The answer is yes, here’s why…
If you’re ready to finally get yourself up-to-speed in the quirky world of Citrix, then this may be just the shot-in-the-arm your IT career needs..
Dear Fellow Software Engineer
Have you ever turned down an opportunity to do some professional computer training?
Be honest with me here. I want to know…
… have you ever taken a Microsoft/Citrix/VMware exam, passed with flying colours, yet deep down you knew that you didn’t know your subject…?
…worse, has your company funded you to take time off and take a professional course for a week, only for you come back to the project and not know where to start?
…have you ever interviewed a person with an MCSE or VCP and realised that you couldn’t hire them as it was only a paper certification?
…have you ever broken your Citrix servers (or farm) because you just didn’t know how to test your changes?
…do you dread the weekly team meeting with your fellow server engineers, because you want to keep a low-profile and not contribute?
…do you like the Citrix solution, yet baulk at applying for highly-paid Citrix contracts, in case you actually got the job?
…would you like to be the “go-to” person for Citrix in your company, because of your technical expertise?
..have you ever failed an exam which you thought you would walk and all your colleagues took the p**s when you told them you failed? Hmm… I have, twice, argh! Don’t worry, I won’t let it happen to you if you stick to an hour-a-day for 30 days
Here is a direct quote (including typos) from a Citrix forum:
Apprentice Despite having spent time on time on studying the Citrix books and attending a Citrix course. I am currently studying for CCA so its been an uphill struggle but theres a light at end of the tunnel :-)). I am still having trouble understanding what exactly the purpose of the mysterious ‘Shadow Key’ is.”
Champion poster (48 posts!) What shadow key are you referring to?
Guest Next a guest (with no official posts – obviously) posts a concise answer
Apprentice Thanks a million for anwering my question :-)))) Are a CCEA ?
Wow that’s amazing, on so many levels. First up, let me just say, that no-one knows everything and it’s ok not to know what the “Shadow key” is
1) Studying books on Citrix is the hard way (apart from Brian Madden’s Citrix MetaFrame XP Advanced Technical Design Guide, written passionately by a Pro). Of course in the old days, it was the only way. Now we have videos by pros out-in-the-field. I know that I would have absolutely killed for the videos that I’m about to show you, when I was trying to improve my Citrix
2) If studying is an uphill struggle then don’t just sit there, change something! Focus for an hour-a-day ONLY, for 30 days, study something else entirely, visualise yourself as a newly-qualified CCA for 2 mins prior to studying (posture, confident air, giving 2 or 3 possible solutions to your clients), practice active learning by trying it out in your test environment, building a MindMap or, find a mentor at work, find some new videos online that are just packed with content with a presenter that you like aah, now you’re talking
3) Are a CCEA ? You can pretend you’re a CCEA by watching the “Citrix Application Packaging” video. Where you accidentally learn about the shadow key, work with tools that capture all the registry updates during application install. We then take it to next level, using tools that look after the shadow key timestamps. “Tools for Shadow key timestamps??” Are you a CCEA?
4) Theres light at the end of the tunnel probably means you are not enjoying the process of learning Citrix. I want you to look forward to our daily one-hour get-togethers, where after 30 days, you feel like a XenApp Expert (whether you have a CCA or not!)
5) what shadow key are you referring to? – ah, I see how you got your 48 posts!
6) The “Guest” was me (in 2008 I was a CCEA just, so perhaps he did have a point after all!)
If you’ve been in IT for less than 5 years then it’s not your fault. You probably put your hand up for any training that your company offers. Microsoft, VMware, Checkpoint, Enterprise Vault, whatever. Basically you go in any direction your company wants to go and you pickup valuable experience along the way.
