Why should you go to professional conferences?

Professional development

Conferences are a great way to get a deeper understanding of new products, ideas, theories and practices in your chosen field. Every professional organization has conferences, nurses have hundreds of organizations like AONE, AACN, and NTI. Most of these organizations use conferences to present new information. All these organizations offer training classes that give nurses CE (Continuing Education) credits for attending these lectures and presentations. The wireless world is no different. There are many wireless conferences, such as WLPC, WIFI Trek (CWNP), Cisco Live and Atmosphere (Aruba). All these conferences have presentations, Boot Camps and breakout discussions about new products, technologies, and best practices. Just as with other professional organizations, Certified Wireless Network professionals need CE credits to keep current with our certifications. These CE credits can be obtained by either going to formal classes, teaching classes or attending these conferences.


New topics

Reading about new wireless topics is something we all need to do to keep up with new technologies. Reading articles is the 1st step, but you really need to go beyond the articles and dive deeper to fully understand these new topics. You need to talk about these technologies and bounce these ideas off your colleagues to obtain a deeper understanding. You need to understand how others have implemented these ideas. These conferences offer you a way to do this in a unique way. At these conferences, you will meet and interact with people of all levels, some who have been in the industry for many years and there are others who are just starting out but are hungry to learn. When topics are presented at these conferences people ask questions you never thought of or they ask the questions in ways that you would have never thought of. These questions lead to deeper discussions that grow into conversations over meals or even later at the bar. These conversations will lead to broader topics that will be discussed later through blogs and Twitter feeds and possibly grow into topics for next year’s conferences. These conferences allow you to add to the conversations and to interact with professionals in a way you would never have gotten by simply reading articles.


Creating professional contacts

The contacts you develop at these conferences can prove to be useful throughout the year. Whether you are attending vendor-specific shows or vendor-neutral shows you are interacting with people from every major vendor. These men and women represent sales, marketing, engineering, service and different levels of support.

These contacts can become useful during the year if you run into an issue or problem with their products. Many of the people who you meet are from backline teams of these vendors. By attending these conferences, you have access to these professional that you would never get over the phone. There is no way to quantify these leads, but they can save you weeks of going through the endless loop of grabbing logs and explaining the issues two and three times to different levels of support. These relationships that are developed at these conferences with different vendors may offer quicker solutions or they may help to push issues along in their organizations.




Team development

The information and knowledge learned at these conferences can be shared with teammates throughout the year. You don’t have to send everyone on the team to every conference but each person that attends a conference will be able to share his/her experiences and lessons learned with the whole team. Conferences also give the newer or junior members of the team something to attain. Management can create incentives for your team; if teammates achieve this level cert, then management could reward them by sending them to this or that conference.


Presenting at these conferences

Presenting at these conferences can pay dividends in two unique ways sharing your knowledge with others, getting your name out there as a thought leader in each wireless topic or technology. Sharing your knowledge with others helps those you are teaching by introducing them to a new idea, technology or procedure, but it also helps you understand the topic more deeply. No matter how prepared you are there will always be someone to ask a question that gives you and the those attending a deeper understanding.

Getting your name out there as a thought leader will help you reach more people on Twitter and Slack. This can help promote your current business, project, product or even your future employment.


Product promotion

What better way to spread your company’s story, philosophy and be seen as an industry leader than having a presence at these conferences. A major presence at these shows and conferences will help you spread this story and gain valuable feedback from industry-leading experts. Exposure at these conferences can lead to broader acceptance of your product throughout the industry. Feedback from participants could help drive improvements to your products or procedures.



Top Wireless conferences

There are quite a few Wireless Conference. Here is a list of 4 of the biggest.


Wireless LAN Professional Conference (WLPC)

Started and run by Keith Parsons of Wireless LAN Professionals http://wlanpros.com


Created and run by the CWNP group https://www.cwnp.com/

Cisco Live  



Atmosphere run by HP/Aruba https://www.arubanetworks.com/atmosphere/



Thank you for reading this blog. I hope reading this blog encouraged you to attend a conference. Feel free to share this with your boss if he is on the fence about sending you to any of these conferences. Please leave comments and continue this discussion on Twitter and Slack. If you haven’t followed me on Twitter please use this link to follow me.



My Road to CWNE and study habits


There are two reasons I started this blog. The first being to help pass on the knowledge I have learned and the second is to help ensure I know what I am reading. We all learn by asking questions and by other people asking the questions we are afraid to ask. So please comment on my blog, other’s blogs, and Twitter. The Wireless World needs you. It is like a good friend of mine always says “no one is born knowing”.


I am not the best student. I can be lazy and it can take reading things multiple times before I understand the material.


Typically the best course of studying for me is reading, listening, applying and then explaining it to someone else. In the past, I have skipped the listening portion, but hearing always helps. Hearing it really helps cement what I have read. I do enjoy the hands-on portion of my training…knowledge seems to go through my fingers directly to my brain. Explaining the material I have studied is where I take it from theory to actual useful knowledge, which is the reason I started this blog.



Formal classes

IT classes can be worth taking but they can be hit or miss depending on the instructor. I took MCSE classes at a training center in Cary, NC back in 1998. The first few classes were good because the trainers knew the topics. The more advanced classes were taught by the same trainers but they clearly didn’t know the material as well. One of the instructors made it clear to me that I would have to study a lot more before taking the test. This is true with most Certs and classes but it makes the classroom type class a bit of a waste (unless you have a stellar instructor). These days I try to study the book myself as a first step and see how far that takes me.


In my time at Hill-Rom, I ran a few training courses. My training philosophy was always to teach to the top level of the class. This seems different to most corporate trainers who want to teach to the middle or lower level of the class. Personally, if I am paying for a course (even if work pays for the course) I want to be challenged. I want the course to stretch my knowledge. I also want there to be plenty of handouts and documentation so I can go over it afterward to reinforce what I have learned.


