Team Climbing

Team Climbing

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sunday, April 17, Day 14

Well, the class has finally come to an end. As promised, here's the recap of the last three days. I know you have been riveted to your chair in suspense, wondering about the outcome of the class, or maybe you have better things to do with your time.

On Friday we finished up the day with Group Policy in the morning followed by Disaster Recovery. Manny, one of my fellow classmates volunteered to teach the DR section and delivered an outstanding presentation. Way to go Manny! Then it was off to study on our own for written test # 2, that if you have been keeping up with the blog, you know I miraculously passed on Saturday morning.

Manny teaching DR
Right after we finished written test # 2 and before going to lunch, Ryan sat us down and gave us a twenty minute prep session on what to expect in our Cert lab. The two things that stuck out for me were "don't waste your time memorizing command line syntax" and "if you don't know it by now, you are not going to know it by tomorrow."

We spent Saturday afternoon preparing for Cert lab with these words echoing in our minds. Then all of a sudden, Friday's DR training paid off immediately as we ran into a real disaster. The Hyper-V hosts we were working on all died in the data center, due to a power outage and some Murphy's law reaction by the UPSes.

For us AD MCM candidates, it was an annoyance as we just sat around waiting for the servers to come back up so we could continue our practice session. For the Lync Masters down the hall who were in the middle of their real Cert lab, it was a complete disaster, as the outage happened twice. They were sent home after three weeks without being able to complete their labs. I felt bad for complaining about being stressed after seeing what they had to go through.

I returned to the hotel, making a mental checklist of how I was going to attack the "break and fix" scenarios we would see on the Cert lab: Check the Forest and Domain Functional levels, check schema versions, check replication, check DNS. and on and on and on. I went to bed early that night because as Ryan said (and I believe him most of the time) that if I didn't know it now....

The next morning, we nervously entered into the classroom, wondering if the Data Center staff had put their Disaster Recovery plan in operation and we would be spared the Lync Master's fate. They did and I breathed a sigh of relief, although my relief was short lived as you will understand a little later. Please read on and don't be tempted to stop no matter how appealing that episode of "Dancing with the Stars" is on TV right now. Tivo it.

Ryan handed each person a large white envelope with our name on it and explained that it contained our lab scenarios. We had exactly nine hours to finish.
At 9:15 AM, I opened up the envelope and read through the multi page list of items I needed to work on. After reading through what I was supposed to do, and making a mental calculation about what I could realistically accomplish, I began to triage the scenarios and prioritize my next moves. Unfortunately, my orderly and disciplined approach soon descended into chaos.
You know one of those movies where the world is coming to an end and everything goes wrong and finally the hero saves the day at the last split second? Well, it wasn’t one of those days.  My cert lab world was a friggin’ disaster as I worked as fast as I could through the scenarios yet things weren’t getting fixed fast enough. I took no breaks during the nine hours except to get up, grab a slice of pizza, and sit back down again. I swore often and hit the keys on the keyboard a little harder than I normally do.
In one scenario I tried to use a script to accomplish the requirement but no matter what I did, the script although word for word exactly what was needed, would not work. I remembered something that instructor Mark Cooper had said about Notepad doing some strange things to scripts. I contemplated doing COPY CON (old DOS users know what this means) but ruled it out as the time ticked down. My frustration level went through the roof.
When the lab clock stopped at 6:15 PM, I looked around the room and could tell by my classmates’ frustrated looks that I was not the only one who had trouble getting through the scenarios. We gathered in the hallway and everyone talked about how many lab items they never even got to do because they ran out of time.
Although the mood was somber, slowly it sank in that finally the class was over, and that normal life could resume. Ryan had told us earlier that it would take him some time to adequately grade the labs so we wouldn’t know our results until Tuesday night.  So for now we could just kick back and relax and at least relish the fact that we didn’t crack and call it quits, but stuck it out to the very end. From that point of view, we ALL “passed the test”.
From the classroom we went straight to Bellevue’s world famous Daniel’s Restaurant where Ryan had booked us a private room overlooking the city. Bill Gates’ favorite table was just outside the room, but tonight he wasn’t there. Now it was time to let loose and to shake off all of the stress that had been hanging on us for the last two weeks. Beer, wine and mixed drinks flowed freely and soon enough everyone was smiling, joking and laughing, not to mention eating the best steak I have ever had in my life. You could sense and feel the camaraderie in the room. DTR12 had gone to technical hell and back and we had made it through as a team.
Group pictures were taken. Heartfelt goodbyes were exchanged.  DTR12 then left the building.
So how do I sum up my experience at the Microsoft Master’s class? In one word: REWARDING! I am not talking about the certification, but to the unequaled learning and networking experience that this class offers. I feel that it has taken my technical proficiency to a whole new level and that I also made an awesome group of like minded friends in the process.
Sure, getting the certification is a goal, but as clichĂ© as it may sound, it is always the journey and not the destination that defines our lives, personally or professionally.  Microsoft Master’s class was a positive, sickening, amazing, frustrating, gratifying, mind numbing experience that I heartily recommend to anyone who thinks they are on their technical game. Make the most of your experience if you have the privilege of attending a rotation, and please tell the rat pack of instructors Ryan, Matt, Steve, Mike, and Mark, that DTR12 sent you.

