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SANS Work-Study experience

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ChooseLife

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Post Fri Oct 05, 2012 11:47 pm

Re: SANS Work-Study experience

@Seen, would your employer foot the bill? If so, why not combine it with the opportunity to travel? ;-)
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Seen

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Post Sat Oct 06, 2012 12:15 pm

Re: SANS Work-Study experience

ChooseLife wrote:@Seen, would your employer foot the bill? If so, why not combine it with the opportunity to travel? ;-)


I'm unemployed, so no, he won't  :)
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azmatt

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Post Mon Oct 08, 2012 5:09 pm

Re: SANS Work-Study experience

I said I would share my thoughts so here goes:

Cons:
  • Slightly degrades your learning experience due to obligations of a facilitator
  • An extra day of setup and long hours the other days
  • Can't attend night functions as you wish due to responsibilities

Pros:
  • MUCH cheaper price
  • Meet some great people which I otherwise would have never met

The people were great and while there were frustrating moments, overall the experience was worth it. I had to pay out of pocket and use vacation time to attend so while it was still pricey (after you factor in hotel, etc.) it was far cheaper than paying full price.

If I had the choice of going as normal student or facilitating, I would choose normal so I could focus on learning more. That said, it was an overall very positive experience and I would (and hopefully will) do it again.
Last edited by azmatt on Mon Oct 08, 2012 11:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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tturner

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Post Mon Oct 08, 2012 5:12 pm

Re: SANS Work-Study experience

azmatt wrote:
Cons:
  • Degrades your learning experience due to obligations of a facilitator



Really? I've found the opposite to be true. Sure you may miss a few minutes here or there but the extra face time with instructors and other facilitators more than made up for the few lost minutes handing out eval forms and course CD's.
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azmatt

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Post Mon Oct 08, 2012 11:52 pm

Re: SANS Work-Study experience

It wasn't a huge deal and I imagine that it varies a great deal from class to class. Overall the experience was very positive, I was just trying to list out all factors for people.

I didn't have any extra face time with the instructor. That is in no way a knock on the instructor at all, he did an amazing job and I would facilitate for him again at the drop of a hat. He's honestly the best instructor I've experienced. It was just a large class (over 50) and there was a lot going on.

The passing out of the evals and materials was a non-issue but two bookstore shifts and some other small errands did cost a bit of class time. Once again, not much and overall it's not a huge issue I was just trying to be thorough.  :)

I also added the word slightly to my original post to let people know that I was just trying to list some minor points on an overall very positive experience.
Last edited by azmatt on Mon Oct 08, 2012 11:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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tturner

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Post Wed Oct 10, 2012 5:16 am

Re: SANS Work-Study experience

Yeah not all instructors make the effort to get to know their facilitators and interact with them. I'm thinking I know who your instructor was now, having heard that. I will pull bookstore shifts as well (only an issue at the large conferences, no bookstore at smaller regional events) but I typically confined those to only during the breaks and of course initial setup activities. The random errands are just a fact of life at these types of events and is one reason they include OnDemand in the package.
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ChooseLife

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Post Sun Dec 23, 2012 1:37 am

Re: SANS Work-Study experience

I'm back with the promised update!

Conference

This was my first SANS conference. It ran for a week and was on the smaller side (< 10 courses). All in all it was awesome. Great instructors (all very knowledgeable, passionate presenters and excellent speakers), high-quality course content, outstanding night talks, tons of networking with like-minded people... It was interesting to see the backtage of the event as well - having participated in organizing/supporting conferences in the past, this time I was definitely impressed by the smoothness, promptness, and efficiency of the work done by the team running the event. And as a witness I can also say SANS team is indeed dedicated to ensuring that the attendees get the best experience out of the event.

Night talks were definitely the hightlight of the event for me. I facilitated SEC401 (GSEC) class and was not learning much in the daytime, but the the evening 45-minute talks would often make up for the entire day - so much information of the highest quality was packed into those sessions.

Facilitation duties

Day 0. All facilitators have to report at 9am the day before the conference starts and assist with setting up the venue. This was a pretty busy day, we unpacked boxes, prepared course materials, brochures, and handouts (LOADS of paper), set up signage and classrooms, and so on. The day was filled with a million of small tasks, but the work was not too physically demanding. We managed to finish by 6pm, meaning that I had just enough time to have a dinner and prepare for the exhausting day that lied ahead.

Day 1. The longest and most difficult day. My workshift started at 6am and finished around 9pm. The day started with welcoming and registering attendees, then moving into classrooms and helping people settle in, answering questions, attending to the instructors' needs, and so on. The tasks throughout the day included
*) relaying messages between instructor/students on one side and SANS/hotel staff on the other
*) handing out miscellaneous paperwork to students
*) responding to arising needs - it could be anything from replacing batteries in equipment to moving furniture to finding a certain hotel staff person. I was in and out of the classroom a lot on the first day.

Days 2-5. Much quieter than Day 1, but essentially the same duties as above. Starting the day around 8am, finishing anywhere between 8 and 10pm.

Day 6. The conference finished some time in the afternoon. We then proceeded to packing things and preparing them for shipping - this was the most physically challenging part of the event. I believe we were done some time after 6pm, at which point we saluted each other for surviving through this great and exhausting experience, and went on our ways.

Course materials

As stated on the site, Facilitators receive books, on-demand version, and audio recordings of one of the previous iterations of the class. Books are pretty much the presentation slides with additional notes and the class follows book content pretty closely. Audio recordings cover the entire class duration, and are valuable as an additional form of learning the material. OnDemand is essentially the presentation slides synced up with audio recordings + quizes for every topic.

Final thoughts

While I did not quite get the "firehose learning experience" this time, it still got me hooked, and I want to attend more of their classes. SANS course material does have high quality and is packed pretty densely.

