I'd like to aim this question at those who are involved in large scale Windows package deployment in either an enterprise environment or a government entity.

Briefly, my background:
15 years in IT, consisting of 6 years contract work consisting of computer deployment, technical support, and customer service. The other 9 years are mostly helpdesk level 2-3 type work, image development, advance batch scripting, and basic software package installations. No programming beyond batch scripting.

My goal:
After 15 years (and enjoying what I do), I'm finding it's time to specialize in a particular skillset. I'm aiming at significantly sharpening my skills with imaging, software deployment, package creation, advanced scripting (powershell, vb), and an understanding of WIM. With these skills, it'll open up several types of positions relating to SMS, image development, and... maybe level 2-3 helpdesk... again. [8D]

I would like some advice on classes I can take to focus on these skillsets. The plan is to get certified in whatever I can, but the priority is learning the skills. I would prefer a structured setting with classes (I've already checked out a few Powershell courses from Microsoft), books if necessary.

I'm finding myself fumbling over forum posts, partial instructions, opinions, and incomplete guides on how to modify packages, develop images using Microsoft's MDT 2010, using WIM, and use Powershell. I'm willing to pay the $$$ for structured classes and certs, but how did you guys learn your skills?
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You could do worse than spending some money on some server-class hardware (amazing what you can find on eBay), an MSDN subscription (so that you can get MS's tools for "free") and some flavour of virtualisation, probably ESXi. Then you can set up as many servers and workstations as the box's RAM can take and just play.

You'll almost certainly never get that sort of free rein on a client's site, nor the exposure to the variety of tools. Larger clients tend to pigeon-hole people as "the SCCM guy" or "the DNS guy".

BTW, your post should perhaps have been on the 'Off-Topic' or 'Job Board' forum.
Answered 11/12/2010 by: VBScab
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Before posting my question above, I'd been sifting through the package development forum for the past 2 weeks on and off, trying to figure out various issues I'm running into with scripting the installation of some OEM software on a freshly deployed image. Alot of the answers, which I eventually did find in here, showed me that I'm severely lacking in some area's of image maintenance. Putting this post in off topic would not have targeted the eyes that I wanted.

I really should think about setting up a server at home with several virtual machines running to simulate a small network of workstations and a server. I think the cost of the hardware may not be much, but the OS costs and ESXi would probably make me poop my pants...
Answered 11/12/2010 by: Xyrx
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Maybe I'm just in a negative mood but if I had it to do over again I'd be an investment banker, Wall Street research analyst or a stock broker. Had I done that, I'd be retired by now. Sure, it's a rat race and those jobs are a pressure cooker when not boring as sin. So what? Do it for a few years and then kick back with your millions of $. It's a damn shame that hedge fund managers are paid hundreds of millions of $ while managers in other areas, and techies and engineers go begging for work. Not sure I have a solution, but the problem is undeniable. Just look at the global financial meltdown and bailout(s). It's amazing that every wall street firm and bank hasn't been razed to the ground by peasants with pitchforks and torches.

So if you're relatively young and can stand it for awhile, get out of being a programmer/sysadmin/packager/whatever and get into an investment bank.
Answered 11/12/2010 by: aogilmor
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to be slightly less negative I'd also second Ian's opinion and in addition point out that there are a TON of free resources for some of the things you mentioned: powershell, wmi etc. Scriptomatic has been a great tool because it displays all of the wmi classes. and of course there are online free scripts, the scripting guys, and microsoft documentation online.
Answered 11/12/2010 by: aogilmor
Ninth Degree Black Belt

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the OS costs and ESXi would probably make me poop my pants...That's the purpose of the MSDN subscription. As a "developer", you get access to all the MS technologies as part of the subscription. I got a promotional free sub as a "thank you" from a moderator on another forum I participate in and I have everything I need available for download. The last sub I paid for was, IIRC, about £1,500/annum. Not exactly cheap but, as you infer, if you add up all the license costs if you were to buy OTS, it's a ruddy bargain. It's up to you whether the sums add up for your situation. ESXi is free (but check the T&Cs).
Answered 11/13/2010 by: VBScab
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i second the learn on some real hardware option.

for the last 10 years I have had blade servers / switches / rack mounts blah blah and built everything up in my own environments at home. You can't beat hands on experience for any number of books etc. It does get a little bit noisy for the home office but.
Answered 11/14/2010 by: jmcfadyen
Fifth Degree Black Belt

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Thanks for the suggestions guys. I needed direction from those who have already obtained (and of course, continuing to obtain) the skills they need for their area of expertise. I think I now have enough to start making serious plans on how I'm going to do this. [:D]
Answered 11/30/2010 by: Xyrx
Senior Yellow Belt

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