Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The best training experience I ever had

First off, before I tell my story I will admit that I am very lucky and in more than one way. The story I will tell is not the norm, it is an exception.

I am fortunate enough to work at a phenomenal organization. It is an organization that treats their employees VERY well. The pay is great, the benefits are excellent, and the atmosphere is beautiful. Each year we are given an opportunity to take training in a particular area, online or in-person and with all expenses paid. As an IT professional I have attended many classroom trainings. Some past trainings have been in VMware, Red Hat, Netapp, PHP, Sharepoint among others. Some have been good, others have been not so good.

For those who have attended training, you know how it goes. They are usually geared towards certifications, which means they try to cram as much material down your throat as they can and at breakneck pace. By the third day, your brain is wiped out and you start to spend a lot of time checking work emails and not engaging in the classroom.

Last Fall I decided I wanted to take a class in PowerShell DSC, in particular the class DevOps Management Fundamentals using Desired State Configuration (DSC), with the instructor Jason Helmick. There were a few reasons for this choice. First, I have wanted to start using DSC for a while, but just haven't had to the time to sit down and learn it. I use PowerShell a lot, so I knew I would be able to pick it up fairly easily. Second, the training is not geared towards a certification. I hoped this meant there would be time to dive a little deeper into DSC and PowerShell (I was right). Third, I have used Puppet and Ansible, but I work primarily in Windows. They both support Windows but I would rather use a Windows-based config management solution. Fourth, the instructor was Jason Helmick, who I consider a "higher-up" in the PowerShell community. I knew I would be getting expert training. I had actually seen him teach a session at Ignite in Chicago a few years back.

As I arrived in Phoenix on day one of the training, I walked in and met Jason. For anyone who has met Jason before you would know he is extremely down to earth, smart, easy to talk to, and fun. Having seen him at Ignite I felt really lucky to have a chance to learn for him for a week. As I sat down I asked him how many other students would be attending. He said "just one". Now for an IT training to have only two attendees is not only rare, it's unheard of. Most trainings would get cancelled with only two attendees, but since it was a fairly new course they decided to run it. 

As we started getting into learning DSC, I soon learned this was not just another training, it was a once in a lifetime experience to learn from someone who knows a lot more than I am. Being there were only two students, it was easy to ask questions and get help on the labs. Not only that, but Jason was so open to sharing his knowledge that discussions about DSC turned into discussions about using PowerShell as well, which is just about my favorite topic in the world. I learned more in depth PowerShell that week than I have in the last year, because I had a great instructor that I could easily ask questions to without feeling like I was wasting the time of other students. It was awesome.

As the week ended, I felt comfortable using DSC and I was excited to go back home and start implementing it. Before I left though, I wanted to pick Jason's brain about one more topic, technical writing. I had long been interested in starting a blog and trying to establish myself as a technical author and here was a guy who is already a respected author at Pluralsight which is the best IT training site in my opinion. Jason was really supportive of my ambition to become an author, and gave me a few great nuggets of advice to help me get started in the field.

As I returned home I immediately starting working on this blog and reached out to a few sites to propose some ideas for articles. I was fortunate enough to be given the chance to write for 4sysops and Tom's IT Pro recently, which has been an awesome experience and I owe it all to Jason. I would not have tried writing without some inspiration from a great instructor who I was fortunate enough to have direct access to for a week.

In closing, I know I am fortunate for this training experience, but I guess the moral of the story is that if you have access to learn from someone who knows more than you do, do not waste that opportunity. Ask questions, learn, most professionals will be more than willing to share, especially in the PowerShell community. This is why PSHSummit is such a popular conference.

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