Sunday, March 12, 2017

Jottings - Slice of life - 107 ( "Technology evangelist" and not a technical Instructor)

Jottings - Slice of life - 107 ( "Technology evangelist" and not a technical Instructor)
As a teacher, the only consolation and joy at the end of the day is to have inspired, modified and enhanced the levels of understanding of your students. Nothing more!! This week was an extraordinary adventure.
In the class were fifteen senior participants, six in the class, and the other six attending online from different parts of the world. They work for one of the biggest payment solutions business in the Western hemisphere, and for more than two decades all their data is stored and managed on standard relational databases. We are talking in the magnitude of hundreds of terabytes every two days. Each one of them in the class have solid background in Databases, back to the days when Fox-pro ruled the roost and before, and from there moved to become DBA’s ( Database Administrators) for large scale data storage solutions for transactional processing.
The challenge is now to move from a traditional paradigm of storage to a newer model. Thankfully, there are many such solutions available today in the market, but the real difficulty is in triggering a mind-change or ( as I normally would like to phrase it) a re-wiring of our thinking process to adapt to those changes. That was my task this week. I had four days to do it. If could walk out of class with beaming, smiling faces on my students and an aura of wisdom surrounding them - my job is done.
But there were four issues to contend with. One - this was my first class on this technology, two - my participants were hardcore advocates of relational databases with a entrenched view that nothing can better the way things are done right now. Three - all participants have already studied online versions of the materials I am about to teach. Fourth - The head of education of the product had flown down to be part of this class to audit how things were going. So, this was going to be a challenging task, and could quickly become an embarrassment if it is not professionally handled.
Within first 30 minutes, I decided to let go of all my slides and prefabricated demonstrations. If I was ever going to transform their thinking, the only way to do it was to get into the trenches, show changes on their own environment, and convince them why they should change . Otherwise, this class is a waste of time. That is exactly what I did. For four days, not a single slide or a lab. We would assemble at 9 AM in the morning, take up few use cases and work through it in their own Test environment. We projected our experiments on screen for whole group to see and brainstorm. Tempers flew high, arguments followed, reasoning interjected, jokes abounded, but in the end, the common goal was to see if this solution would prove effective. It was fascinating. At some points during the class, I felt like a master conductor waving his baton to play a specific note. My goal was to steer the group to a conclusion which is favorable to the product. I had no doubts in my mind and neither did I have any technical doubts about what we were proposing to this group, but it was my job to convince the assembled team of my convictions and technical veracity. Otherwise, the battle is lost.
On the last day, at 5 PM, all of us were exhausted, but intellectually sizzling. We had managed to benchmark every important feature against traditional way of doing it. And the conclusion was unanimous. The new solution was indeed the right way of moving forward.
As I headed back to my car, the Head of education caught up with me and said “ In twenty years, I have never seen anything as extraordinary as this. You are a teacher in the true sense of the word. I now know whom I should call if I need to sell my product..
I laughed “ yes sir, I call my team “technology evangelists”, Not Instructors. A technical Instructor is a limited term and anyone can be groomed to become one. But to convince a set of reluctant participants to adopt technology - that is the goal of the company I work for “
“Great, we are happy to be associated with all of you..”
God bless…
yours in mortality,

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