Tag Archives: Training

Doing “The Paperwork” – the CWNE Application

cwne2Life is full of paperwork. As kids, we drag home endless school forms for everything from permission to ride a different bus to graduation paperwork. We fill out mortgage forms, military enlistments, juror forms, and marriage licenses. Life is paperwork, and we get pretty desensitized to the simple act of putting words on paper and handing them off to whoever is supposed to get them.

But some paperwork is sweeter than others. Some is exciting, thrilling, and makes you feel damn good when you do it. I was recently privileged to fill out some of that GOOD paperwork when I applied for my Certified Wireless Network Expert (CWNE) certification.

I won’t go into how I studied, or recommend what you should do to get to the point where you’re able to apply- many of my excellent CWNE fellows have already done that. But what I want to share is what getting this far means to me. I can tell you that crossing the finish line absolutely will have different significance to each of you individually. I’ve seen some who are very discreet about their top-level certificates, and others who find a great sense of identity in them. Here’s where I am, now that I’ve taken the journey…

I’m older than some in the CWNE demographic. My CWNE won’t get me a better job with my current employer (I’m a wireless network architect and next step up is my boss), and I’m not looking to find another job. I’ve been doing wireless for longer than many folks reading this have been working any job. So why did I go after the CWNE?

Many moons ago, I had CWNA and CWSP when both were new. I went off to school for both, got certified, and used what I learned. I used THE HELL out of what I learned. That knowledge has contributed to the unqualified success of the many WLANs I have designed, administered, and troubleshot. “Old” CWNA and CWSP, combined with my other network experience, work ethic, skills learned in college and a 10-year Air Force career, got me to where I am today in my networking and Wi-Fi careers. But I got busy with many other things, and let both CWNA and CWSP expire, because they couldn’t “get me anything”, or so I thought. But the more I went to conferences, watched new products roll out with new features, and see one 802.11 standard give way to the next, I realized that I needed to get back to basics because those basics had changed since I learned them.

I do know A LOT about wireless networking. And technology-related politics. And reading situations and adjusting to them when one solution isn’t right for given circumstances. I’m doing good in my career but realized that I could be doing better, with more confidence.  I’ve been around the wireless world and back, but the ground under me had changed through the years- and THAT’s why I went back to CWNP and worked towards CWNE.

I did learn, and reinforce much of what I already knew, by going through CWNA, CWSP, CWDP, and CWAP (in that order). I was humbled when I failed CWAP the first time- I don’t fail tests. Ever. But I did this time, and studied that much harder to pass it the second go round.

Then when it was time to apply for CWNE, reading over the application and writing the required essays gave me time and reason to reflect. Yes, I proved my “book smarts” on the certification exams. But spotlighting my experience through the essays and required non-CWNP certs gave me insight into myself: I have actually earned the title of Expert. A lot of people rely on me to wear that hat and to properly discharge the duties that come with being an Expert. I was reminded of that as I wrote up my experiences and realized just how much I have accomplished so far in wireless. The CWNE process has formalized that recognition for me.

And it feels pretty  damn good.

Now here’s the rest of the story for those keeping score at home. Being an Expert is different from being a Know It All. Any one of us in the CWNE community can likely bubble up a topic or two they feel weak in, and have no shame in admitting to such. The day I have nothing left to learn will actually be depressing, because every day I pick up some new tidbit of wireless knowledge and look forward to that.

And now that I’m a CWNE, I have continuing education requirements for keeping the title that I’m rapidly coming to enjoy. CWNP recognizes that the WLAN world changes, so CE will help those of us with ANY level cert to stay fresh with what we know. And when I turn in my first CE paperwork, that will feel good in it’s own way, too.

 

 

Training Tips

Master 1I was recently approached by an esteemed wireless colleague who was tasked with putting together a day-long training seminar for non-wireless installers. We talked about shared opinions on what Wi-Fi specific topics would be right for this particular group, as well as general procedural steps that he might take to keep it all on track. After all, a “day” really isn’t very long when you factor in breaks, lunch, questions, distractions, and Murphy’s Law. As we chatted back and forth, he made the comment to me “you really out to write some of this down for others”. And so here we are.

