What do you find lacking/awesome in tech training classes?

Dear lazyweb, 

Over the past year, I’ve spoken to a few clients about performing on-site training for their staff in things like Linux administration, SQL, PHP, etc. I’ve also gotten a few training contracts as a result, and those contracts have gone quite well, and I have some repeat business already! I really really enjoy that line of work (and my consulting work keeps my skillset sharp and insures I won’t get ‘stale’). 

What I think my current clients like is that they already know my work and are confident in my knowledge of the areas I’m training in, and they love that I’ll create custom content for them instead of having static, inflexible, prepackaged classes. 

Technical people, though, are extremely, excruciatingly scrutinizing, though. We’re a lot that likes to find problems with things, because we like to fix problems. We also (some of us, at least) believe that anything worth doing is worth doing right, and that’s my goal. So, although I’m also a part of that scrutinizing, problem-solving crowd, I’m also aware that I don’t have a monopoly on valuable opinions regarding how training is put together, delivered, etc. 

So, if you have had experiences, good or bad, with in-person training classes, or if something in one of those classes stood out to you, or something won’t leave your brain about your experience, I’d love to hear it!

  • http://www.dougalmatthews.com Dougal Matthews

    I always found it hard to relate the examples to real world uses. I hate examples when learning OO for example and you create a dog class with methods/actions sit and bark. While that’s easy to grasp its hard to see how that would actually be used!

    Teach people to review code! I read something recently (over the last few days) that I thought sounded good, it was on planet python but I can’t see it now. If you get them to work on something and commit it to SVN you then review each of their commits for the first period and then get the students to review each others code after that. I’m just finishing university now but I wish we had something like that! Teaches you version control and promotes discussion about how best to do things. Awesome.

  • Gerry Caprario

    I contacted a vendor to come and demo some of the new features found in a GIS software upgrade which my client had purchased. I knew how to do the down and dirty on the program, but wasn’t confident that I could answer the questions that could come up. We spoke at length on more than one occasion about what features were important to the client, and as such, what the demo should focus on. I sent over specific data sets formatted and asked him to verify that he could use the data in the format I sent over for what we had discussed. He replied that everything was fine and he would see me on the agreed upon day. Mind you, I had to get the client to agree to two things. One, set up a security pass for this guy, and two, get the client to shut down a department of fifteen people for two hours.

    So, the guy was late, unprepared and blamed his inability to get the demo right on the fact that the data set I sent him was in a proprietary coordinate system which prevented him from making the basic map which he wanted to show(which I said I didn’t want when we set up the session).

    Lesson learned – listen. not lip service..and don’t blame the guy who called you in. I am no longer at the client’s offices, but my company won a contract to work with them on a different software suite for data analysis. I don’t know if this helps or does nothing, but I have had a lot of similar experiences. It all stems from low bid contracts. Bid your work people, not your break even.

  • http://paddy3118.blogspot.com Paddy3118

    When I pay to be taught, what makes an excellent course for me is to also get a good paper manual with excellent index. I am taught the essentials in the class, but the manual I have available for a long time after.

    – Paddy.

  • http://morlockhq.blogspot.com Jim

    The hands down best technical training I have taken has been with Veritas for their Netbackup product, though my co-worker has had training for their file system as well.

    Veritas is now owned by Symantec and I had training with them before, during, and after that acquisition. I heard that one of the things that attracted Symantec to Veritas was its training arm and when they merged, it was the Veritas training group that swallowed up the Symantec training group.


    Well, their materials and lab environment are top notch and well thought out. The instruction and materials focus on real world examples and scenarios.

    The materials include lab manuals that have two sections. The first section doesn’t include the answers, while the second section includes the answers along with the instructions for completing each scenario. It may seem like a simple distinction, but these manuals which include good manuals and indexes serve as the Cliff’s Notes versions of the Veritas Documentation when students return home. They are a valuable reference tool that students (and I have compared notes with a number of my classmates) will reference over and over once they go home.

    This is good for Veritas/Symantec as each time that happens, it solidifies their brand with those students. The next time they have training money, they are going to spend it with a company whose training has benefited them time and again.

    The consistent lab environment makes it easy for students to explore beyond the script of the classrooms. The instructors encourage students to try things out in the safe environment of the lab as it is relatively painless to recover from any catastrophic happenings in the lab. The environment, coupled with encouraging and confident instructors, is a big draw.

    So, good instruction combined with a working real world environment and backed up by solid and professional deliverables make for a winning combination.