In 2008 I took an Aigmagnet course through CWNP in Atlanta. Rick Murphy (@rickMurphyWiTS) taught this course. It was the best IT course I have ever taken. He was incredibly knowledgeable and he knew how to reach all of us. He stretched my understanding and gave lots of handouts. The other day I went through those materials, I am still learning from them (funny enough the coursework was written by Keith Parsons). I would like to take more Wireless classes especially taught by Keith Parsons, Devin Akin, Blake Krone and Lee Badman. In July 2017 Devin Akin taught a CWNA course for Vocera that I was scheduled to attend but, when I passed my CWNA in April 2017 I decided to give up my spot up for a colleague. I heard the class was amazing and I look forward to one day attending a Devin Akin class.




Rules for Studying

Remove distractions

Have a daily goal, a weekly goal, and a monthly goal.

Use multiple sources

Make sure you are prepared to go into the tests

Build a home lab




Remove distractions

So how does this lazy student who really needs the reading, learning and then doing model start self-studying for my CWNA, CWAP, CWSP and the CWDP? And what kind of advice can I offer to those who are reading this blog? The first step is to remove distractions from your life. I am not talking about your wife, kids and family they are your life and you need them more than anything else in this world. My distraction was the TV. Yours might be watching sports, golfing or going out to the bars. This revelation came to me during Lent 2017 when I gave up TV. I have done this in previous Lents but when Easter rolled around I went right back to the boob tube. This time I realized how much time I wasted and how much studying I can do with the TV off. I have wasted too much time watching useless TV, so now, for the most part, the TV in my hotel room never goes on. When I am at home I will watch some TV with my wife and kids but I am really trying to avoid the TV as much as possible.




Have a daily goal, a weekly goal, and a monthly goal.

I am by nature, not a planner. Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote “If you fail to plan you are planning to fail”, never meant much to me, but as I have planned and mapped out my studying I can see his wisdom. I plan on reading 25 pages a day. This allows me to finish most tech books in 30 days or so. This might be a low number to some of you but I use it as a guideline. Some days I get so busy with work or home life that I realize I missed a day or two. Other days I get so stuck into what I am studying that I read 50 -75 pages a night. The chapters that totally elude my comprehension I go back, reread and take detailed notes. I spend the next month researching the topics online and reading over my notes. When I feel I am ready I will take two weeks and do the practice exams. After the exam, I start the process all over again.




Use multiple sources

When studying for the CWNP exams I always use the book they recommend. Sometimes this is the SYBEX books, sometimes it’s the CWNP books. I have found the SYBEX books have more details and seem to be laid out a bit better but this is a matter of opinion. I always use the CWNP practice tests which are very valuable for honing my knowledge. I will use online articles and blogs of my favorite wireless guys. Websites I am always on are CWNP.com, http://www.cleartosend.net, gcatewifi.wordpress.com, Keith Parson’s wlanpros.com, Lee Badman’s wirednot.wordpress.com. Andrew Von Nagy’s http://www.revolutionwifi.net and my good friend and colleague from across the pond Andrew McHale’s mac-wifi.com. There are a ton of Wireless Blogs out there and most of them have blogrolls that list other WIFI bloggers. Connecting to the Wireless community on Twitter and Slack Channel has increased my knowledge as well. I find Twitter and Slack are the best places to follow all of your favorite WIFI guys and girls.




Make sure you are prepared going into the tests

This goes without saying but sometimes life gets in the way. I was ready to take my CWAP exam in late June but never got around to scheduling it. In July I had a 10 day job I was doing in NYC and after that I knew life was going to get busier, I scheduled my exam while in NYC. I was prepared for weeks beforehand, but that week I had not done much studying. I felt so unprepared going in. I assumed I would fail it. As it turns out my, Prep was still valid and I passed with over 80% (which was my lowest score of all the tests). Bottom line, make sure you are prepared going in to the exam. Life is a lot less stressful when you know the material.




Build a home lab

You can read until you are blue in the face, but you really need to get hands-on experience. The best way to do this is with a home lab. When you study and have access to your own lab, it will reinforce everything you have read in the book. There is no replacement for experience and although the lab is not the real world it will teach you the tools you need to use out in the real world. Even if you have equipment at work, or even if you are lucky enough to take a lot of classes, nothing can help you learn like a home lab.


I started building mine a few years ago (before I got back into Wireless). My equipment is made up of a variety of Cisco routers, switches, a CUCM server and a few IP phones. I added an HP DL380 G7 which I use as my ESXi server. Recently I have added a vWLC and a few 1140 APs which has expanded my Voice lab into a growing wireless lab.


Don’t let the fear of high prices stop you. You can start fairly cheaply and keep adding to it each quarter. I would strongly recommend viewing Tom Carpenters CWNP video on starting your lab. It is a great video on what equipment you need and where to get that equipment. In a future blog, I will write more about my lab and what equipment you should definitely have in yours.



What Certs do I have now and what Certs do I plan on attaining?

As of this writing, I have my CWNA, CWAP, CWSP and I just passed my CWDP. I am hoping to take the Ekahau (ECSE) course sometime soon but 2018 will be all about Cisco. I am planning on taking my CCNA, CCNA Wireless and then CCNP wireless. I hope to have these by the end of the year. Years ago, I had my CCNA but unfortunately, I let it lapse. It has been hanging over my head for years and I look forward to getting that one knocked off.

Now with all the CWNP tests done, I have to focus some time on the CWNE application. I am not a big writer so getting all of the details of the application will be a challenge, but one I am looking forward to working on.


Please check back on this blog to see what happens and you can always follow me on Twitter @WIFI_NC