My Trek2019 Experience

I’ve made it back home. Been awake since 5.30 AM #WFT19 time, so that makes it a straight 33 hours without sleep. But I’m not giving up before I click that “Publish” button on the first post on our over-due blog. So here it goes, my CWNP Trek2019 Experience:

Here’s the TL;DR:

Beautiful location, streamlined organization, those bootcamps, interesting keynotes & sessions, new books, CWNEs, attendees, and upcoming changes!

But if you are interested in finding out more details from my own perspective, read on, I’ve got a few thoughts about the following topics that I’m going to discuss next:

  • Location and Venue
  • Event Organization
  • Bootcamps and On-Site Exams
  • New Books
  • Keynotes, Sessions, Sponsors, and CWNP Updates
  • Closing Notes

Location: Nashville, Tennessee: Capital of Country Music, or “Music City,” delicious Hot Chicken, local breweries and Jack (Daniels)… It was a long journey all the way from Abu Dhabi. A 15.5hrs direct flight to Chicago followed by another short flight to Nashville with a 9-hour time shift is a little unsettling. I had planned around arriving earlier to Trek19 this time so I can settle in better than previous trips to the US.

Venue: The Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center was truly a Nashville luxury hotel. This hotel is so huge that it has its own water features including waterfalls and multiple regular and synchronized fountains, streams and even rivers in which you could see people getting “guided” boat tours. There were around 4 conventions running in parallel to Trek 2019. I was a bit disoriented at first, but I popped up the event application (a BIG change this year) that gave me more details about the location of the registration desk, and since them everything became clearer.

Screenshot 2019-09-21 at 23.13.54Now for more details on the event’s organization: this year being my 3rd consecutive (Wi-Fi) Trek, I think it’s getting better Year-over-Year. Apart from the usual welcome box, the CWNP registration portal leading up to the event gave you the option to select the main swag/giveaway item. That was a really good way to minimize redundancy and waste, especially with people getting the same things from previous years. I opted for the CWNP-branded Samsonite duffle bag. Other options included hoodies, jackets, and backpacks.  The registration desk this year was so streamlined that if it weren’t for the fact that I had wanted to catch up with the CNWP team at the registration desk, I wouldn’t have had to talk to anyone except to mention my name and get my welcome box (which contained my badge, apart from the other contents listed in the picture below) and my bag. The attention to the details was also nice. For example, you could get a Trek2019 branded room card for when you’re checking in at the hotel. Signage around the event was quite nice, especially with the touch screens showing the CWNE attendees’ animation and event schedule around the registration desk.

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Back to the event application: this was a cool tool to provide any detail about the event including schedules, locations, speaker biographies, attendee profiles and contacts, event gamification, session Q&A link, venue and location information, push notifications and so much more! Here are a few snapshots of some of the main application features.

Another aspect of the event organization and a way to attend the event was through live-streaming. I believe this was a great idea for people who couldn’t attend but wanted to be the first, apart from the physical attendees, to learn about the announcements and sessions. As a speaker, I was relieved when the requirements were more relaxed this year for the presentation template. The event live streaming took care of that with a great production: an overlay after-the-fact setup guaranteed that you could present your material, even from your own laptop, with all the bells and whistles of a news broadcasting program. Here is a picture from behind the scenes, but you can watch the recorded stream once it’s uploaded on the CWNP channel, CWNPTV, to really understand all the details of the production.

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Behind the Scenes with the Production Crew

Bootcamps where in full swing starting on Sunday, the 15th of September, at 8am. This year’s line-up of bootcamps and trainers included:

  • CWS/CWT – Dennis Nofsinger
  • CWNA – Robert Bartz
  • CWAP – Peter Mackenzie
  • CWDP – Chris Avants
  • CWSP – Phil Morgan
  • CWSA – Tom Carpenter
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During the CWSA Bootcamp

