As Per so amusingly noted I’m ‘Phone Boy’. That is to say that I am the PM that looks after the OCS Master program. I joined Microsoft three years ago and worked for some time in the UK in consulting services. After a short spell with the partner engineering team in the UC product group I jumped at the chance to take on the task of getting OCS Master off the ground. That was back in August 2008 and as I write this we’ve just finished the very first delivery of the program.
We started building the program in September 2008 with a core team of subject matter experts from the field and product group. After two days locked in a windowless room we had a comprehensive curriculum outline that covered both the breadth and depth of the product. Now all we needed to do was write it! Just four months later forty eight sessions had been developed from scratch with exam questions to match and over 20 labs to give practical hands on experience. The efforts of the content developers, mostly folks drawn from the field, have been fundamental in raising the bar for the depth of materials in existence today for OCS. Given that the first rotation in January was to be based upon the Wave 13 release (OCS 2007 R2) it was an amazing achievement to get such high quality content on a product which was in the final stages of completion.
The first rotation has been a humbling experience. I’ve been stunned by the energy and effort that the candidates have put in when presented with enormously long days, challenging material and a relentless pace. Amongst other things we’ve dived deep into SIP, tangled with H.323, battled with video interoperability, wrestled giant dial plans and taken conferencing to task. It’s certainly been an intense three weeks.
The candidates have sat three exams and taken a final qualification lab – all of which must be passed to certify. Everyone has stuck at it and everyone has had valuable input based on their own experiences and customer situations. Without doubt one of the greatest take aways from the program is the experience that is pooled and shared in the classroom. Candidates now have a group they can call on with questions and for advice based on the relationships built in the past three weeks that they would never otherwise had access to.
The labs have been fascinating. As Per described we have a considerable lab environment that mimics 25 discreet companies each with an OCS 2007 R2 environment, edge networks, remote offices scattered across 25 different countries each with unique dial plans and all connected through a common (simulated) PSTN. It’s huge and it allows us to explore multiple scenarios and complex configurations including dedicated environments to run through upgrade, merger and acquisition scenarios. For the next rotation we will certainly make more time to spend in the lab as the opportunity to play with such a complex environment is unique.
We are now into a period of review and rework between rotations 1 and 2. Based on the excellent feedback from the first rotation we will be reworking and updating the content, labs and running order to squeeze the absolute maximum out of the three weeks we have available for each delivery. We will also be extending the telephony environment with additional PBX infrastructure and interop scenarios and updating our labs to the final RTM version of OCS 2007 R2. Lots to do J
The feedback that we’ve had from folks on the first rotation has been fantastic. People have seen tremendous and immediate impact to their day to day interactions with customers and their projects and the majority of candidates have desribed it as the best training experience of their careers to date – not bad for a first delivery J
On a final note I wanted to say a thank you or two. Turning a program of this nature around in just a few months could never have happened without a cross group effort and the support that I’ve been given has been incredible. Firstly, I wanted to thank the Deployment Readiness team in the product group for the support they have given us. They have been our point of contact to the development teams and without their efforts to find information and answer questions we wouldn’t have the materials we have today. Specifically I’d like to thank Jens Trier Rasmussen who has been working on this with me from the beginning and given huge support and wise counsel. The MSL team that have helped with logistics, marketing and the classroom build. Specific thanks to Cindy for keeping the whole thing on the road and Krishna and the lab team for building out the most complex classroom environment I’ve ever seen (4 days of cabling alone!) and which ran without a hitch. Thanks also to our vendor, Unify Square, for taking my outline for the labs and turning them into a reality and really ‘getting it’ when I said less is definitely more when crafting the lab scenarios. Last but not least to the UCG Marketing team that has provided the funding to make this program a reality.