I’d like to start my first blog post with a small introduction. I come from a family of pilots and teachers. We enjoy technology and travel, and are naturally comfortable speaking to an audience. As the lead trainer at Nutanix, I have the privilege of sharing our technology with a variety of audiences: customers, partners, and new employees. We’re expanding in each of these categories at a rapid pace, so my team is constantly juggling its resources to respond to incoming requests. As I write this article, I am returning from a nearly 3-week global training tour. Just as with IT infrastructure, time spent on the road can be converged for optimal performance.
Just how converged was my trip? Well, in 20 days, I conducted five classes in three time zones, taught 40 students from seven organizations, and earned over 40,000 frequent flier miles (okay, some of these were bonus miles). I said “Hello,” “Howdy” and “Kon’nichiwa.” I also discovered that lessons you learn at home are especially important abroad.
Lesson One: Students Come From a Variety of Backgrounds
When a customer schedules an onsite class, they invariably ask “How many employees can we invite?” To maximize their time, I’ve opened the classes to project managers, network security admins, and even the occasional storage admin. The course is designed to welcome all levels of understanding and interest, with each module diving a little deeper into the product. Some students leave after the first or second module, with a dazed look on their faces. Others stay to the very end, and a few even ask for more.
Even among those who stay the full length of the class, there is still a variety of backgrounds. In one of our lab exercises, I ask students to explore the cluster through both the web console and the Nutanix command-line interface (nCLI). I’ll then ask the group which one they prefer. No class has yet responded unanimously in favor of one interface over the other. In general, I have found that virtualization admins prefer the web console, while storage and network folks lean towards the nCLI. It’s just a matter of their background and personal style when interacting with a system. As an instructor, it is my responsibility to notice those differences, and adjust my style accordingly.
Lesson Two: Instruction Extends Beyond the Classroom
When I started my freshman year of college, my parents and I were given some important advice: “Half of what she learns here will be taught outside of the classroom.” This was in reference to my transition into adulthood, learning to balance multiple priorities while living on my own and meeting new people, but I think the lesson applies to non-academic training as well. One of the benefits of traveling for a class is that I have more flexibility to join my students for drinks or dinner after class finishes for the day. It’s even more fun when some of the students traveled into town for the class as well.
Sharing drinks in a bar does more than just loosen lips through alcohol. It also moves the conversation from a formal classroom to a more uncensored location. I try to keep my teaching style very relaxed, but a teacher in front of the classroom naturally commands authority. Some students aren’t comfortable asking certain questions in that setting. By sitting around a table in a bar or restaurant, I can become an equal with my students, encouraging more candid questions and suggestions of ways to improve the product.
Lesson Three: You’re Never More than a Click Away
I use cloud-based services and social networking sites at home, but they’re even more useful when I’m on the road. I can print extra copies of the course manual, file an expense report, and check in for tomorrow’s flight, all from the comfort of my hotel room. Although I appreciate talking to a “real person” when something goes wrong (like when the courseware manuals weren’t delivered in Dallas), it’s nice to have the option to submit a request after normal business hours, via the web.
Social media keeps me connected with Nutanix. I use our internal networking site to post questions to engineering, support, and sales, which allows me to dodge sticky or puzzling questions by saying “I don’t know…let me check on that.” Our global workforce, combined with the nocturnal tendencies of certain programmers, means that no matter the location, I can usually receive an answer by the end of the class.
I also use Twitter and LinkedIn to stay connected with former students. I love it when someone tweets about Nutanix after finishing my class. It shows that they’re actually using the product, and hopefully, the training material. Lately, I’ve noticed a trend where students who attended as customers or partners are becoming Nutanix employees. Like I said before, all three training audiences are growing at a rapid pace. It’s only natural for there to be some crossover.
Lesson Four: Keep Looking Forward
Big things are coming in 2013. If you’d like to attend a Nutanix training class, send an email to your sales rep or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to join the training team, visit our careers page. Nutanix is currently looking for another technical trainer to continue expanding our offerings.
Please follow me on Twitter @cogscimajor.