This past week I attended a CWAP (Certified Wireless Analysis Professional) class taught by Robert Bartz of Eight-O-Two Technology Solutions (@eightotwo on Twitter). I was awarded a free class as one of the prizes from The Next WiFi Rockstar contest (thanks again to the No Strings Attached Show). Whether you win or pay for the class, the package includes four days (I think CWDP is three days) of focused instruction, a study guide and course guide, access to the CWNP online practice exams, and an exam voucher. Eight-O-Two is also a mobile Pearson-Vue test center, so their students have the option to sit the exam after instruction is finished on the last day.
A couple of weeks ago I had to attend a one-day class on electrical safety in order to apply for a limited electrical certification related to pulling cable. There was no mention of data cabling, but there was lots of talk about 600V switches, transformers and substation fires. There was no test at the end of the day, so I spent most of the time thinking about what a waste of time it was. Robert’s CWAP class was the complete opposite. Robert is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the course material, so it was easy for me to stay focused. It helps that it was directly related to my job and career goals, but the instructor was very captivating and interactive.
Robert also supplies access points and laptops stocked with various tools for packet and spectrum analysis, so every student can do lots of hands-on work. The lab work was invaluable to me. We were able to see first-hand the impact of legacy devices on throughput in a BSS, and how various RF devices can impact the spectrum used by 802.11 networks.
Another great thing about taking the class is the interaction between the students, and the mix of backgrounds you get. My class consisted of people from vendors (hardware and software), integrators, education and insurance. Everyone brings different experiences and anecdotes to the table, which makes for enlightening conversations and funny comments. So many different perspectives make for new ways of viewing the technology, which helps with learning. There are also opportunities to network, go for dinner or drinks, have group review sessions, and put faces and voices to Twitter handles.
The biggest benefit of taking the class for me was the timeline of getting the certification. Rather than self-studying a 600-page textbook for two months, I read as much of the book as I could in the two weeks leading up to the class, and then received four days of focused instruction to drive everything home with a crack at the exam at the end. All the students who wrote the exam on the last day, passed! For myself, being able to write the exam as part of my travel was a nice touch. The nearest Pearson-Vue test center is a three-hour round trip drive from where I live, so sitting an exam requires a full day away from work and family.
If you’re thinking about any of the CWNP certifications, I recommend taking a class if possible. It will help you focus, and drastically shorten the time required to acquire the knowledge and get the certification. You’ll also meet some great new people and have a lot of fun.