students identify and address their knowledge gaps. 

I think CollabCert has all the necessary ingredients to be a great learning tool for the IE Collab candidate.

Just in Case You Were Wondering...

It is possible that at least one person will ask if I plan to take the IE Collaboration lab. All I can say is that there is something about sitting in an IE bootcamp that just pulls you into the zone. Preparing for the IE was nothing short of addictive. I remember going through withdrawal following my passing attempt. Given how close these two tracks are to each other and how easily I slid back into the rhythm, I would be lying if I didn't say I was tempted.

However, doing the IE Collab lab is not on the radar today. I have other prof dev goals that I'd rather not put on hold. 


In the interest of full disclosure, CollabCert did pay for my seat in the bootcamp but I received no payment to write this review nor was I even asked to write a review. All opinions are mine and if I didn't dig on the bootcamp, I would have said so. 

Thanks for reading. If you have time, post a comment!

1 comment:

  1. Nice post!!!!

    I attended INE Voice Bootcamp last year and was great too with the exception of the UC not being as responsive as I would have liked to. I couldn't agree with you more, a great bootcamp is all about the instructor.

    One last thing, you should trademark Caffeine, Lab, Alcohol, Repeat. If you don't, I will ;-)

    Keep up the great work!!!!