Late last year, I got wind of a new WLAN training option being developed. The course name was curious- Wireless Adjuster. It was the brainchild of long-time wireless pro Devin Akin, and it got a lot of people curious early on. I wrote about it then when it was still a twinkle in Devin’s eye. Now that the course has been running, several people who have attended it have spoken highly of their experiences with Wireless Adjuster.
Being gonzo, I wanted to find out how Devin himself thinks Wireless Adjuster has been going. After all, the last several months have rocked our collective world in a number of ways, and his baby was just getting started when the pandemic and all of it’s ripple effects hit.
Follow along for Devin’s answers to my questions.
Hey brother, how’s the new course going? How’s the demand?
The interest is extremely high, but attendance is only modest. Many folks tell me that they want to attend but cannot due to lack of funds – whether personal funds or company funds. I can certainly understand that. Most employees rely on their employers for training funds, and when companies are furloughing and laying employees off, it’s hard to justify training funds. The monetary situation doesn’t make the training any less needed, but cuts have to be made somewhere, right? Most of the folks who take the class take the exam, and I’ve had unbelievably good feedback on the difficulty level and accuracy of the exam. Positive feedback on an exam is reassuring. It took many weeks to write the exam pools, so I’m glad to see that it’s being well-received.
It looks like you’ve really hit on something with Wireless Adjuster. Tell me, has COVID19 rocked your world too badly for the course?
Yes, without a doubt. I taught in-person classes until the middle of March, and within three days of the international travel restrictions, three months’ of classes had vanished. I quickly pivoted the courseware to online, and online classes have been a big hit. Every student (globally) who had paid for the in-person class has (or is about to) attend the online class. For those who paid for an in-person class, I am allowing them to sit both the online and in-person classes for the one payment. That has been extremely popular. Once we’re allowed to travel and host in-person classes again, I expect demand to be strong, and I look forward to seeing all of those who have taken online classes.
Let’s hope we all find some normalcy again soon. In general, what skill levels are you seeing across those taking Wireless Adjuster?
While the target audience is post-CWNA (whether holding the certification or not) level attendees, I’ve found that about 25% of my students are CWNEs. I have been very surprised by this. Additionally, the CWNE feedback shows that along the path to the CWNE certification, much best practice assessment, remediation, optimization, and troubleshooting knowledge has been missed. That proves that my understanding of knowledge gaps in the industry were not misguided, which I’m exceedingly happy about. About 50% of attendees are the target market of post-CWNA, and the feedback there is usually very similar: that the Wireless Adjuster training program is hitting it’s intended mark as a hands-on preparatory step toward CWAP and CWSP certifications. What I find quite amusing is that post-CWNA students often do better on the exam than CWNEs. I currently attribute this to post-CWNA’s not overthinking the exam questions. The remaining 25% are a hodgepodge consisting of folks who are certification-averse, mom-and-pop shop WiFi engineers who need to understand practical troubleshooting and optimization better, and folks who were simply curious as to what the program is all about.
That’s pretty interesting. How you found that your original vision for Wireless Adjuster has needed to be tweaked at all?
Original vision, no. Content delivery, yes. The two beta classes were extremely valuable in honing the course material to achieve its goals. The original (and current) vision for the Wireless Adjuster program is to teach and certify engineers on WiFi best practice assessment, remediation, optimization, and troubleshooting. It was designed to sit directly between CWNA and the professional levels CWSP and CWAP. The primary goal, as it relates to the CWNP Program is to assist post-CWNA students prepare for the depth of theory of professional level exams by giving them hands-on experience with inexpensive tools in modest complexity level WiFi environments. Student feedback tells me that it is achieving these goals.
It’s always nice to get that feedback. What do you think the biggest value is shaping up to be for those taking Wireless Adjuster?
I can only go by what I’m told by students who have completed the class, and so far, the biggest ROIs on taking the classes are: 1) Moving dysfunctional networks to functional (without the need for surveys or redesign), and 2) immediate optimization of modest-performance networks (given several dozen best practices). For administrators, it’s their own network, but for consultants (e.g. systems integrators) it may be many customer networks.
Let me put you on the spot. You’ve been in this business a long time, but I’m guessing that you’ve also learned a thing or two on the Wireless Adjuster journey. Tell me about that.
That’s an insightful question. There is one primary lesson that I have learned along the Wireless Adjuster journey, and everything else is a distance second place.
When I go to a customer site, and they tell me “my network sucks,” I don’t start with a site survey or a redesign. I start with a $100 WiFi scanner and assess best practice adherence via a standardized triage process. If the customer is using max output power, 80MHz channels everywhere, not using any DFS channels, have misconfigured Beacon Interval or DTIM periods, have QoS or security misconfigurations, have high channel utilization utilization all of the time, or any of 50+ other items, I don’t need a survey to tell me that their network sucks – I can already see that. A best practices assessment takes minutes, not days. Once best practices are dealt with, THEN the customer MAY need a survey or redesign, but in many cases they do not. Many of my customers simply want their terrible WiFi network to be functional at a modest level with minimal time and cost. You can achieve that in 95% of cases with just a scanner. The trick is knowing how to use the scanner really well. It like to say that a good scanner is like the world’s best WiFi Swiss Army knife. It has hundreds of blades, and you need to know what each does and how/when to use it. You can’t saw a tree down with a Swiss Army knife, but you can cut down the twigs that are in your way. You can’t build a house with a Swiss Army knife, but you could build a tent with it. It’s surprising how many networks can reach an acceptable level of optimization only using a WiFi scanner and knowledge of the 802.11 protocol.
WiFi scanners can assess algorithms like load balancing, band steering, DFS event response, Auto RF, protection ripple, and even Smart PoE. It’s not always about what the scanner can see, but also about what you can infer from what the scanner sees. It’s a learning process, and that’s what the class is all about. Starting with a $5,000 tool and taking 5 days to do what you can do with a $100 tool in 15 minutes seems silly to me. Certainly the WiFi design and survey tools on the market are very important and have their place, but they should not be the initial go-to tool for best practice assessment, remediation, optimization, and troubleshooting. The Wireless Adjuster course focuses on the 802.11 protocol and use of advanced WiFi scanners to achieve remarkable results quickly and inexpensively.
I agree with you on the “lesser” tools absolutely having their place. Let’s finish with this: What do you want people in the market for wireless training to know first and foremost about Wireless Adjuster?
If you have a base level of WiFi knowledge, and you want to dig into the protocol and best practice assessment, remediation, optimization, and troubleshooting, you will get a concentrated dose of it over the two days of this class. The first day is understanding a large list of WiFi best practices and deep familiarization with a leading WiFi scanner through a half day of lab time. The second day is 100% lab time, where ten real-world labs of increasing complexity and differing types are presented to the student. After each lab, there is a group discussion of findings and solutions, e.g. what misconfiguration may have resulted in which symptoms. By the end of the second day, students are diagnosing layers of misconfigurations and explaining why the symptoms exist. The Wireless Adjuster course is the most real-world best practices assessment and WiFi network optimization class on the market today.
A big thank you to Devin for his time and thoughts. I gotta see for myself, now. I’ll be doing Wireless Adjuster soon myself, and will do a follow-up blog afterwards.
Have you attended Wireless Adjuster training? Please share your thoughts here, and thanks for reading.