In this time of “how far can you squeeze your IT training dollar”, there are a couple of world-class AD education resources available. And one of them is free.
The first resource is TEC, the Technical Expert's Conference. Conceived by Gil Kirkpatrick, then-CTO of NetPro, and Alan Isham of Intel as DEC (Directory Expert's Conference), TEC is several things rolled into three intense days. First, it's 300 to 400 level training in Active Directory, AD Federation Services, and MIIS/ILM/Forefront Identity Manager training. The top experts in the world in these areas come to TEC to speak and learn; it's a graduate-level education in Microsoft identity products. TEC has also expanded from DEC's directory-only training and now features tracks on Exchange and Sharepoint. Quest Software acquired NetPro, and with Quest's sponsorship Gil and his team continue at the helm.
Second, it's superb networking. You can just hang out with these experts - they're real people. Most of them, at least (we've been looking for Wook Lee for several years now). A substantial number of the Microsoft Directory Services team comes to TEC, probably the largest contingent that comes to any one conference. It's your chance to strike up a conversation and give feedback to the people that form the product you use. In fact, your informed feedback is the reason they're at TEC in the first place.
Third, of all the Microsoft-centric conferences I've been to - and I've been to a lot - TEC has one of the most er, unique, cultures and traditions. Stuart Kwan (Directory Services team manager at the time) buying takeout pizza for the entire conference its first year. The DEC chicken. Long, convoluted nicknames for the principal rabble rousers (ie DS MVPs). The Wook Lee Memorial Pro-Am Challenge. (Here's last year's response to Stuart's traditional challenge.)
But you've no time to waste - TEC 2010 is next Monday through Wednesday. Through some weakness in his personality, Gil invited me to speak this year, so I'll be doing a session on (surprise) troubleshooting AD replication. If maybe this isn't enough time to get your clothes washed and your ticket booked, TEC Europe will be in Dusseldorf this fall.
The second resource is free. It’s called the activedir.org mailing list and its many years of archives. I doubt you can come up with a technical AD question that hasn’t already been asked and answered there. You can learn all kinds of information about a topic by simply searching carefully, and reading. I recommend subscribing to it as soon as possible - even if you don’t immediately need it – and send the mail to a subfolder in your mail client to do searches on when you do need it. Practically all of the first-rank AD experts, from AD MVPs to Microsoft personnel, haunt the list. (I must confess for some reason I have a particularly hard time keeping up with it, so you won’t see much from me up there.) Count on Joe Richards to write Tolstoyian entries. Count on Brian Desmond to give you the right answer in one sentence. Count on Dean Wells to speak authoritatively on just about anything (and abuse Joe). Darren Mar-Elia aka the GPO Guy. Laura Hunter on all things AD, ILM, and now ADFS. Gil will chime in on all topics. Ulf B. Simon-Weidner as…well…Ulf :). And we can’t forget Princess Jorge De Almeida Pinto. I’m pleased to count them all as my friends.