On Training

My first technology job was as a computer training specialist for a health and human services company. I was terrible. I’ve been under the impression for the past decade or so that I was terrible because I dislike telling people how to do something more than once.

Turns out that I was wrong.

I was a terrible trainer because I designed, built, and taught my classes around the way I personally like to learn: If you briefly show me all of the features of something, I’ll figure out the optimal way for me to use it on my own. Don’t tell me how to do every little thing methodically–I’ll get bored and pissy.

Many geeks are exactly like this, making it fairly easy for me to teach fellow geeks (see above about the not like telling folks how to do something more than once). Unfortunately for me as a trainer, this is not exactly like normal human behavior. Normal humans (and I realize I’m wildly over-generalizing) seem to want to actually know the best or recommended way to do things, and they’d like step-by-step instructions.

Woah; shocker.

This is exactly what the all of the wonderful trainers who have worked in my departments have done. They figure out the best way to do a task (or the best way for our users to do a task) and design, built, and teach their classes accordingly. Everyone they have trained has loved them and has gone back for more classes or individual help time and time again.

I have to think more about this. And, when I deal with users, I need to learn NOT to say, “You can do it this way, or this way, or this way, or that way.” Instead, I need to say, “There are many different ways to do this, but the best way is to…” and go through it step-by-step. My favorite way to teach? Heck, no. But I’m a big fan of effective, and I believe that this will help me communicate more effectively with non-geeks.