This year, there were two new books: the updated CWSP (Certified Wireless Security Professional) book and the all-new CWSA (Certified Wireless Solutions Administrator) book. Books were on sale at the registration desk. And the 1kg CWSA book was sold out by the end of the 1st conference day! I saw the first print edition of the CWSA book with Tom when I first met him at the event. Being one of the contributing authors, it was amazing to see it come together in such a short period! Tom Carpenter had done a great job of writing his own part, getting material from the other authors, editing the whole thing, coming up with the bootcamp/training handbooks, as well as the slides and the training videos covering all the flavors of the CWSA book/courseware! Duration? 3-4 WEEKS! I didn’t get to attend the CWSA bootcamp except for half a day since I hadn’t signed up for it, it had good presentation material. The CWSA exam was also being offered on-site, but more on that below. 

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The CWSA Book Cover, Authors List, and Bootcamp Course Guide

As for the conference content and proceedings, there was an exciting line-up of keynote sessions, speakers and topics.

For Day #1, Tom Carpenter was on stage to welcome everyone and introduce Joel Crane, AKA @Potat_Fi, as this year’s Master of Ceremonies. He had a good deal of potatoes flying around all the room throughout the event with

Joel introduced the keynote speaker, Laura Chapell, who had a very captivating topic that shed a whole new perspective on networking and wireless technologies: Delay/disruption tolerant networking (DTN) or what I would like to remember as Deep Space Networks. If you think that sounded cool, wait until you see all the details. We were suddenly plunged into a black screen of the solar system, understanding the different events that led up to the launch of different probes, satellites, orbiters and relays and trying to understand the communication challenges, constraints and performance. She followed that with a live monitoring of different spaceships and satellites from NASA’s website. There are many more details to this keynote session, but I don’t want to document them all so that I don’t spoil the presentation for you once you get to watch it.

Tom Carpenter came back on stage to deliver important CWNP updates accompanied by different members from the CWNP team. What mattered to me was Sean Stalling’s confirmation of the CNWP Local groups, groups that could localize the meetings and communication for CWNP members; more on that below. Another important point was the announcement of the “streamlined” CWNE certification process, taking down the duration of the processing from months to days. This is now on cwne.com/apply, which starting the 1st of November, will have a one-time fee tied to it to guarantee the quality of submittals and also fund the expenses of the CWNE board members getting together once a year. Marc Bodner mentioned CWNP’s approach to community colleges were we could have more students getting out of schools with CWNP certifications to kick-start their career and certification path early. Tom also set a roadmap for 2020 and 2021 that involves a lot of work for JTAs on new and existing certification refreshes. You will need to catch the video for the full details, no more spoilers here.

For Day #2, Stewart Cheifet took us on a flashback with his different stories and videos that he had accumulated over the years to show us different perspectives of big thinkers, innovators, leaders and CEOs of tech companies from the 80-90s and afterwards. Different anecdotes and discussion on product design, security, networking, market need, and customer requirements where covered. It was really interesting to see the history and names of those individuals and their companies, some of which where lost to oblivion while others succeeded by shifting, adapting, and transforming…

As always, there was a line-up of very interesting sessions from repeat speakers and new faces as well. More on wireless technologies, not just Wi-Fi, was being discussed with different perspectives on IoT, 3GPP HS2.0, ML & AI, CBRS, 5G. Wi-Fi design basics, errors and best practices were also presented. But while the previous Treks had more topics on design and security, this year we had more topics that approached monitoring and troubleshooting from different perspectives. I did my best to attend all presentations, but since I was busy chasing the CWNP team to prepare for my session while being reassured that I will be able to catch the recordings for all the session, I didn’t cover 100% of the sessions. Keith Parsons (CWNE#3) and Jason Hintersteiner (CWNE#171) have already published their presentations online. Check them out on twitter on their accounts: @KeithRParsons and @EmperorWiFi.

