Monday, 16 June 2008

Oracle 10g bootcamps

I just got back from doing my 10g boot-camp (Oracle's "hands on" component for the 10g certification pathway) with Koenig in their Dehradun center. The purpose of this blog entry is to give advice and information to anyone else who is thinking of doing this sort of course, yet reluctant to accept at face value what may be written on their website in student feedback section. I too felt that these might be just the result of censored or 'approved' writings.

In summary, I found it the best value for money of any option available to me for completing the Oracle hands on training component and having a crack at passing the tests.

For me there are 2 significant issues in taking training:
#1 quality of training, then
#2 an appropriate study and learning environment.

My impression of Koenig was that they did quite well on #1 and fantastically on #2. I have a more detailed version of this article on my personal web server here. Its a word document, and about 2Meg in size. Anyway ...

#1 Quality of Training: a high pass

If you're going to invest some thousands of Euros into your career, you really want to make sure you get value for money (well I do at least). To get Oracle OCP certification, you need to not only pass an examination, but you also need to attend "hands on training". Keeping in mind the vast details in the Oracle Database product there is only so much that you can learn (and retain) in two weeks of lectures. Oracle prints a series of publications for this course, and the trainers could take two strategys for this:
  1. simply read this with you in the class,
  2. they can move through the materials while highlighting important components, fleshing out significant points and explaining confusing details.
This last strategy is the method we had with our trainer on the course. He was knowledgeable (and I've been working as an Oracle PL/SQL developer since 1994) and comprehensive. We covered the material in as much depth as one can in the time available in such a course delivery schedule.

Accordingly if you intend to sit and pass the exams then preparation for the exam using tools such as MeasureUp and Pass4Sure are essential to getting a favorable result. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating not learning the materials and understanding the product here. Its just that the 10g exams test some of the most arcane and trivial details. Furthermore many of the answers on the exams are quite arguably ambiguous. There may be some implicit assumptions which make the right answer 'righter' than the others (or maybe not). Questions can come from seldom visited sections of the user interface too, so don't just rely on your experience and your absorption of the coursework. This is not like doing your Masters thesis.

This is the one area in which I felt the school dropped the ball. They assured us (in our course) that we were using latest exam dumps for our final preparation, but they were not. In our group the only person who passed the Administration 1 exam did so by 2% (hey, a pass is a pass right?) but aside from him everyone else only got as high as 66% (me). 68% is needed for a pass. Subsequently to taking the exam I purchased the current versions of the preparation materials and they are much more representative of what is on the test.

Also, while we did look at some of the labs provided in the coursework, it was cursory rather than in-depth. I think we were fairly tired too, and so we didn't really have the time to do these labs and cram for passing the exams. So its swings and round-abouts.

#2 Good environment: fantastic

Firstly the organization of the entire event was first rate. From my collection at the airport, to the travel back to the airport to go home everything was superb. Arrival in a third world airport can be a confronting experience. Taxi drivers all just about mob you with demands to use them to take you to anywhere they want. So to be met at the airport by someone expecting you is a great relief, trust me I've done it both ways. I received (unexpectedly) an envelope from the driver which contained a letter of welcome, my train ticket to my destination and some cash to get by with for incidentals. This was 1000 rupee, which is quite enough to get by for at least few days. I immediately felt I was in well organized professional hands.

It only got better ... at school Satender (the manager) is very keen and willing to help with any issues, at the accommodation Sanjay and the boys (who don't speak English very well) kept the breakfasts and dinners happening and the rooms cleaned.

But that's not the whole story, keep in mind that travel to India means travel to a third world country and brings with it many issues you should consider carefully. Romantic images of the Taj Mahal aside for a moment, India can be one of the filthiest locations in the world. Poor or non-existing infrastructure for waste disposal, crowded public areas, you might contract malaria, food poisoning, diarrhea or just simply be miserable because of the huge differences in climate and or food. With a little care the risks can be minimized to nearly zero, but just keep in mind its not Disneyland here ... ok!

