My name is Brian Reid, and I run my own freelance Exchange consultancy company called C7 Solutions (www.c7solutions.com). I’m based in Oxford in the United Kingdom and one of the many jobs I do is to teach on Microsoft’s advanced certification program, the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) program at Microsoft HQ in Redmond, Washington. My specialised subject for the training is the Exchange transport, though I am an MCM in my own right.
At the time of writing we’re in the middle of the first week of rotation 9 of the MCM Exchange program. We’re also in rotation 35 of the program which goes as far back as Exchange 2000 as a Microsoft employee program called Ranger, the aim of which was, and still is, to produce the best Microsoft Exchange Server consultants in the world.
Week one of the program typically covers transport and client access roles, though this week database internals is the second delight on the menu. I arrived on Saturday on the direct flight to Seattle from London Heathrow and have been in nearby Redmond for a few days now to try and combat the jet lag, as the teaching goes from 8am to at least 8pm local time and has gone on even later than that!
Today we have been examining email routing in depth, followed by high availability of emails using the new shadow redundancy feature, a topic which takes about four hours to cover at the depth the MCM class runs at. Something that would be covered in less than 30 minutes on a standard Microsoft Official Curriculum class! We will attempt to cover moderation, rules and journaling today as well, but that depends upon the questions generated amongst the students and in which direction this vital part of the training takes us.
Each student gets their own internet-connected lab environment for the class, and some of the required lab exercises include shadow redundancy cross forest, email routing within the company, shared namespace routing cross different exchange organisations and, newly added to the MCM class, integration with Office 365. Lab exercises are typically a series of tasks to complete and do not come with detailed instructions, so everyone is able to do what they like to their own lab environment. By having hands-on and instructor-led training, students prepare themselves for the exams at the end of the course – one online exam and one lab-based exam – both of which are very difficult. To date there are about 100 Exchange 2010 MCM’s in the world and somewhere in the region of 250 for all versions of Exchange since 2003.
The MCM training is the hardest job I do, not just in terms of time taken! Teaching at least a twelve hour day of level 400 content to 25 Exchange experts is a great challenge, and though I only teach for two-and-a-half days I need another three to recover from it and the jet lag. Once back in the UK it’s back to the usual job of helping my clients build, maintain and improve their infrastructure, bringing them the skills obtained from being an MCM, along with keeping skilled-up on new technologies such as Office 365. My clients benefit from having someone help them with the changes in technology without them needing to be experts in all the fields that their infrastructures demand. This ensures that each of their businesses have the skills to hand both in-house and on retainer to keep their IT running well every day.