[0:08] Hey, now welcome back to the drupal Easy podcast. This is season 14, episode five and I am your host, Mike canelo in today's episode, we'll be talking with Rod Martin about how to be a software trainer.
Now both rob and I have been software trainers for more years than either of us can count.
And in this episode we're gonna talk about how other folks can get more comfortable teaching software.
We're going to share some of our lessons learned, maybe a horror story or two along the way.
It turned out to be a really fun conversation.
Before we get to that, let me tell you a little bit about our long form training courses here at drupal Easy, our beginner focused class, drupal career online,
that's 12 weeks twice a week plus some office hours that begins february 13th, you can learn more either at drupal dot com slash D. C. O.
Or you can register for one of our upcoming free one hour taste of drupal webinars where we attempt to answer all of Questions about drupal career online,
were also super excited to be debuting our newest long form course and heavy on the long, it's called professional module development, it's 90 hours of curriculum over 15 weeks.
[1:21] There's also a light version a little bit shorter. We cut out a few topics a little bit less expensive.
The full version begins on january 31st. You can check that out at drupal dot com slash p. M. D.
[1:39] Rod martin. Welcome back to the drupal Easy podcast, How are you today?
I am fantastic. Thanks for having me back mike. Sure, sure, sure.
So today we're going to be answering the question of how to be a software trainer And you, my friend like me are indeed a software trainer uh correct me if I'm wrong, they're right.
I am mostly drupal still do a little bit of June Lin, wordpress but 95% drupal now.
So I want to make this like super pragmatic discussion right.
But I do, I'm curious because I don't know if I know the answer to this but how did you get started?
[2:14] Wow. So I've been teaching stuff since I finished my master's program, I've been teaching at various universities.
I've taught at the masters level. Uh so yeah I've done teaching and training pretty much my entire career since I finished school.
But about 11 years ago, steve bird from OS training approached me and said, hey would you like to do some training in open source software specifically Wordpress Junior and drupal,
and I said that sounds like fun, it just hit at the right time.
And so we attended our first drupal con at drupal con Chicago and then we started doing the absolute beginner's guide to the days, the training day beforehand,
and he brought me on staff and you know, I've been making videos and teaching people ever since. It's been a lot of fun.
[3:09] Absolutely, so we want to talk about, you know, you and I could probably just talk about drupal training and be a very small group of people who would be interested in that conversation.
So I was thinking that maybe we can expand that, we can expand that a little bit and we'll talk about that stuff a little bit, but.
[3:29] I think I kind of want to focus a little bit more on what it takes to, you know, deliver a good training and not necessarily like classroom style or even, you know, public,
zoom trainings, but,
maybe focus a little bit more on kind of the smaller, like maybe intercompany training, you know, where one person is, you know, teaching to junior developers how to do something,
because I think that brings a lot of value and, you know, not all developers, you know, have that skill to actually, you know, convey information.
Oh, that's very true. So, you know, maybe what the service that we can provide here over the next 25 minutes or so is,
you know, some tips on how to, you know, put yourself in that role of having to teach someone, you know, something technical.
[4:24] Sounds good Yeah, something that, that you might have, you know, a very high comfort level with and you know, want to convey and want to instill that that level of confidence in someone else.
[4:38] So before we do that, I just want to mention, you know, there's a lot of different kinds of training training is kind of a bit of a nebulous word because I think that folks who, you know, write blog posts or books or,
or other written things, um, you know, that's, that's, you know, one type of trainer, there's, there's folks, um, Rod, one of the things you do is create screen cast, that's definitely different type of training.
And like, those types of trainings are almost like hands off for you.
You're not you're not talking directly to someone, you don't really know who you're talking to, you're just, you're, you're producing something.
[5:15] And then folks are consuming that asynchronous synchronously correct.
And then compare that of course with, you know, in person or online trainings and so let me ask you right off the bat rod, do you have a preference?
Like do you prefer to teach people face to face to face? I'm using air quotes that nobody can see, but yeah, for sure.
Oh, absolutely. So my favorite training is in person in the classroom, you know, for as long as it takes, that's absolutely my favorite.
