The Chris Heilmann training manifesto

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 at 10:51 am

I am a trainer and I love to give trainings to “crowd-source” my knowledge. I take training seriously, having suffered far too many boring and bad trainings myself and swearing myself back then I will do better if I ever get the chance.

teaching event handling with human html nodes

Training is treated as a nice to have

There is, however, a certain laxness in IT when it comes to trainings, and it makes me sad. Trainings are not to have a jolly off work, they are also not a nice to have. They should be the most efficient way to learn new things and get ahead in your career and should be treated as such. Instead of having bright and bushy-tailed training attendees many a time you find yourself in front of a tired group after an event half of whom didn’t show up, others are delayed, not prepared or people interrupt halfway through trying to “just join in”. This is a waste of time and bizarre considering how much training costs.

Training is expensive and precious – treat it as such

Sending engineers or managers to a training is a high cost. Not that I charge a lot (I should, most other trainers do!) but you are going to be out of the normal work flow for quite some time. For myself preparing a training means 8 hours of research, preparation and planing for every hour I am in the room. This is a large chunk of my life – professionally and personally – and it should be worth my while. I judge the success of my trainings by how much people learned and what they did afterwards, how they used the knowledge gained. If I don’t get the chance to learn any of that I wasted my and probably your time. Success of trainings should not be accidentally, it should be measurable and obvious. This is why from now on I will not take on any trainings any longer unless the following points are met.

My training manifesto

  • We don’t start as strangers – the overall number and each attendee of the training should be known to me. This involves a quick email by attendees telling me about the training:
    • Who they are
    • What they expect from the training
    • Relevant knowledge they have with examples (“here are talks I gave, I want to be better”)
    • Special treatment that is needed (Proficiency in English, Disabilities, Materials)
  • We are on time – or we don’t take part – my trainings are planned minute by minute to make the best out of the short time we have. If you are late, you delay everybody and disrupt an ongoing part of the training which will impact the rest and leave you without prior knowledge needed for the advanced lessons later on
  • The door is closed – there will be breaks for human issues and there will be drinks and snacks (healthy ones, nuts and fruit, no point getting you sugared up and sleepy). So no leaving halfway through and no interruptions from the outside. This is our time and we use it as such.
  • Laptops are closed, phones are on silent and in the pockets – for the most part you won’t need your computer in my trainings and it is just rude to be distracted by your emails, tweets or kittens. You are in a training, you are not available. Nothing your boss or colleagues need is more important, your attendance is very expensive, and should mean you are incommunicado to those not in it
  • The group is responsible for the documentation
    • I will only give out very few materials about the training (mostly links to learn more from)
    • You are much more likely to really learn when you document yourself in the way you understand the most
    • There will be no binder at the end to collect dust on a shelf, keep your own notes
    • There will be times allocated to documenting in the training
  • There will be a test and homework – I want to know what you learned and if you need to know more. The only way of doing that is to make you use the things we talk about

If these things can’t be met by the training I am not giving it. I don’t want to be a person collecting money or spending people’s time without making sure they get a lot of out it.

Compliance with this means you need to put more dedication into the training than you probably are used to. It also means though you will get much more out of it. I promise that.

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