Not everyone is cut out to be a great technical trainer. In fact, the industry is littered with sub-par technical trainers who do little more than recite text from a book. The industry needs great trainers, but is it a career that is right for you?
There are two characteristics that make someone a great technical trainer: Most trainers have the first one covered. The second characteristic is one that distinguishes you from the rest.
The first characteristic is self evident: a fascination with technology. Obviously, if you are considering a career as a technical trainer, you should be someone who is intrigued and passionate about technology.
This does not mean that you have to be someone who spent everyday in front of a keyboard from the moment that you learned how to type. In fact, when we discover the second characteristic, you will learn that these people who do nothing but sit in front of their computers all day often do not make great technical trainers.
How do you know if you have a “fascination” with technology? It is often defined by a curiosity, amazement, and inquisitiveness about what technology does and by always wanting to know more. For example, if you have ever asked yourself a question like, “How does email get from one place to the other?” and then sought the answer out of sheer curiosity, you have this fascination.
The second characteristic of a great technical trainer is in large demand and in short supply. If you have it, you will be better than 90% of your contemporaries.
I will share this characteristic through two examples: one negative and one extremely positive.
When I was just out of college and hired to work in the networking department for one of the largest consulting firms in the world, I was selected to attend a one-week class on something called the OSI Model, the theoretical model from which all computer networking is derived.
Do you know what the professor did? He read, almost directly, from the text books that we were given. He was not unenthused but he added little value beyond what could be found in the text. It was, perhaps, the most boring week of my life.
One year later, this same company was sending everyone to a class to learn the foundations of the Microsoft Windows NT operating system. At the time, this was Microsoft’s new networking platform and the company wanted everyone to get familiar with it.
Guess what the topic was the first day? The OSI Model…again. The instructor was required to begin with the OSI Model so that students would understand the foundations of networking before he delved into the intricacies of the new Microsoft operating system.
As I resigned myself to another week of dreadful boredom, the teacher began the class this way: “Ok, everyone, I want you to take your books and close them. This-the OSI Model–is a theoretical topic, but the problem with theories is that you can’t touch them. Today, we are going to touch a theory!”
During that week of class, I learned more from this teacher than I learned from any previous technical classes. He obviously had trait number one to be a great technical trainer-a fascination with technology, but he also had the second characteristic that most technical trainers don’t have: the ability to communicate ideas in an exciting manner.
A great technical trainer is often someone who, like the students he or she teaches, has divergent interests. This trainer talked to everyone, find out what their interests were, and used real-world analogies to which everyone could relate.
So, do you have what it takes to become a great technical trainer?
Well, if you have the “fascination” with technology, you’re off to a good start. But if you have the ability to communicate this to a room full of people, you can distinguish yourself in the field.