[5:43] In fact, I was just having this conversation this morning with somebody else about, you know, I think those days are done for the most part at least in our industry where,
virtual training now has taken over mostly because of covid, but a lot because of just budgeting and,
you know, bringing me into a city costs money and then bringing everybody else to that city or even to a location now is something we just don't need to do as much anymore.
So I'm not sure live training in the classroom for what we do will ever come back. It might, I don't know.
But certainly I prefer, my preference is always live training. I love the interaction, I love the tough questions for me, that's that's what I love to do.
The asynchronous video training. I've, I've I try, I try to keep track, I think I'm at around 1000 videos now between yeah, between academy linked in oS training and a bunch of other places.
Yeah, I probably right around 1000 drupal,
and then I've got Jumla and Wordpress on top of that, so over 10 years, it's been a lot of video training and again, I get great feedback from that and people seem to appreciate it, they like being able to go at their own pace, they like being able to.
[6:58] Pause and rewind the tough parts.
So I think there's, you know, obviously there's great value in both, but yeah, definitely, if you're asking me my favorite in a classroom with a group of people where we really get down to it, that's definitely it for me.
Well, I think I think you can still get a little taste of that at community events.
Abso absolutely uh well you and I were just at ned camp for drupal and I know we don't want to just focus on drupal but,
you know, being in front of a room of people and being able to present something that you've worked hard on and interacting with people before and after and there's nothing like that, that's just, that's just fantastic.
And as much as we've appreciated having virtual events over the last couple of years, I'm so glad that live in person events are coming back.
Yeah, there's always a nice, well I shouldn't say always, but most of the time, you know, there's energy in the room, yes, everybody can feed off of really hard to do that over zoom Right, yeah, yeah.
Right, so, you know, and that kind of ties in, I mean, I think that for, you know, you know, informal kind of and I'm gonna keep using this phrase, you know, in our company.
[8:11] Type of training, you know, given the choice if you could, you know, if you're gonna do like an hour zoom lesson or, you know, or you can do an hour of,
you know, sharing a desk or, you know, looking at one laptop over over over a cup of coffee or something.
I think just the ability to be in physical proximity with someone kind of brings a bit more accountability to both people.
Absolutely. You know, again, I I've I've said this a few times, there's the zoom will never replace the room and being in the room with somebody,
allows you for, like you said accountability, a relationship, a much better relationship.
Although again, you can do that over time, you know, meeting with people on camera and things like that and it's it's still pretty good.
But there's nothing like looking over a laptop or sitting down with somebody,
so you can read their body language, read their facial expressions in real time, uh not have to look over to the side to see their camera if they're actually paying attention or not, but but, you know, again, as much as I miss that and I'm,
as much as I think it's superior, we're very fortunate to live in a day when we have something like zoom.
[9:22] So we can keep helping people grow and learn.
And and even if it is just a one on two or one on three training for an hour, it we're blessed to have that technology for sure.
Yeah, I think that's that's probably, you know, something that, that we very much agree on that, given the choice, given the opportunity, preference in person, you know, in person training if you have that option.
I mean, I think that it definitely brings something that is not easily described or or, or super tangible to the table, but I think it does, it does add a lot of value there.
Alright, So that's kind of that's something that is dependent on, you know, the situation, right, That location, things like that. But let's let's focus on the person actually doing the training.
So I asked you this in our little rundown. So, um, I'm curious to hear your answers here. So top three skills that you think a software trainer should have.
[10:25] Well, this may sound weird or strange, but I think for me, if you're going to teach, you need to be a teacher.
[10:33] I know a lot of amazing, amazing developers who can't explain themselves for their lives. They're just not built that way.
So I don't like that answer. You know, I don't like that answer. Why don't you like that answer?
Because I feel like you're asking you're you're not really answering the question.
You're just restating the question because now I get to say what makes a good teacher or what, what gives someone the ability to teach? Which is really a question I just asked. So that one does not count.
[11:04] All right. Well, I think all right, then let me start, let me start with a different one.
And, and that's when you and I both share. Um, I think a good software trainer needs patients.
