It's the first time I've been sent away on a residential course by an employer, so it was a novel experience. I don't think a bootcamp is typical anyway though!
We chose it ourselves, because we wanted a fast introduction to a range of material in a short time, and it certainly did that. It ran for seven days, from 6 o'clock on Sunday evening a week and a half ago until the final exam ended at 1 o'clock this Sunday, and there wasn't a break. There were scheduled lectures, labs and exams from 8:30 in the morning until 8:30 at night, and then we had to start our reading for the next day. We had instructions to stop that at midnight even if we weren't finished, which was not uncommon. Of course, I exaggerate slightly when I say there wasn't a break, but only slightly - meals were allotted only half an hour, and there were two or three ten minute breaks in a day.
Needless to say, this was a bit tiring! In fact, I'm still a bit wabbit.
However, having completed the course, it did what we wanted it to, and we learned things that will be helpful to us. We also all qualified as MCAD (Microsoft Certified Application Developer) after three exams, which was personally satisfying. We hope to return within a few months to push that up to MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solution Developer).
It means I can now have an informed opinion on the value of Microsoft Certification exams. They're one of these things that people tend to be a bit sceptical about, which kind of annoys me because they're generally people who haven't done one themselves.
So, now that I KNOW for myself, what is my opinion? Will they magically make you into a good developer?
Of course, the answer is no, but that's not what they're intended to do. What they are intended to do is to make sure that developers have a reasonable grounding in the recommended ways of using a particular technology, and that's something that they do quite well. It's branded technology, of course, but what do you expect? If you're a bad developer, you can continue to be a bad developer with a little more knowledge to make you dangerous, but if you're a good developer there's a foundation stone laid that you can build on and develop with further experience. So don't be overly impressed if someone has a qualification - most of the people on the course were able to pass most of the exams - but do count it as an additional tool in their toolbox.
Next week, back south once more for training, direct from Microsoft this time. Unfortunately none of my colleagues are going this time, but with a bit of luck they should have a chance to go at a later date. I'm looking forward to this in a slightly fatigued way after last week, but this course will be within more traditional office hours, and will include lectures and labs using Visual Studio 2005. VS2005 is currently in beta with a projected release of some time next year - it seems to be summer that's expected - so it's quite exciting to get involved in the new technology before it officially arrives.
Some pleasant relaxation was had immediately after the course visiting scottymcleod, Janice and young Andrew in London before flying back up to some chilly Scottish weather on Monday after a week of shirt-sleeves.