Exchange MCM Training Comes to an End

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My work area
My 21 day straight Exchange MCM training ended yesterday with the infamous qualification lab.  The lab is 6 and a half hours where each of us is given a complex virtual environment and we have multiple scenarios that we must accomplish.  The environment is full of all sorts of problems that Microsoft has seen in actual customer engagements.
I'll find out the results of the qual lab sometime next week (fingers crossed).  I did find out that I passed the written exam that was given the day before, so that was a relief!

During my three weeks here in Redmond my schedule was pretty much the same every day.  I would arrive about 7:30AM and review notes or work on labs until instruction began at 8:00AM.  Instructors would teach until usually about 6:00PM, but nights went as late as 8:30PM.  After instruction we would work on hands-on labs until about 11:00PM (one night we worked until 2:30AM), and then we'd head back to inn for some sleep, a quick shower, and start all over again.  For 20 days straight - no weekends or time off.  It was quite intense.

Microsoft Building 40
The instructors were all really great and gave fabulous presentations.  They are comprised of product team managers, senior escalation engineers, and consultants.  They are the best of the best on their topic and it was amazing to have subject matter experts at your disposal for questions and clarifications.  The general topics covered over the three weeks were transport, client access, unified messaging, mailbox, high availability, operations, RBAC, and Office365.  The Exchange Online and Office 365 content was a new addition to this rotation.  We covered O365 in detail for three days and did some really awesome labs.  David Bjurman-Birr is the Exchange MCM PM and says this training will probably be a future add-on for existing Exchange MCMs.

We each had a host computer with two nice size monitors connected side-by-side with a fully articulated arm.  For labs you would use one monitor for the decks or lab materials, and the other for access to your virtual lab environment.  Each of us had our own forests and domains, and both the host machine and labs had Internet access through TMG so we could do real world access testing.

One of the many drink coolers in Building 40
For those interested in logistics, there is a cafeteria between buildings 40 and 41 which serves a number of lunch options.  The options change day to day, but repeat every week.  A couple of days we walked over to the commons near building 92 where there were more (and different) lunch options.  David stocked out training room with Cliff Bars, Kashi bars and packages of nuts.  Drinks are free and plentiful all over the Microsoft campus.  Markus Hengstler, one of my rotation colleagues from Switzerland, was introduced to diet root beer and became quite a fan.  Of course, coffee was always popular throughout the day.  I know I drank several gallons myself.

My best friend

The entire experience was quite humbling. I thought I knew Exchange pretty well, having worked on all versions since MS Mail.  I think I've increased my knowledge of Exchange by orders of magnitude.  I've met new friends and have a new community to bounce ideas off of.

Microsoft gardeners replaced some trees with these pretty pink ones overnight early this week
I'm looking forward to coming home now that it's over.  I barely had time to call my family during my time here.  Still, I'm so happy that I was able to do this.  I can't stress enough how much knowledge you will get if you are able to attend.  Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment below if you have any questions.  Obviously, I can't tell you any more about the content than what I've said above (we're all under strict NDA), but I'll be happy to give you any help I can.

My plane is here, so it's time to back away from the computer for a while.