Q&A with Trainer Mark Howden
BlackBerry Connection® sat down with Mark Howden, principal trainer at Research In Motion (RIM), to talk about BlackBerry® Administration training sessions and where he sees training going in the future.
BlackBerry Connection: Good morning Mark. How did you get started as a Technical Trainer at RIM?
Mark Howden: I became interested in the BlackBerry solution when I was working with the big banks in Canada. Many of them had begun to adopt the BlackBerry® solution because it tied perfectly into the security structure of their messaging environment.
BC: Who attends your sessions?
MH: I see everyone from administrators who are new to the BlackBerry Solution to those who have been BlackBerry administrators for years and are looking for advanced tips. Basically we want to show people how they can use the BlackBerry solution to improve their business with new solutions and leaps in efficiencies.
BC: What topics do you cover?
MH: We offer training for both the BlackBerry device end-user and the BlackBerry Administrator. My training focuses on the BlackBerry Administration training. It’s a full day of hands-on learning where everyone gets a BlackBerry device and BlackBerry Enterprise Server to work with. I cover BlackBerry basics, server-side-oriented design for administrators, all the different components and end-to-end message flow.
BC: Tell us more about the message flow discussion.
MH: Many people tell me that this discussion is worth the price of the training. I talk about how the BlackBerry Enterprise Server processes messages, show how threading works and how filters are applied. How messages are tagged with a unique identifier for reconciliation to and from the BlackBerry device — and where they are created, stored and used for lookups. I discuss packets of data, size, compression, encryption of data, the configuration of a firewall and how data passes through it. I also discuss how the BlackBerry infrastructure interacts with the wireless carriers.
BC: Is there a diagram that goes with all this?
MH: Absolutely. This is a diagram I’ve drawn hundreds of times— it’s the best way to show end-to-end message flow in both directions. Here’s a rough copy of it. [Please refer to product documentation for complete diagrams.]
BC: What tools do people find most helpful to learn about?
MH: In our training we try to give administrators a full understanding of the overall solution and then we delve deeper into specifics. Our goal is to give the administrator the highest confidence in their knowledge so they can go back to their organization with ideas for improvements and the capabilities to solve problems and answer users’ questions quickly and effectively. For example, I just trained a group interested specifically in disaster recovery, upgrades, analyzing log files and they also came in with specific BlackBerry error codes that they wanted to know more about. I was able to show them our best practices for disaster recovery and upgrades and also introduce them to the BlackBerry Resource Kit that helps in log file analysis.
Of course, people also enjoy hearing about tips and tricks. Things like typing LT + Space = Time and Mynumber + Space = Phone Number when composing a message.
BC: What kinds of questions do you get from attendees?
MH: One common question is about security and data flow. Participants are very interested to hear about how the BlackBerry solution integrates with the wireless networks and the security surrounding it from end-to-end.
I tell them that a large number of high-profile, security-oriented customers have reviewed our security model and feel very comfortable moving forward with our solution.
BC: Any other common questions?
MH: People often have concerns about roaming. They want to know what’s involved, if they are going to Europe or another country. I advise them to call their home carrier to find out which networks they can roam on and any service requirements they may need to add on.
BC: Are there any other unusual questions you would like to share?
MH: Sometimes people want to know about games. I direct them to
mobile.blackberry.com, and explain that, as systems administrators, they can pull a report on what applications are installed on their users’ devices. I also show them that they have options to block applications from being loaded on devices in their environment.
Of course, I often get questions about functionality, and on occasion, an attendee will ask me a question about BlackBerry trivia, like when a particular BlackBerry Enterprise Server service pack was released.
When I’m unable to answer a question, I will send an email to our Technical Liaison team. They do a great job tracking down sometimes obscure details and sending back the answer which I relay to the participants. I also give attendees my email address, in case they have other questions after the session is over and inform them of our Technical Knowledge Center.
BC: What percentage of all IT policies do people know before your class?
MH: Usually around 5 to 10%. There are so many it would take an entire day to completely cover them all. In class, the participants create IT policies and assign them to users. I teach them how to access and use them, especially those surrounding security and those regarding blocking applications or services.
BC: Where are training seminars held?
MH: For our end-user training, we will set up a training session in a city and advertise it as an open session that anyone can sign up for and attend.
Or we can arrange to come to your company, which allows us to customize
the course further for your particular environment - and focus on content like upgrades, architecting a
multiple BlackBerry Enterprise Server environment, best practices, server and device security.
BC: How do people respond to the course overall?
MH: The most common comment is that they wish they had taken the course earlier. I think it’s a valuable course for BlackBerry administrators because it gives them lots of tools and a better understanding of the environment.
What I find most satisfying about my job, is the feeling I get from showing people how they can improve the overall efficiency of their business — issues can be troubleshot faster, end-user questions can be addressed quicker. When an administrator leaves our course they will have the knowledge and confidence to leverage the BlackBerry solution in innovative ways to improve the existing processes or their organization. The administrator is the quarterback of the entire solution and it feels great to give them more winning plays for their playbook.
BC: What will we see in the future for BlackBerry training?
MH: You’ll see training delivered in different ways including more topics for open session training such as BlackBerry Application Development.
And we’re creating a certification program for administrators.
B.S.: So what’s next for Mark Howden?
MH: I’m off to Sacramento, then Buenos Aires, Waterloo, Albuquerque...
BC: Thanks for taking time away from your busy schedule to talk to
IT Policy Reference Guide
BlackBerry Administration Training now offered with Technical Support Subscriptions