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  1. Senior Member ChooseLife's Avatar
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    #1

    Default SANS Work-Study experience

    I was recently selected as a facilitator for a SANS conference through their Work-Study program. I was chosen as a room facilitator for SEC401 (GSEC), it will be my first SANS event, and this thread is intended to document my experience.

    Program overview

    Work-Study program page provides a decent overview. In a nutshell, it is a program that allows individuals attend a SANS conference and a specific course at a discounted rate (~20%, $850 as of now) in exchange for their assistance during the event. Other perks include complimentary OnDemand for the course, access to other talks at the conference, and complimentary GIAC exam attempt (conditions apply).

    Application

    The application process is easy, one needs to fill out a form on the SANS web site, choose a specific event and list classes in the order of personal preference. I applied 5 times, received no feedback for 2 of the applications, 2 rejection letters, and finally 1 acceptance letter. In the cases where I did receive feedback, it was 4-8 weeks before the event start date.

    I was chosen for SEC401 (GSEC). This course was not my first choice, and I did hesitate for some time, but decided to take it, mainly to solidify chances of getting accepted to a 500-level course in the future. Besides, from what I gather, it is a very solid and broad course that will compliment my CISSP studies.

    Registration

    Again, a straightforward process. SANS sends a contract to sign, and requires the person to return it by a certain date. At this point I solicited my employer's approval and financial support to attend the conference, and once the training reimbursement paperwork has gone through the internal process, sent signed contract back to SANS and paid the fees. Once payment was processed, I received access to OnDemand materials as well as a detailed brochure on what to expect and plan for in this role. As I understand, GIAC attempt will be provided after the conference.

    Conference

    TBA

    Resources

    Reviews that helped me a lot in deciding whether I want to do it:

    GIAC Certified Penetration Tester (GPEN)
    SANS Workstudy, a day by day breakdown =)
    SANS Canberra 2009 Wrap up
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  3. Certification Invigilator Forum Admin JDMurray's Avatar
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    #2
    Thanks very much for this review. I don't believe we've has a review from the perspective of a SANS volunteer facilitator. I've talked with several and it looks like six days of a lot of hard work.

    How are you handling the expenses for travel and lodging?
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  4. Senior Member ChooseLife's Avatar
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    #3
    Thanks, I will add more details and will try to answer questions if anyone has them. Yeah, it is going to be a lot of hard work, I'm being told to expect 16-hour work days (btw, it's 7 days, volunteers are required to work full day prior to the first class, that's actually when most of the conference set up happens).

    Travel and lodging expenses are covered by the company, I included them in the training request and it got approved without problems.
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  5. Senior Member YFZblu's Avatar
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    #4
    Thank you, great write-up. Any tips for getting selected for work study? You said you applied several times, did you revise your application along the way?
    Last edited by YFZblu; 08-28-2012 at 03:49 AM.
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    #5
    Quote Originally Posted by ChooseLife View Post
    Thanks, I will add more details and will try to answer questions if anyone has them. Yeah, it is going to be a lot of hard work, I'm being told to expect 16-hour work days (btw, it's 7 days, volunteers are required to work full day prior to the first class, that's actually when most of the conference set up happens).

    Travel and lodging expenses are covered by the company, I included them in the training request and it got approved without problems.
    16 hour work days is about right from my experience as a facilitator at SANSFire. I was told that the smaller events aren't quite as bad, but 12+ hours is a safe bet. It will be lots of work, but worth it when work won't pay $5000 to get you trained and certified.
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  7. Senior Member ChooseLife's Avatar
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    #6
    Quote Originally Posted by YFZblu View Post
    Thank you, great write-up. Any tips for getting selected for work study? Do we know what is valued?
    Thank you. I submitted the same application multiple times without changes, so I guess persistency is one way
    In the application, they ask a number of questions to determine the applicant's level of affiliation with SANS (attendance of SANS events in the past, GIAC certs, enrollment in their Master's program, their advisory board membership) - I would imagine, the more connections you have with them, the higher the chances are.
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  8. Senior Member ChooseLife's Avatar
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    #7
    Quote Originally Posted by ajd86 View Post
    16 hour work days is about right from my experience as a facilitator at SANSFire. I was told that the smaller events aren't quite as bad, but 12+ hours is a safe bet. It will be lots of work, but worth it when work won't pay $5000 to get you trained and certified.
    Facilitating at SANS Fire must have been awesome experience! Yeah, I am looking forward to attending my first SANS event
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  9. Senior Member ChooseLife's Avatar
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    #8
    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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  10. Senior Member ChooseLife's Avatar
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    #9
    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 this week and was happy to pass it with a 96% result.
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    #10
    Great breakdown. I facilitated for the first time a few months back and my experience was the same.
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    #11
    I am doing the 504 this month in India. I hope to have the same experience and wish to share my experience too. This is my first time too.
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  13. Senior Member
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    #12
    You'll have a blast jc.
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    #13
    Thanks man !
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  15. Senior Member ChooseLife's Avatar
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    #14
    Good luck, jcadarsh, hope you'll enjoy it!
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