Would I do the work-study again? Absolutely! All of the perks and especially the price overweigh the extra work, besides I really enjoyed being on the staff side of the event.

I hope that gives some insight into the faciliation program and helps someone deciding whether or not to try it!
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ChooseLife

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Post Sun Dec 23, 2012 1:38 am

Re: SANS Work-Study experience

GIAC exam

Facilitators receive a complimentary certification attempt for the course they are on, so I was bound to take the exam.

My preparation consisted of:

- listening to the audio recordings prior to the conference - I did this once over a 6-week period, while commuting to/from work.
- creating bookmarks with post-it notes - this one I did in the classroom as the instructor went over material
- flipping through the books and creating index at the same time - after the conference, took me probably a couple of weeks
- taking two practice exams - I scored 92% in 2 hours on both, dangerously close to the 90% line that I set as the bar for myself

Then life and work got in the way and I had to put GSEC away for several weeks.

Finally, I took the exam last week and was happy to pass it with a 96% result  ;D
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ChooseLife

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Post Sun Dec 23, 2012 1:42 am

Re: SANS Work-Study experience

azmatt wrote:I said I would share my thoughts so here goes:

Cons:
  • Slightly degrades your learning experience due to obligations of a facilitator
  • An extra day of setup and long hours the other days
  • Can't attend night functions as you wish due to responsibilities

Pros:
  • MUCH cheaper price
  • Meet some great people which I otherwise would have never met

The people were great and while there were frustrating moments, overall the experience was worth it. I had to pay out of pocket and use vacation time to attend so while it was still pricey (after you factor in hotel, etc.) it was far cheaper than paying full price.

If I had the choice of going as normal student or facilitating, I would choose normal so I could focus on learning more. That said, it was an overall very positive experience and I would (and hopefully will) do it again.

Thanks for your review - I agree on all points
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azmatt

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Post Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:27 am

Re: SANS Work-Study experience

Congrats on the great score!
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caissyd

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Post Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:50 am

Re: SANS Work-Study experience

Thanks to both ChooseLife and tturner for this great review.

I am re-opening this thread because I just learned I got accepted to be a facilitator at SANS 2013. I was trilled when I saw that they picked me in my first choice!

**BUT**

When I started reading the small prints and reviews here and there, I noticed many little things that I don't really like. I want to add that I pay everything myself and being a consultant, I don't get paid while I am not working...

So:

- Flying from Ottawa, Canada to Orlando during the Spring break costs substancialy more than at other quite time. Airplane tickets are between $700 and $1000. That's twice the regular price...

- In order to get the "free" certification exam, we must stay at the conference's hotel. That's $200/night, for 7 nights. I usually rent a car and get an hotel 10 minutes away from the conference, same thing for half the price.

- When I look at the course materials, I could probably study 3 weeks part time and pass the exam. This course, although interesting, will not teach me 100% of new materials...

- On a personal note, I only took one week off last year to go to AppSecUSA (I make my daughters laugh when I tell them that I take my vacation time to go to school  :D). I really don't feel like working from 6:00am to 9:00pm right now...

So for me, this great deal is around $3500 (airplane, hotel, $850 for the SANS stuff) + 7 days off work. This becomes pretty expensive training...

I figured that I could take a week off in an all-inclusive in Cuba (or whatever), study by myself, pay $1000 for the SANS exam and it will still be cheaper than being a facilitator at SANS 2013 !! And as a bonus, I will be fresh for OSCE...  ;D

Last thing, I understand I would make new connections with knowledgeable people at SANS, but frankly, I am starting to know quite a lot of people already, so this isn't huge for me...

So what should I do??
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ziggy_567

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Post Wed Feb 13, 2013 10:09 am

Re: SANS Work-Study experience

The work-study program is a huge discount, but as you point out it can still be fairly expensive if you're traveling across the country (and in your case a second country)!

I've taken three SANS course. I've attended a conference as a regular attendee, I've taken a vLive course, and I've attended a conference as a facilitator. Of the three formats, I would recommend the facilitator route every time! The networking you get as a facilitator is very different than the networking as a regular attendee.

I can understand where you're coming from on the cost vs benefit, though. In the three classes I've taken, not one cent of the costs came out of my pocket.
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lorddicranius

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Post Wed Feb 13, 2013 10:24 am

Re: SANS Work-Study experience

H1t M0nk3y wrote:- When I look at the course materials, I could probably study 3 weeks part time and pass the exam. This course, although interesting, will not teach me 100% of new materials...


Aside from the out of pocket costs (btw, wow :-\), this would be the other deciding factor for me. That amount of money when I could benefit more from another course just wouldn't be worth it for me. Maybe if it was a Community event and the travel/lodging costs weren't so high (if you live close enough that you don't need to stay in a hotel, you still get the free cert attempt).
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caissyd

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Post Wed Feb 13, 2013 11:08 am

Re: SANS Work-Study experience

Thanks for you comments. I forgot to say that I studied all by myself for GSEC, GPEN and GWAPT. So I never had to take a SANS course to pass these certs.

Honnestly, after CEH (studied a lot, I was a new to this), GSEC wasn't too hard. And after my first two attempts at OSCP, GPEN and GWAPT were really easy.

That's why for me, a course like Cracking the Perimeter from Offensive Security is way better than a SANS course: I learn a ton of things for a fraction of the cost. And even if the OSCE certification is only recognized amongst those who really understands the penetration testing field, I already have 6 certs in security, so I am already more than ok for HR sreening...

So I will keep focusing on the OSCE cert for now...
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Dark_Knight

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Post Wed Feb 13, 2013 11:40 am

Re: SANS Work-Study experience

The new GXPN from what I have read is pretty solid. Seems to compliment the OSCE....
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