A friend of mine today pointed me to a site for SOA training (http://www.soasystems.com/events179.asp). He seemed a bit upset over the price, it is $700/day for the class (not considering the cost of time off and other stuff). It did seem a bit expensive, and I’m a bit hesitant dropping a bunch of money on SOA training and certification when in my opinion there doesn’t seem to be a lot of agreement what SOA is exactly.
The calculation is pretty simple to me though. If by taking this particular set of classes and getting this certification I can increase my hourly rate and find more gigs then it is a done deal. However, if I’m not going to be able to increase my bill rate why should I spend the money for the certification? I can learn everything being taught in the class through study on my own. There are plenty of books at Barnes and Noble or Amazon on the topic. I can search the Internet to find blogs. I can find forums where people are talking about this stuff.
One difference is that the class has been organized so that in 5 days I can learn all this stuff (the organization is very valuable). However, if I’m willing to save some of the money and take longer I can learn all the same stuff and possibly more through other means. The Internet is chock full of information and Google will help you find it. Amazon has all the books you could possibly read and they’ll even ship them for free. In about a month you could make yourself an expert in SOA.
On aspect of the DIY approach that really appeals to me is that I’d make use of forums and blogs as part of my learning process. First, I’d find a bunch of forums that cover the topic I’m studying and pick one to focus on. I’d also pick a number of blogs that appear to have a clue about what they are talking about and I’d add them to my RSS reader. Then I’d post questions and answer questions in the forum. I’d comment on the blog asking questions. The advantage of doing this is that in the process you will build a network of people and build your own creditability in the area.
The DIY approach won’t give you the certification. However, I have yet to run in to a situation in IT land where a certification was actually needed by an employer or client. To me they aren’t very valuable – they just indicate that you passed some tests, they don’t actually indicate actual ability. To many certifications have been hacked by people doing bootcamps and other training approaches meant to allow people who aren’t actually qualified to get a certification. Look at the Cisco Certified Network Engineer certification. When I got started that things was gold. Now the kid at Starbucks has one.
So bring this around to a close: is paying for training worthwhile: Yes. In many cases trainers can do a better job than the DIY approach b/c they have experience and know what works. For me Guerilla COM was such an experience. I had already been playing with COM for a while before I went to Guerilla COM. My class was taught by Don Box and for me it was a transformative experience. Going to California Super Bike School was also a transformative experience. For me anybody offering technical training is going to be measured against Don Box. Anybody teaching Motorcycle Riding is going to be measured against Keith Code. Both are awesome teachers who are able to connect with their students and make themselves be understood. Unfortunately, not all teachers are able to do this. In fact in many cases you are worse off for the encounter and would have done much better to have spent the time and money teaching yourself. How do you tell the difference? Asking around, looking at the market. AT the time there were others teaching COM but none had anywhere near the reputation of Developmentor. The few people I asked were quite positive about their classes. I’ve run in to a few who did not have great experiences but those have been few and far between. They also came from people whose work I thought was suspect anyway – so their feedback was a sort of endorsement in a way. Same with Keith Code.
One key though – if you a technical person you had better have a training strategy in place. Budgeting time and money to keep you skills sharp is critical to your survival in the market place. In some cases you should pay people to teach you stuff simply because it is faster. For instance, if I was going to start doing SAP I’d pay for a class. I can find everything on the internet, but it would take way too long to get to the point of being marketable.
Other cases call for doing it yourself. Learning WCF really deeply won’t be delivered in a class. Most classes are going to stop well short of what I consider the deep stuff. It takes time to do this and most of the market doesn’t need it. As such you aren’t given much choice, but even so you’ll be better off learning it on your own.