September 15, 2008

Leaving India - reflections on Koenig Solutions, The Willows Bank Hotel, Shimla, Delhi etc

Leaving India tomorrow for Krakow and beyond. As I'm unlikely to do anything sober in eastern europe, I thought I would write up my experiences of IT training in India with Koenig Solutions (www.koenig-solutions.com), as this might be interesting to other people thinking of doing the same.

Delhi - CCNA

I did CCNA in Delhi. Koenig's approach to CCNA is in general excellent. I spent a lot of time hands on with the Cisco kit and the majority of the teaching is done on a white board by the teacher. The centre in Delhi is fine, and adequately equipped. I didn't care much for the lunch arrangements, so, like half a dozen other people, and some of the Koenig staff, I usually had lunch next door at 'Haldirams'. If you don't mind vegeterian, and you like Indian food, Haldirams is absolutely superb.

The main problem with Delhi is that when you've finished training for the day, it's impossible to relax. It is incredibly noisy, fiercely hot and very dirty. I enjoyed Delhi the last time I was there as a tourist but I couldn't hack studying there again.

To be fair, some other people really liked Delhi. A couple of the younger guys were on a mission to go out clubbing whenever possible, which was reportedly brilliant. Some people insulated themselves from Delhi by staying at the five star Siddharth hotel, which I've had a look round. It is really nice but REALLY expensive. I've stayed a couple of nights at The Clark Heights hotel. I can't fault Clark Heights really - the staff are great and the rooms are immaculate with wifi and big flat screen TVs and nice bathrooms. Unfortunately the neighborhood is very noisy. Reports of the appartments and cheap hotels were mixed.

Shimla - MCSE

Shimla was an enormous relief after Delhi. The climate is much like the UK. Koenig have two training centres - Centre 1 is in downtown 'San Jauli'. I only went there for exams. The majority of students are at Centre 1. Centre 2 is 1km from centre 1, up a steep hill and into the jungle. The setting is superb. Very quiet, nice views and a good place to concentrate on studying. This is also where some of Koenig's appartments are. Personally I wouldn't recommend the appartments, especially if you're likely to be intimidated by monkeys, which are everywhere.

I stayed at Willow Banks hotel, which was generally fine. I didn't like their food, especially breakfast, and the wifi was constantly on the blink, but the rooms are nice, and very big. They've got a small gym and a 12ft snooker table. Some people moved out of Willow Banks to go to The Combemere. The Combemere is slightly more expensive but has some definite advantages - according to my friend who stayed there for a couple of months the gym was much better equipped, the breakfast was nicer (and included in the price) and the wifi worked consistently. The rooms are smaller than Willow Banks but more modern. The Combemere also own Cafe Sol, which is the best place in Shimla for non-Indian/Chinese food. Koenig's 'new' appartments looked pretty reasonable. Similar to staying at student's shared house in the UK. Large rooms, limited hot water in the morning.

Shimla was pretty dead in terms of night life. The Combemere has a night club but it's usually empty because there's a very steep cover charge unless you're a guest or friend of a guest.

MCSE is a long slog. You have to do at least seven exams. Everyone seems to get through it, even people with no IT experience. The Koenig approach to teaching MCSE is to just go through the Microsoft Learning official courses. There's a problem with this. The Microsoft learning courses are well organised and cover a lot of material, but they're deadly boring. When you have to go through seven courses in a row it starts to feel like you're sitting through the powerpoint presentation from hell. About a month into the course myself and my tutor agreed to abandon this approach so he improvised his own teaching method which was based more on hands-on problem solving. This worked much beter for me. One thing Koenig was very good at was adapting to individual needs, assuming you had booked individual tuition. There was a dutch guy who was unhappy with his CCNP teacher who complained to the administrator, and next day, hey presto - new teacher (and CCIE qualified!). Of course, if you don't ask, you don't get.

If I did long term training in India again I'd be tempted to go to Goa for a better balance of holiday and study. If I was going just to do a short term intensive course I'd consider Dehradun, which is supposed to be very well equipped with zero distractions.