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The Other Side of the Podium

When I was at ParaSoft, I did a number of trainings when I went to some company and showed them how to use whatever product they had purchased. We did one-day tutorials all the way up to five-day classes, where we would use our product with the customer’s code.

This week I am attending a training for Microsoft C#, and it’s interesting to be the one out in the audience with a computer in front of me, and not the one in front with a projector screen behind me.

One thing I noticed pretty early on is how hard it is to type and listen at the same time. When we’re writing code– or even copying code from a book– whatever our instructor is saying might as well be Swahili. But I also know from experience that some people will type 78,000 words per minute, and then talk loudly to their neighbor, or start checking email, or whatever. With developers especially, you can lose them to whatever problem they were tackling back at their cube before they were told to attend your meeting.

Another thing is that I notice little presentation tricks I used to use. For instance, our trainer has been talking non-stop about some small annoyance that causes a slowdown when your web service is running the first time, when IIS is compiling your code. And he’s doing it over and over, because he knows that there’s a simple fix, and when he reveals it we’ll all think “well, it’s a good thing that’s not a problem anymore.” It’s not REALLY a problem now, but it sure seems like one when it’s mentioned every hour. We used to do something similar to talk up flaws in developer processes that are, technically, flaws, but that no one really cares if they’re fixed. But it sure looks great when you can point to it and say “we fixed that.”

Bottom line: don’t believe everything a trainer tells you.