This is where Dehradun comes into its own. Looking at their locations page, it would seem that Dehradun has nothing much to sell it over Delhi, perhaps only negatives with some extra hours of travel and minor cost disadvantages. Certainly you'd never be able to make the choice based on interior pictures of the centers. However I'm going to go out on a limb and say if its at all possible, then go to Dehradun.

Why?

Ok ... keep in mind that New Delhi is perhaps one of the most crowded, dirty cities on the planet, this is not just my opinion do a little research perhaps start here. Despite the fact that there are perhaps some potential savings in cost of living in Delhi you'll have more hassle, everyone (outside of school staff) tries to rip you off, and food poisoning is a very real issue there. Remeber, if your sick for 4 days in 20 of your study that counts!

Living in Dehradun we could easily move from the school (located in a newly developing technology park) to our residence, either by the shuttle provided by the school or by other means. You can go out for a quiet walk up to Rajpur or over the ridge past Saibaba. If you desire even greater mobility, some of the fellows even rented a small motorcycle for around 200 rupee a day to give the freedom to explore and go out and about.

Traffic in Dehradun is crazy (... its India) but not semi-suicidal manic like Delhi. I'm 43, I come from Australia and have ridden motorcycles all my life (here's a few of them). I've traveled a lot and lived in many parts of the world (not just visited for a holiday):
  • Tokyo, Japan(where I rode my own motorcycle almost every day)
  • South Korea (just out of Seoul)
  • Finland
  • Bangalore (India)
I would not feel comfortable riding a motorcycle in Delhi, but I would (and did) in Bangalore or Dehradun.

Just a quick tuk tuk ride down the road (back into town) are some nice hotels (the Madhuban hotel has a nice bar) and the Opal Lounge, this place has great Chicken Tikka, cold beer and is generally where the local foreigners hang out. Its safe and refreshing.

As I said, the location of the Dehradun school is in a newly developing technology park. Keep in mind this is India we're talking about and not Berlin, LA or Tokyo. So it looks a little different for a westerner.



The School itself is still under construction, although the ground floor is open for business (again not common in the west, but like I said - its India).


Downstairs is the cafeteria (where you get your lunch) and the ground floor is where the training rooms are. These are comfortable rooms and are suitable for 4 people and a trainer, which indicates the intended class sizes. No over crowded teaching classes here, you can ask questions and is as good as 1 on 1 teaching.

Computers were modern, operated well and were suitable to our tasks. There were some occasional power outages, but the entire IT system is on a UPS so its no major issue to have the lights dim for a little while. As you can see the room is lit well enough with ambient light.

I brought my own laptop, but ended up using their systems for installation of Oracle server cos I really didn't have enough RAM for that. So, unlike my previous experiences with IT training in Bangalore in 2001 I'd give this a big thumbs up.

In contrast, the training center in New Delhi was compact and cramped, but then hey, that's what you get in a crowded place like New Delhi.

The accommodation is called "the farmhouse" by the organization, but unlike the name suggests was anything but that, it was really a small group of 7 flats nestled on the edge of a hillside and (as I mentioned) excellent. After walking into the property, you find that it falls away quite steeply. Here you can just see the rooftops of the 2 storey flats. The roof top (btw) makes quite a nice place for a drink and a chat after class, or a morning stretch or just admire the view.



The the gardens of the house (we didn't live there, but in the flats) were beautiful, and indications of the stature and wealth of the owner (remember what outside looks like again).



nice places to chill after class ... ohh, and up the road in Rajpur they sell beer and sprits (80 rupee for a 700ml beer 400 rupee for a vodka or Gin).



Walking down the path a little more you find the two sets of units. One is a group of 6 the other is detached. This shot is taken from the rooftop of the detached one.



A view a looking along the path ...



and a view of the single detached unit from the roof of the 6 pack of flats.

