Walk when you talk. Learn while you teach.

“Walk when you talk”  is the new Idea ad which is famous nowadays. Given that I will probably never have a marketing division which will coin a cool phrase for me, let me do it myself. So what I do for a living nowadays, I will call as “Learning while teaching.” Quite a trite and a tired phrase I have to admit, but hey, I am no cool marketing guy.  Though jargonish in its feel, but as with all jargon, it hides an important truth.

A couple of months back I was given the task of conducting a one day session on Serial Attached SCSI protocol. The team attending this was fairly experienced one and they were clear on what they wanted. It is always a pleasure to deal with such teams as both the trainer and the audience is proceeding towards the same station and many a times you arrive safely. I started searching the web for details on the latest SAS protocol and found that details about SAS 2 were very scant. I was like “What, the internet doesn’t have the details?” only to realize that no one out there is sitting to see what is not present and entering the details. Internet is a  medium of collaboration and sometimes you also need to put in something!!! Maybe I will put in some details about SAS soon. Coming back to the training per se, the best part was the preparation. I did what everyone does when nothing else works. Read the @#$%*! manual. I did something better. I read the SAS 2 specification. Luckily I was able to connect with a friend who had some idea of SAS 2. He clarified some concepts to me. Reading the specification is very instructive. I have done it earlier when I did some content development for a SCSI Internals course.  It takes time to read the specification and connect up everything. Once you do that, you do get a good idea of what is going on. I did learn a lot when I read this specification. And luckily for me, when I did the course some very perceptive questions were asked for which I had to again refer the specs and clarify the doubts. The clarification was equally enlightening to the participants and to myself. No one teaches you better than a perceptive and an intelligent student.

Next came a standard storage course but with more focus on Fiber Channel protocol and FC Switches. To get a better idea of how the switches get configured, I downloaded the switch manuals from various vendors and read them. Reading manuals may not equal the excitement you get when you read John Grisham or Harlen Coben, but it does teach you a lot. It gives a very good idea of how things are actually implemented and you also get an idea of the limitations in real life compared to the theory. Here again the participants asked questions about areas I did not have much clue about. Leading me to start my investigations which eventually benefited both the participants and me.  I was immensely helped by my friends here and my sincere thanks to all of them. In fact I should actually sing the Beatles song: “I get along with a little help from my friends.” They are always around to help and that is a nice feeling to have.

While perceptive students are a boon I came across a different kind of participant in a course that I conducted recently. This person would have a soft copy of a manual open and keep asking you questions regarding a storage array, all of which pertained to the details present in the manual. Nothing wrong in trying to find out if the teacher knows all the details. It keeps you on your toes when done once in a while but can get tedious when done almost continuously over a three-day period !!!  Similarly, if people have access to internet when a training session is on, they try to find out the answers to the questions you ask, from the internet. In this Internet era, it is very important to make people realize that there is a huge difference between learning and finding out the answers. Internet allows you to do the latter easily but the learning part you need to do yourself, sometimes even after you find out the answers. Or shall I say, especially after you find out the answers !!!

It has been more than a year since I ventured on my own. Thought I would do a one year completion post but dropped the idea thinking it would be too self indulgent and honestly I haven’t achieved much except survive for one year without being part of larger organization. This one year has clearly taught me that learning and teaching are two things that I enjoy the most. And I would love to think that I have been able to communicate this enjoyment to those whom I teach. Atleast I am trying and you can’t blame a person who tries, can you?.