Home Training with Don Jones

  • Mon 04 July 2011

  • A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity (courtesy of my employer) to have 3-days of on-site training from Don Jones. If you have no idea who Don Jones is, 1) You must be living under a rock (if you know anything about Home) and 2) let me try and enlighten you. Don's company is Concentrated Technology. He posts on Twitter as @concentrateddon. I'm not even certain how many books he's written, but here are a couple of books http://manning.com/jones/ and http://www.sapien.com/books. He's a Microsoft MVP, presents at a number of conferences, I'm almost certain if you've done something with Home, you've read one of his blog posts, or seen one of his videos online.

    So you obviously came here not to hear about Don Jones, but to hear about my experience with my Home training. We were provided with class/lab materials prior to training. A small companion guide, well written that had two "tracks" if you will in regards to the labs. The first track was very much a "type this, then this, then this", the second track was more scenario-based, requiring more thought. We obviously followed the second track.

    Day one started out with Don going over a very brief overview of what Home is, why we need to learn it (or learn "Would you like Fries with that?"). His sole purpose was to provide us with the necessary tools to learn and use Home and to understand what we were doing, why something may or may not work. The first day wasn't spent on a lot of commandlets and what not, but again, the tools necessary for us to make our way through Home. Even having used Home off and on for a few months, and even participating in the 2011 Microsoft Scripting Games, I still learned quite a bit on the first day. I would imagine, unless you were an MVP yourself, even you could learn something on the first day of Don's training.

    Day two, we got more in-depth. Don explaining the behavior of commandlets, what you can and can't pass through a pipe, why you can and cannot pipe certain things through a pipe, and how you could work around those issues. This was enlightening for all of us, and the way Don teaches, you're just like "aaahhh...that's why!". As we got into the day, those of us with more experience were able to correlate what we were being taught to things we had already done. And with that, we were able to ask questions, bring up examples and Don was able to answer ALL of our questions. This was comforting, I can't tell you how many times I've been at a training and the instructor says "I'm not sure, I'll have to get back to you on that." There was NOTHING Don didn't know. By the end of the day, A LOT of things were clearer.

    Day three. Let me just say this. My head hurt after day three. TONS of information! SOOO MUCH information! I'm afraid to say TOO much information, because I don't believe there is such a thing, but it was one of those days where you're best of just sitting down, listening, and taking every bit you can in. Early on we were taught debugging and error handling and let me tell you, from my personal experience, I picked up A LOT of bad habits early on in my trek to learn Home. Don set me straight on what NOT to do, and now I REALLY want to go back and clean up all my code. The afternoon we set out to write our own module/commandlet. Don took us step by step, from what we'd learn on the first two days, to what we had learned earlier that morning and combined it all into our own commandlet. Let me tell you, I was like a fat kid in the a candy store. I don't think you could have beat the smile off my face, but hey, I'm a geek, and I love this stuff!

    As I said earlier on, Don's purpose wasn't so much to teach us Home as it was to give us the tools necessary to learn/use Home, and that's honestly what I feel that I've come back with. Whatever I don't know, can't figure out, with what Don taught us, I can now figure it out, and to me that is more valuable than anything else. Even while we were going through labs after Don gave his short lecture, I'd stare at something, not quite sure what I needed, but because Don gave us the tools necessary to figure anything out, I was able to complete the labs and I felt more accomplished as if I had actually learned something.

    A coworker of mine has gotten quite a bit of Home experience prior to this training because he's been knee deep in an Exchange 2003 - 2010 migration. During training he had a console open on his Exchange server, and he was able to take what he was learning right then and there, and apply it to his everyday tasks. He was equally thrilled. After training he has gone even further, as migrations have neared the end, at this point it is a lot of reconciliation and ensuring we don't miss anyone, and Home has made that task VERY easy for him. Here is something he had said in an e-mail to me after he had written something:

    "I know it's simple stuff, but the class is already making my life easier. I took a lot from it."

    I will say this was the best training I've ever had. Don's teaching style is not overly technical or dry. He does a little something with Lego's and if you ever get the chance to see it, it will explain Home and pipes so clearly. It has been mentioned possibly inviting Don back, but who knows what the future will hold. If the opportunity exists for you to get training and you're considering some Home training, don't hesitate. DO IT! Don's daily rate is very reasonable, including travel and expenses, and if you have more than a few people on the team, it makes training VERY inexpensive.

    I couldn't be happier...I'd do it again without hesitation and recommend it to anyone.

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