Sure. Yes. And, and that's, that's kind of a no brainer. And again, it goes though, is it?
Well, I think it is because again, you and I have both been in enough situations where we have students who either aren't getting it,
and you think they should or they're just not focused enough And it's, you know, and little peek behind the curtain, you're just sitting there going, why isn't this person at least paying attention?
Uh, you know, they're paying for it, but you know, it comes down to you are the person that sets the tone of the room, whether again it's in zoom or in the room.
And so as a trainer, the idea of having patients and, and, and uh, you, you put up empathy as well. And I think that's a really good one, just the ability to manage the room.
[12:09] And and be patient with the outcome because people are, you know, some people really struggle with this stuff and some people get it and you know, we both, we both had students in the same boat.
So patients and um is a big one.
So what do you think the enemy of patience and empathy is in that?
Oh wow. Your own expectations of getting through the material and expecting people to catch on as fast as you expect them to.
Its it boils down to your attitude as a trainer that you bring to the table and you've got to always remember that even if you know, person a is,
seemingly just not getting it or not thinking or not paying attention.
[12:54] You don't know their situation, you don't know their background, you don't know what happened this morning. They might have, their dog might have died there.
They might have had an argument with their, with their spouse or their significant other and, and you know,
all of this plays into their approach to training and as a trainer, then you set the expectations, you guide the class and you try and bring people along no matter what's going on,
in their lives at the time or even in their environments at the time and and try to bring everybody along together and that does, that requires patients.
Absolutely. Yeah. When I think about this, I mean everything you said, I'm on board with, but I think of it more of like the time constraint,
okay, is the, is the, for me the big enemy of patients? Yes.
[13:47] Right. If you are sitting down with a co worker and you need to teach them how to build a user migration for example, and you put it in your calendar for 2-3 p.m.
[14:00] And it gets to be 2:45 p. m. and you still have a lot to go.
[14:04] You're gonna sacrifice patience for material and the results are probably not going to be great.
So I think that's probably the biggest lesson I've learned in however many years that I've been teaching is to do everything I can in my power to not necessarily have that drop,
dead time constraint. Yeah.
Which is not good. You know, we were talking before we started recording, like if you're paid to go to fly to,
a city and train some team and they've given you X number of hours on these days of the week and training has to end at five p.m. On a thursday.
[14:46] But you also have to cover, you know, this list of material, um, that's, you know, when I faced that absolutely face that all the time. It's a horrible situation.
It can be a, it can be a rough one.
Um, in fact, I had that not too long ago where there was definitely a person in the room that was really, really struggling on the 4th and 5th day of the training and it was obvious and we were waiting for them on every exercise.
And so I dealt with it.
I mean, I, I spoke with the person privately and, and set expectations for the rest of the training and I said, how can I best help you?
And we talked off, you know, off off the rest of the training.
And so we worked out a plan where he'd be able to follow along and, and I would make sure at the end of the day to spend extra time and just make sure, you know, he was okay with what we covered even though he may not have been able to finish all the tasks.
[15:40] And that way, at least the rest of the team was able to complete the training.
He felt pretty good about it. Uh, and, and you know, it's like you said when, when you're the trainer,
giving that extra amount of time where that extra amount of attention is always number one good and number two, it's not a big deal for you because it's just a few extra minutes at the end of the day.
And so yeah, yeah, that's a good point.
What I normally do is I will in those situations where it's a private training,
with a group of people, I will ask the client, you know, my main contact with the client who in the room should dictate the pace, right?
And like specifically like which person?
[16:26] Yeah, I I do that pretty much every time as well, it takes all the onus off you, but at the same time sometimes they're just not willing to confront the elephant in the room either.
So that's a whole other.
[16:43] Yeah, yeah.
So I think a trainer needs to go in with the appropriate level mindset. So I, so I do a lot of beginner training.
Uh, this might be their very first exposure to the software to even the concepts that were, that were hitting.
So I remind myself before I go into training every single day, begin with a beginner mindset, you know, keep the beginner mindset, don't go off and start using jargon.
