In the midst of my certification program at SJSU, I had to take a course in multi-cultural issues. For the project, since I was not teaching in a conventional setting at the time, I chose to build a set of lessons around engineering material I had to teach on the job. After all, I was teaching many people – all engineers – for most of whom English was a second language. Not only that, but the style of teaching had to be adapted for that audience.
The training sessions went well, combining the technical material with some short stories, some humor, and a good dose of back-and-forth questioning. Questionnaires to the attendees showed later that they enjoyed it and absorbed the material.
This experience showed me how approaching technical engagement from a different point of view can make me more effective.
Training as Teaching
In a more general sense, I learned that I could approach technical training as a teaching opportunity, rather than simply “convey the engineering information”. The challenge was to make material interesting to an audience which included some experienced members and some with no background in the material. Usually the training was provided to the Applications Engineering team. The normal approach was to make a long series of PowerPoint slides, illustrated with excerpts from the Data Sheets or Specification, and then drone through the explanations.
I used the training I’d received at SJSU to “spice up” the training sessions. I brought props (including a 30 year old black-and-white TV), inserted stories and jokes, and fired questions at attendees throughout. I told them up front that there would be a quiz at the end (which there was), and then laughed when they all squirmed!
One result was feedback from the experienced apps engineers that they enjoyed the sessions even though the technical material was familiar to them. They appreciated that I provided time at the end for question and answer, and that I asked the audience “How would you apply this information with your customers?”
It would be great to be in the classroom again – up front, generating excitement!