However, eventually there comes a time when you need to decide which area you want to specialise in. Your aim is to be in the top 10% in your field. Not by working extraordinary hours, but simply by focusing on a specialist area, Citrix XenApp for example. A word of warning, trying to be a “guru” (top 1-2%) may not be worth distorting your life for. The plan is to go from geek to savvy IT Specialist, not some strangely-behaving propeller-head
If you try to learn XenApp, do you feel that Citrix is simply trying to confuse you, simply by changing the names of their products? CMC/AMC/DSC or ICA client/Hosted plug-in/Online plug-in or WinFrame (1.8), MetaFrame (XP, 3.0), Presentation Server (4.0 & 4.5), XenApp (5 & 6). BTW Presentation Server 4.5 = XenApp 5.0
Looking for time-saving shortcuts? Checkout the FastTrack videos – where explanation is cut to a minimum, so you can get on with your busy life
If you’re pushed for time who isn’t these days? Start with the FastTrack videos for quick implementation. Like the format? Good, time to go deeper with the main XenApp videos
30 day study habit (on-the-job)
Let your team leader know that you want to study Citrix for one hour-a-day (using these videos), first thing (an hour earlier than you normally get in), book a meeting room. An uninterrupted hour with me for 30 days. So, turn off your phone, turn off your email alerts and focus. After 30 days you have a wonderful habit that will take you places. Don’t miss a weekday, get your learning environment ready. Go home an hour early, except Fridays when you have a beer with your mates obviously. Actually this is the most important point, use your small amount of daily willpower to make sure you do this one habit for 30 days
Your company already has a Citrix farm and you would like to takeover the reins
Let’s say you have a Citrix farm in your enterprise and you want to start making an impression in your server team. Your choice is to enrol in a CCA course and/or follow along with these videos using your own test environment
10 years a go, I used to sit in our weekly server team meeting, staying as quiet as possible, not contributing at all. Basically, I did the minimum asked. Today, I rock up with reqts for my Citrix project, where I get colleagues to volunteer to prepare servers, carry out network config, test out XenApp plugins. Any recommendations they make, I try and incorporate into the project plan – everyone is encouraged to buy-in
CCA Certified but forgotten it all?
Already got some kind of Citrix qualification but haven’t been able to capitalise on it? Letting your expertise go stale?? Pick up where you left off and join a XenApp Professional out-in-the-field to refresh your skills
I took my first Citrix 5-day course back in 2005. It was a turning point in my IT career. Not because of the excellence of the course, but because of the instructor. Terry (his real name), taught the curriculum to pass the CCA, but he couldn’t help continually digressing about his real-world experiences, and how Citrix allowed flexible working and devices to go where computers had not gone before. His enthusiasm was infectious and he left a lasting impression
Just start coming up with great suggestions: like using the Citrix farm to provide remote access to for one of your remote branch offices. Volunteer to install/package some apps so that they are available for Citrix users. Say that would like to take a server out of the farm and upgrade it to the latest XenApp – create a new farm (don’t disrupt the current prod farm obviously). Soon your colleagues will start to (unconsciously) look up to you
Breaking out of a rut
If you want to break out of an IT rut at work by taking a 3-6 month Citrix contract that pays twice as much (remember, don’t get out-of-bed for less than $70/hr!) then getting up-to-speed in XenApp, could give your career a well deserved shot-in-the-arm
I was in a dead-end job, working from a service queue, rocking up to work late. I starting putting in some effort which was rewarded by the outsourcer I worked for reducing the team of 4, to 3 engineers – we were getting swamped again. This time I had had enough, I resigned. I remember reading the team leader’s confidential (ahem) email sent to management the next day, it said “…Rusty has resigned. …no great loss”. At the time I was p***ed, but he was right, it was “no great loss” my contribution to the company was woeful
I re-wrote my CV (deleted anything that didn’t relate to Citrix) started studying (no videos in those days) and applied for Citrix positions. I was going to do whatever it takes. I was going to be an expert in something I liked. I was going to be a contributor to the IT world
If you are a Citrix professional with 10 years’ experience of XenApp. And you’ve been doing Citrix since the days of WinFrame (1.8). When load-balancing Citrix servers didn’t exist, or applications that reqd a server reboot couldn’t be handled by the built-in Citrix Packager. Then you probably won’t get too much from these videos
If you have your own website/blog in which you have your own IT specialty (SQL, Exchange, VDI, SAN) then there’s no point in getting up-to-speed in XenApp too. Much better that you continue to share your expert tips in your own area, and help your own community
Layout of each main XenApp video
Each video contains a quick review section, which by all means watch on your first run thru. However, the next day when you are about to start a new video, watch the review of the previous day’s video first, referring to your notes/mindmap/outline that you made at the time – only takes 5 mins to do this. I will show you how to take it to the next level with the 60/15/5 minute review cycle, once we are up and running
