Something a bit Different!

Keeping with this year's theme, The Year of Smart, I participated in my first non-technical training programme. The course was run by the Centre for Creative Leadership, a US-based non-profit organisation who focus on leadership development. CCL run the Maximising Your Leadership Potential course only three times a year at their Europe HQ in Brussels, so after booking in March I had to wait a while before attending.

The wait was absolutely worthwhile, while I was a little apprehensive I really enjoyed the course, met a lot of interesting people and learnt more about myself than I could ever have possibly imagined. The programme is very well structured and split into three components:

  1. Pre-work, this includes employee 360s, surveys, questionnaires and feedback. This information is used to build a picture of the attendee's personality, role, approach, etc.
  2. Course, this included 2.5 classroom days spent reviewing the pre-work results, as well as many breakaway sessions, social events and even a personal 1:1 coaching session
  3. Follow-up, this will consist of applying the tools and techniques learned and a 6-week post-course coaching session to review progress.
Brussels Town Hall, Brussels, Belgium

Brussels Town Hall, Brussels, Belgium

While there wasn't much time for sightseeing I managed to spend some time walking around the European Quarter with one of the other course attendees, Steve. I had visited Brussels before but I don't remember much more than the Grand Place so was eager to see more, the European quarter is an interesting place, with many buildings signposted as to their purpose, many I recognise from News/TV. As a remain voter, it was striking just how large the EU organisation is and brought home the reality of what how different things could be if the UK opts for a 'Hard Brexit'.

European Commission, Brussels, Belgium

European Commission, Brussels, Belgium

We also walked around the beautiful Cinquantenaire park and stumbled across The European Sport Climbing Youth Championships and a lovely little pop-up bar. The combination allowed for a nice relaxed beer while watching children fall from a climbing wall, very entertaining!

European Climbing Championships, Brussels, Belgium

European Climbing Championships, Brussels, Belgium

Cisco ICOMM v8 Day 4

Today was a long day, but lots got done. I made the most notes so far today, which must be a good sign that some interesting things were being learnt. We started with BAT, the Bulk Administration Tool. It seems to work fairly well, although it isn't exactly, what's the word... Professional? It's just excel files. I was kind of hoping for something better, but I suppose it does the job alright enough. We imported a phone using BAT as part of a lab.

After BAT we went over LDAP integration. I'm  glad we spent quite a lot of time on this as it's obviously very important, especially in a big corporate environment. I envisage that we may need to make some changes to tidy up the directory prior to the syncronisation with Active Directory but it's clearly the most efficient way of handling users in Call Manager. One thing that concerns me slightly is that if you do elect to use AD integration there is no manual way of adding end users to call manager, it's very much all or nothing. I can't think of an immediate issue, although it's difficult and impractical to add users willy nilly to AD should the need arise.

Extension Mobility was covered, which is a feature I'm totally new to. It wasn't in use when I had been involved with Cisco phones before - I thin the reasoning was that it was still quite immature and buggy. From what we tested the mobility (or 'Hot Desking') seems to work very well, and is almost entirely integral to Call Manager - in fact, depending on how you setup your handsets it can be entirely integral.

In the afternoon we did lots of lab work reviewing most of the major features on the Cisco endpoints. This was very useful, I'd like to think that something like this - perhaps a more cut down version would be great as part of an introduction or staff training session. It's all well telling me how they work but it's the users that will know if the features are any use to them. Busy lamp fields are a personal favorite, as with call parking - both things I had not really been aware of in the past.

No picture today I'm afraid, there simply isn't much else to take pictures of! I tried to find RNLI Tower but think it's up river more from where I am, which is a shame.

Cisco ICOMM v8 Day 3

Today we covered lots of things! The day started discussing the lab that we were using and how it is configured. The course is provided by Fast Lane through QA and the lab itself is located in Windsor - all of the Call Manager servers, are run on an ESX host with a router and switch in the classroom running a VPN back to there. There is also a set of routers which have some voice configuration and allow us to have a branch and main office. When we were talking about the lab we made some test calls and ran a hidden command 'csim start <number>' which instructs the router to initiate a test call of  the specified number.

We moved on to a topic we'd briefly covered - Dial Plans, discussing types of call routing, how and where calling search spaces and partitions are applied. This took some understanding as there is a lot of flexibility as to how this can be configured - we discussed some best practices and why them may or may not be used in a certain environment.icomm3

Hunt groups were up next - they sound pretty boring but I was surprised just how powerful they are. Apparently with the newer call manager versions you can almost have a queuing system just using hunt groups, with call waiting etc..

Finally we went over the IP Phone registration process in a bit more detail and covered off Device pools and date/time in more detail.

The bus was a failure on the way home. i stood in the freezing rain waiting for 15mins (which is long, in London) for one. Was not impressed. I seem to have developed a rather sore throat too, which is not fun. Oh and the picture is the view from the window of the training room, cool huh?


Cisco ICOMM v8 Day 2

Day 2 started with Unity, Cisco's voice mail product. It surprised me how separate voice mail is from the system, Unity is very much an independent product, and one that can be used entirely separately from everything else if it's so desired. We moved on to some lab work, only basic things.. Logging in to the Call Manager and enabling services, checking system information etc. The first real telephone piece of work involved setting up a 7965 phone and adding it to the Call Manager, configuring the line keys and associating a user to the phone.


Towards the end of the day we went over Call Flows and Cal Legs. This part I found rather involved, being new to dial plan rules and route patterns it took some time to grasp. It was also somewhat confusing to understand how each device along the route can have a different set of dial rules.

Looking forward to tomorrow...

Oh, I also managed to find a bus that travels directly from Liverpool Street Station to Tower Bridge (the Number 78). This means I no longer have to walk :D