As for my session, I wanted to tackle the topics of CWNP’s brand growth and market awareness. Backed by numbers I got from CWNP, I showed how CWNP is doing good in the US, but how we needed to build on that globally, both in the US and the rest of the world, so CWNP doesn’t lag behind vendors in reputation, and so that the market worth of all certified members is correctly reflected. This would take a lot of effort, but in order to do that, many ideas were discussed prior to the event with other CWNEs including Tom Carpenter, Peter Mackenzie, Martin Eriksen, Raymond Handrix, and Ayman Mukaddam. Some ideas were immediately adopted by the CWNP such as asking new CWNP members if they want to represent CWNP in events and equally as important, the CWNP Local groups. CWNP Local will serve the objective of getting members together locally in a specific city, country, or region, based on the groups own availability and to connect (pun intended) about updates, guidance, trainings and other topics. There will be an official announcement once more feedback is collected from the CWNP community, which brings me to the survey. I created a survey to gather more input since members are the main stakeholders, and without proper and comprehensive input, it wouldn’t be complete and we wouldn’t get the buy-in from our members. The survey was launched on CWNP.LOCAL/Growth and one participant won a pass for Trek2020! Another link will be shared for the survey for those who didn’t attend Trek19 so we can gather more collective input and this should be announced shortly. Once more ideas come in, I will work with the CWNP on organizing them and we will have an online session to update all those interested on the ideas and plan for CWNP Local.

Having delivered my session, I found out what was inside those bags all the other speakers were carrying: Bluetooth speakers! Smart. Speakers for speakers. Oh, and chewing gum, but the audience RSSI for any presenter’s breath was too low to detect any need for fresher breaths, except perhaps for Joel and the production team who had to deal with all presenters closer up. Nice move CWNP!

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On Day #3, I was called back on stage for a CWNE round table discussion. We got a couple of interesting questions from the audience as well as Tom, and we (Tom, Jason Hintersteiner, Jim Vajda, and myself) got to shed our thoughts about how to approach the CWNE certification path and career growth. It was nice being up there, but perhaps prior planning to the topics of discussions with a pre-set panel would spike more interest from the audience and engage everyone better. I was told that was the planned approach for next year.

Exams where running throughout the 3 days of the conference. Since every attendee gets a free exam voucher, I decided I would sit for the CWSA. And I passed 🙂

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As a CWNE, and having written a couple of chapters in the book, I went through the exam relying on different RF planning, technology selection, and wireless design knowledge and skills. Knowledge from the CWNA and other professional level certifications was crucial for me to pass the exam. Comparing this exam to the CWNA, it would seem to be a bit easier than a CWNA, provided the test taker has the sufficient knowledge. Otherwise, a new “practitioner” trying to sit for the CWSA will have a hard time without the basics someone can get from the CWNA track.

The CWSA will become part of the CWNE requirements. I remember Tom mentioning that any existing CWNE will get access to the study material, so that should make it easy to cover the track requirements.

Sponsors had their share of the sessions as well. During Day #1, there was a Tech Showcase for most of the participating sponsors where they went on stage, presented their solutions/technology and where ready for some questions from the audience.

A few sponsors also had longer deep-dive sessions that showcased their technology and products in more details for Days #1&2 following the general session around evening time.

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The sponsors were present for the whole of the 3 conference days in their exhibition areas where they had set out some product samples and neat giveaways.

I should note that CWNP made a nice gesture for appreciating the efforts of JTA members who were called to stage and handed in some neat shields. Joel Crane was also recognized for MC-ing Trek19 and all his potatoes on day #3.

For the event closing, next year’s Trek20 was announced to be in Las Vegas! I’m not sure how attendees received that information of Trek being in Vegas next year, but I’m pretty sure everyone is excited. For me, it’s going to be the same trip to get there, but I know it will always be exciting around all my fellow CWNPs.

To summarize, it was a great event at a beautiful venue. It’s always hard to get away and say goodbyes, but it has to come to an end. I’m now finishing off what I hope to be my first official blogpost posted on the way back to and out of Abu Dhabi, not the following picture (which happens to be a perfect place for a single AP 160MHz channel deployment, photo credits: @jordhammond), but the one below.

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Got any questions or comments on #WFT19? Please let us know below!

 

 

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