Training is one of the most important determiners of career growth and success for technology professionals. You need to keep your technical skills and knowledge about the latest releases up to date and fresh. Going stale in your technical expertise is the path to career suicide. That's why savvy SharePoint professionals are always looking for opportunities to learn.
When you're investigating options for where and how to get the training you need, it's important to understand the strategy, background, and methodology used by the training organization. It's also crucial to know who the trainers are and what their qualifications are. To help you gain that knowledge about one of the SharePoint industry's key training organizations, I recently interviewed CriticalPath Training's President, Marshall Butler, and Senior Courseware Author and SharePoint MVP, Ted Pattison.You can learn more about CriticalPath Training at www.criticalpathtraining.com.
KF: What is the goal of CriticalPath and what is your strategy?
Marshall Butler:We pride ourselves in the fact that we conduct extensive research and author the SharePoint industry’s most in-depth training. Our mission is to provide students with an objective viewpoint and key insights about the architecture, as well as best practices and essential coding techniques.
We also believe that training is about more than just telling people a set of technical facts. There is a fine art to writing a great technical training course. A course author must be able to create a story that teaches concepts and reinforces technical skill in a series of lectures and lab exercises that build a student’s understanding layer by layer through the week.
KF: How is CriticalPath different from other training organizations?
Marshall Butler: Critical Path Training focuses 100% on training. Many other companies in our space also provide consulting or develop software.
We also feature many of the SharePoint MVPs and experts that folks are familiar with from conferences, blogs and books. Our classes provide students the opportunity to spend a week with a recognized industry expert.
It is important to point out that our instructors only teach for us a few times per quarter. The primary source of revenue for a Critical Path Training instructor is from their own independent consulting business. This allows them to spend the majority of their time in the trenches working on real-world problems and SharePoint solutions.
KF: What technologies does your training cover, and how is your focus evolving? What will technology professionals need to learn to grow in their career?
SharePoint professionals will also need to learn more about cloud computing technologies like Microsoft Azure, as well as how SharePoint fits into Office 365.
KF: Who is your target customer?
Ted Pattison: Anyone who uses SharePoint on-premises or SharePoint Online in Office 365. We have classes for every role: developers, admins, end users, no-code developers, and web designers. We have a brand new business intelligence class that business analysts should find beneficial.
KF: What makes training effective in a classroom situation and online?
Ted Pattison: There is a lot more to training than regurgitating techniques and functionality. An effective instructor knows how to present the material in a way that can be comprehended by the students. Critical Path Training instructors are experienced trainers who know how to make sure every student in the classroom is supported and has an excellent training experience.
KF: How important is hands-on experience?
Ted Pattison: We believe the hands on experience is by far the most effective way to reinforce concepts presented through lectures and demos. That is why ALL Critical Path Training delivery options include hands-on labs. Whether sitting in a classroom with the instructor or participating virtually through our Remote Classroom Instruction or webcasts, all students have the opportunity to put into action the material presented in each module. And when it comes to labs, Critical Path Training has some of the very best with detailed steps and screenshots to walk the student through the exercise.
KF: What is CriticalPath’s relationship with Microsoft, and why is that important?
Ted Pattison: For the last three SharePoint releases, our technical staff was hired by Developer Platform Evangelism (DPE) and the Technical Product Marketing Group (TPMG) at Microsoft to develop and deliver a hands-on developer training course for SharePoint 2013 developers. Currently, Ted Pattison and Scot Hillier are working with Jeremy Thake and the Office 365 Technical Product Management team to develop Office 365 courses as part of the Microsoft Virtual Academy for developers.
The relationship between Critical Path Training and Microsoft is beneficial to the SharePoint community as a whole because it allows recognized industry experts the opportunity to work with the product team and learn what has changed in the new release.
KF: What industry research or data should potential customers know about that will help them understand your value proposition and/or evaluate their own situation?
Marshall Butler: The Critical Path Training value proposition is very easy to summarize. When you participate in a Critical Path Training class, you will:
- Be provided with courseware that has been in development at least 18 months prior to the respective release of SharePoint. This means it is arguably the most mature courseware in the industry. The courseware you receive will have been updated at least 2-3 times since the initial release.
- Be learning from an industry-recognized expert that has the ability to go beyond the material in the class and handle most any question you can throw at them. Our instructors all participate in the courseware development, so you will be learning from one of the course authors. While we do have some of the very best courseware in the industry, we believe the instructor truly makes the difference.
KF: Can you point readers to customer testimonials and case studies?
Marshall Butler: We had many reviews and testimonials for our classes and instructors on LinkedIn. However, LinkedIn has recently deprecated this feature. We are in the process of adding reviews and testimonials to our website. We will continue to ask folks to provide their LinkedIn profile to link to their review on CPTCOM. We believe this adds credibility to the reviews, as opposed to the ubiquitous reviews from “John in NYC."
KF: What else do potential customers need to know?
Marshall Butler: For larger customers, we provide private onsite classes. These are an incredible value and allow you to bring a SharePoint expert into your office for a week of training (and often a bit of private consulting on the side). We also license our courseware to training companies and companies that have the capability to deliver the training in-house without the expense of courseware creation.