Before I dig in- let me address the “what makes you qualified to give this sort of advice?” question that some of you might be thinking.  Here’s the quick and dirty: in my 10+ years in the Air Force, I spent the second half of my career as a Technical Training Instructor. More re less, I was dragged into it – and was a bit angry about the turn of events in the beginning. After all, I was an Electronic Warfare “field guy”, and liked what I was doing on aircraft like the F-4 and A-10. Once I got over myself somewhere around the third week of Instructor school, I came to realize the tremendous value in being able to confidently deliver complex materials and keep a group heading towards a series of objectives- both for me and the folks in the seats in front of me. I eventually achieved the Master Instructor rating, was certified as an Occupational Instructor, and amassed thousands of hours in the classroom and developing curriculum that others would use as well. After the Air Force, I taught basic electronics, CWNA, CWSP, undergraduate classes, and (still do) graduate networking classes. I’ve also done hundreds of hours of informal training and presentations for my employers and at a number of IT conferences. I don’t know it all or claim to be the best, but I do have a lot of experience and have valued both the high ratings and criticism I’ve received along the way.

Now, back to topic. Here’s a quick primer for anyone that has to do training/presentations, but nay not be particuilarly comfortable in that role.

Before the Session:

  • Research the audience. What level(s) of expertise will you be dealing with? Don’t assume anything without asking whoever requested the training.
  • You may have to adjust your favorite “canned” presentation a bit for each audience.
  • Develop a lesson plan/presentation AND a time budget for each topic
  • Don’t be a mile wide and an inch deep- ever- on any topic. Cramming a week’s worth of content into a single day rips everyone off.
  • Accept the fact that YOU will determine the success of the training, and are driving the boat. Your management of the topic and the clock are nobody else’s responsibility.
  • Understand well what you will be talking about. Thin credibility will absolutely shine through.
  • Ask that whoever is in charge of those you are training ensures that the group is expected to be attentive and present. No running in and out taking calls, etc.
  • Make sure you have your material prioritized- should the session go wrong and fall apart, make sure the most important topics are identified so you can focus on them.
  • Test the audio-visual equipment well before the start of the session, and have a Plan B in case something goes wrong.

During the Session:

  • Share your time budget with those you’re training or presenting to. Hopefully everyone will help it to stay on track.
  • Embrace the notion of Intro/Content/Summary. Or “Tell ’em what you’re GONNA tell ’em/Tell ’em what you HAVE to tell ’em/Tell ’em what you TOLD ’em” – for each section, each major part of the day, and for the entire session.
  • Take questions that are easily answered along the way.
  • Save long-winded, complicated discussions for the end of the section, break, or lunch. Don’t bust your time budget by being led astray.
  • Occasionally, something WILL go horribly wrong during the session. Roll with it, make the best of it, and make sure the priority material gets conveyed.
  • Watch for signs that you’re losing the audience, and pop an easy question to draw them back in. Example: “So, who has ever done ___?” Then when a hand is raised, let someone respond so another voice breaks up the monotony of your own.

Closing/After:

  • If appropriate, leave your contact information for further discussion if anyone is interested.
  • Figure out some way to ascertain whether your session had value. It may be an email to whoever set up the session the following day, or a survey you leave behind. You want to know if you’re hitting the mark and what might need to change.
  • Don’t convince yourself that you can use the same presentation every time- as mentioned during “Before”, you may have to adjust for the next session to be effective.

Training or presenting to even a small group of people is a skill. Public speaking can cause people great anxiety, but having a simple checklist like the points above can help take the nervous edge off. Even those of us with lots of podium experience get jittery, but get through it by being prepared for both what WE WANT to happen and for  WHAT MIGHT happen.

Best of luck to you as you train or present.

Do you have any training pointers to share? Please contribute to the discussion.