Our view from Daniels restaurant

Our private room at Daniels

De-stressing from the last two weeks

The wine is flowing and we all feel good

Manny and Ryan

Instructor Steve Patrick

DTR12 sans instructors

DTR12 with instructors Steve and Ryan


  1. Very well put, James. The most rewarding training experience I've ever had, coupled with some of the most frustrating, mind-numbing, and humbling days.

    I think in part it comes down to what your expectations are. If you are looking to be trained by the best, this is it. Incredible. No matter how I tried, I couldn't stump Glenn. Even getting to what seemed like an impasse, he would quickly generate a scenario to test, and prove an outcome. So much knowledge to share, so little time. (I suppose we could have forgone sleeping and eating...) Spending upwards of 12 hours in the classroom, followed by studying, mental exhaustion sets in easily.

    Back to the expectations. Despite it being mentioned several times that this course is not designed to get you through the exams (which I think more than once have been referred to as getting worse each time, and the first one was the worst test any of us had ever taken...), I think it's fair to say everyone came in with Masters certification in mind. Even with a class full of some of the smartest, most knowledgeable guys I've ever met, we were collectively humbled this weekend. The final certification lab sets the bar for expectations. Simply remembering isn’t enough, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is.

    I think a select few will be getting an email in the next day or two telling them that they’ve met the bar, welcome to the elite. For many others, it will be a wake-up call, you’re not there yet. Along with that will be another challenge – keeping everything fresh until you get a chance to do the test(s) again, a few months from now. (Maybe that wasn’t mentioned before – re-writes of the tests and/or cert lab cannot be scheduled for at least 45 days, and possibly longer, depending on availability of the overseers.)

    All-in-all, an incredible two weeks. Hopefully I can get back to regular sleep, without waking up dreaming of schema mismatches , USN rollbacks, and vvjoins.

    Thank-you again Ryan, Matt, Glenn, Spat, Mike, Mark, and classmate/instructor Manny. And, thanks Simon, Michael, Chris, James, Brandon, Ambers, Matt, Martin, Jun, Manny, Mark, Asen and Hido (hope all is well!) You guys were fantastic classmates.

  2. Thanks for this series of posts, its been intriguing seeing what another class goes through. I only get to see two and a half days of every Exchange 2010 Master, and as the bit I teach is at the start, everyone is usually awake, but I too have done the exams for that product and the Qual Lab, as its called on the Exchange Master, and reading your post brought back bad memories - I dont really want to ever do a Qual Lab again, but E15 will come around soon enough and so will another set of exams and a lab!


  3. Hi James,
    Great write up on the MCM 2008R2 experience it's fascinating reading for someone who is seriously thinking about doing this themselves.
    I was wondering if by any chance (when you have recovered from the whole experience!) if could pick your brain on some the logistics of this course ie accomodation (I'm an Aussie), course schedule, pre reading etc. Obviously nothing thats under NDA just a few questions around the feel of the course to determine whether I should take the plunge and enroll for the course. Address is daniel pet 23 (no spaces) at hotmail dot com
    regards Daniel


About Me

Fort Collins, Colorado, United States
I have been a techno geek for as long as I can remember. Making complex technology simple is my mantra and I enjoy teaching others that technology doesn't have to be rocket science mummo jumbo but can be expressed in simple easy to understand everyday terms.

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