I happened to be lucky, so this was my apartment. It was (in my opinion) the best of them all, as not only was it the quietest (not being effected by noisy neighbours) but had a nice view, good breezes and I happened to like the interior layout the most.
Below is an ugly "pano" I stitched together to give you an idea of the interior and its size.

The bed was not quite double sized, had a very firm (quite to my preference btw) mattress, a reasonably sized bathroom with shower and toilet.

The furnishings were neat and the linen kept clean by the house keepers (who were also our cooks and often rescued our laundry from the rain showers while we were at school ... thank you again Sanjay).

Without trying to paint too "rozy" a picture, it was one of the nicest places I stayed in in India on this trip, and I wish that my partner and I had stayed here for a few more days before doing our trip to Agra and Rajastan. I had very cute squirrels running about and beautiful birds in the trees outside my window. Yes, it really is that good.



The view up the valley from my rooftop 'terrace':



I've spent so much time on the accommodation because if you want to study and learn, having a comfortable, secure and quiet place to live is my #2, right after quality teachers at #1. So I don't think you can under play the importance of having absolutely no stress where you live and study.

But this is where it now gets critical for Koenig, having got a nearly 100% occupancy in their residences yet only having less than 10% utilization of their new facilitys capacity. They will need to manage growth in student numbers with their accomodation. I think they can do it, but it will remain a challenge for them to keep their existing high standards at Dehradun. From the voices I heard an the brekky and lunch tables, the hotels are noisy and inappropriate for good / effective study.

If you're after more information, like I said up the top, download the word document from my web server here, and feel free to contact me if you would like more information send me mail: pellicle at hotmail dot com.

Lastly, I was thinking that if anyone else has a blog on their experiences, please post a comment with that link (or it to me ) and perhaps some sort of coherent picture of experiences can be found by others.

So, if you go there have a great time, and Good Luck!

If you have any questions, feel free to .

:-)

7 comments:

obakesan said...

Folks

I'd love to publish the comments received on this blog, but as I can not edit them (only publish or reject in whole) I feel uncomfortable with publishing other students names on them (for privacy reasons).

So anyone submitting comments submitted so far would resubmit without named students I'd be perfectly happy to publish them.

Anonymous said...

Great write up Chris.

I also attended the 2 week OCP course with Chris. I would consider this whole experience very positive. Koenig also provided a great way to visit India for the first time.

The only negative points that I encountered was related to the first teacher. While he was very knowledgable, his English was not so clear and I did not get the impression that his heart was in teaching. Having said this, he was a rather likable guy and very friendly. The teacher in the second week was great.

There were also some snafu´s related to communicating our class attendence back to Oracle which meant that we did not receive our OCP documentation from Oracle for quite some time.

Considering however the experience of visiting India, the economics, and overall quality of Koenig these negatives were rather minimal.

Mark Troyer
http://www.linkedin.com/pub/0/59/681

Mr Chips said...

I am now staying in Dehradun on the advice of this blog and studying at Dehradun, and somewhat bizarrely am actually staying in the same room as featured on this page. For more detailed picture I have a blog on http://mister-chips.blogspot.com

Thanks for the advice , the only downside is that it is very cold here at night in the country house but everything else is rocking !!!

: D

obakesan said...

Mr Chips has recently elected to make his blog private, so readers who find this link will now not be able to read his experiences in any way. Its a pity, but perhaps in future he will make some of it available for the public.

:-)

Anonymous said...

the blog of Mr. Chips is online again

Rogger said...

Very useful article regarding training with Koenig solutions. Does Koenig provide official training for Microsoft and Cisco courses? What will be the ideal time for taking training with Koenig at their Dehradun centre?

-Graham

obakesan said...

Rogger

they did provide it last I looked, but I suggest you check. As to the most convenient time ... the time I went worked well for me, others reported it was very hot earlier, and very cold later ...