I have tried to incorporate the 4 learning styles from a theory put forward by David Kolb. Eben Pagan has recently popularised them by using them as a framework in all his (recent) teachings, referring to them as: Why?, What?, How and What if
An example of the 4 learning styles in the “Citrix Printing” video would be:
Why? Why am I learning this (video)? If you don’t get your head around Citrix printing, you will never be regarded as an expert in XenApp by others. Your Citrix support staff will thank you now that printer issues are only an occasional irritation
What? What’s the history? Kernel-mode NT printer drivers giving BSOD, to native printer drivers killing the print spooler service, to the Citrix Universal Printer (driver)
How-to (Step-by-step) The specific procedure, the core of the videos – my primary learning style (what a coincidence!). Test the Universal Printer Driver on a test Citrix box, apply UPD-only policy to a Production server, work out which native printer drivers you must have, remove the rest, use Print Migrator to “replicate” the driver store to other Prod boxes
What if? (Action) Apply the above procedure to a Citrix server in your test environment today
Why bother making you aware of these learning styles? Well from time-to-time, you and I will mentor up-and-coming system engineers. The mistake we make, is to teach based upon our own preferred learning style. Once you become aware of this, it is infuriating to come across an interesting article/audiobook/video which doesn’t address your (primary) learning style
For eg. if someone explains the concept of packaging a tricky application on a Citrix server, but then fails to show me the exact step-by-step procedure assuming I will be able to work it out on my own. Maybe my colleague thought it was so straightforward and that I could simply take it from there. Perhaps there were some problems the first time he did it, which he would rather not share, ‘cos that would make him look stupid. Either way I get short-changed and end up frustrated
I personally learn best using the “How-to” style of learning. In other words, I like step-by-step. Unfortunately, that means I don’t communicate with 75% of my audience. So I make sure I start every video with a “Why?” section for those of you need to get motivated before you learn anything. Similarly, there is a “What” section describing the underlying concepts, background or history of the feature or problem. After the “Step-by-step” demo there is an action plan (“What if”) that you need to implement. Some engineers like to get stuck in immediately – actually, it is those I admire the most
Whether you buy-in to Kolb’s theory or not, following along to these videos with a virtualised test farm on your laptop or playing about on the test farm at work; is infinitely better, than simply watching them. Print out the MindMap, included with each video, and make notes on it (that apply to your environment) at the bare minimum. Active learning (saying, writing and doing) trumps passive learning (reading, hearing and seeing) as you can see
Good video course?
- Irritating presenter – maybe poor English, lots of “erm’s”, gets sidetracked or has PowerPoint-itis, bores you with “filler” content (which they should simply delete from the video)
- Poor audio – there’s something about poor sound quality that can kill even the best content
- “Paper” MCSE/MCITP – explains every option in the dialog, but you can tell they’ve never used any of them in real life. Typically, no stories from the field either
- Glosses over tricky procedures without showing you how to troubleshoot when things go fruit-shaped. Ok, let’s say you are watching a NetScaler video and you need to import the certificate from an existing CSG gateway (IIS). What they don’t tell you is that the NS cannot import the public and private key from the one IIS certificate file, you must separate them out
- Hiding errors behind a video presentation. Take it from me, it’s possible to hide all manner of blunders and stupidity on the editing-room floor. But we’ve both been in IT long enough to know that recovering calmly from errors and knowing where to look, is part-and-parcel of being an IT Professional, as well as a key piece to being seen as an Expert. As a general rule, I do all videos on a 1st or 2nd pass, errors that are thrown up are investigated and we both learn more, rather than keeping it from you. My goal is for you to become an Expert, earn more money, go contracting, have colleagues look up to your new Citrix skills; not for me to show you how I can make it look unrealistically smooth on a 10-minute video. That said, occasionally a server becomes unresponsive or blue-screens, I’m not going to waste your time keeping that in the video, obviously
- Assuming you know what to do (my favourite) – if I knew what to do, I wouldn’t be watching the video in the first place, now would I? Show me the step-by-step procedure
- BTW my videos show a natural progression, as with any new skill. In fact some of my initial videos (Virtual Citrix, Scripted Citrix server builds) were so bad (sleep-inducing, lots of “err’s”, no tricks or traps, aargh!) I haven’t included them. Whilst I was learning to create a good screencast and put up my first website, I relied on online videos to bring me up-to-speed, everything was a breeze whenever I found the right content and the right presenter. There’s definitely something special in being shown how-to-do something thru video, whilst you put the procedure into action almost immediately
All the best