I haven't explained, don't, um, uh, say, oh, this is simple when for somebody in the room, it may not be.
Uh, so I really, that's just one of my little things, I, I often will remind myself, just make sure you're at the appropriate level mindset, whatever that level is, whether it's intermediate advanced or whatever.
Don't treat them like they're beginners if they're not and don't treat them like they're advanced if they're not. So yeah, for me, that's a, I just, that's a constant reminder.
[17:42] How about challenges? Like what are the, what are the most common challenges that you face?
Yeah, someone, a new technical skill, you know, interesting. It, it's the technology is one of my challenges, which is kind of counterintuitive.
I know, isn't it? It's funny, right? So now that we're not in the room and we're on things like zoom, I've had the internet fail in my building here in town, so I literally hooked my computer up to my phone and did the rest of the training over cellular,
people's technology is far bigger.
Like I've, I've put together a pretty neat technology stack to do the training that I do, but other people who are coming to the training, their technology might not be up to speed.
Um, so it's, that is one of the frustrations again when you're not in the room and you, you can't walk over to somebody's computer and fix it really quickly.
Uh, it's, it's been fascinating. So I've actually, in the last couple of years,
I've always built in time just to make sure everybody's tech is doing okay at the beginning of every day and it's paid off because we can, we can literally just take care of some of that stuff.
But that is that to me that's one of the funny challenges right now. Yeah, I think not even at the beginning of the day, it's such a big focus for us and yeah, well awesome.
Speaking about drupal easy, especially in our, in our beginner class.
[19:03] You know, the two or three weeks leading up to the class, I spent a lot of time just making sure everyone's, everyone has the right software installed and everything is running at the appropriate performance level, because.
[19:18] Nothing puts the brakes on whether it's a one on one training or a group training or, you know, something at, at a drupal event, then,
You know, 15 minutes in someone's site, you know, just doesn't work or, you know, that's or even even as simple as, you know, I do a lot of federal government training because drupal of course is big in the federal government.
[19:42] Oh, my stars, their computers are so locked down.
You know, and they can't even go to google so you know, those things that we would typically take as easy and normal, their constraints based on their own department policies can really get in the way as well.
So, so that's, that's definitely one of my challenges.
Um the other one I that I wrote down and, and this is, I think this is true of all trainers just staying current,
I train probably two weeks out of every month, so for 40 hours a week, 40 hours on a zoom call, I mean I can't even believe.
[20:18] That well it's, you know,
I've just gotten used to it now, but because I, I know your training method or style or schedule is very different than mine, I do one week chunks, right, you do the 12 week course and what a, what an amazing schedule you've got,
but that one week training is, is definitely a challenge 40 hours on zoom.
So I think just as much as teaching as I'm doing, just staying current, you know, drupal 10 again, using the drupal example, drupal 10 launches in a couple, you know, a couple of weeks at the time of this recording and.
[20:55] You know, this is a significant amount of change in there and so,
updating materials, making sure, you know, all of the stuff and every trainer goes through that no matter what they're teaching, every trainer goes through unless you're teaching the same thing for the last 20 years, which hopefully you're not because man, that would be tough.
But yeah, I think staying current and making sure your current now on, on the other side of that. One of the most fun things for me in training is where I get asked questions. I don't know the answers to which happens every week.
You know, they'll people ask crazy questions and, and I, and I'm sure you're the same way you, you use that as a learning opportunity where you go and research the question right in front of them and come up with the answer and that's a lot of fun.
And then of course I jot it down for the next time. Like, like you do, I'm sure.
But you know, I think top challenges as far as being a trainer.
Um, I, I think honestly those, those are mine.
I, I think for any trainer, you've gotta keep up, you gotta watch your tech and again, I think goes back to what I said was one of the most important things keeping that appropriate level mindset, uh,
constantly watching that you're not, you know, just thrown out the jargon or, or boring people to death because because it's so beginner and you should have checked their.
[22:16] You know, expertise before you started type things right.
And you know, I don't think at least for me, not very surprisingly both both things that you mentioned, I could boil down to one word, which is preparation.
So I think again, if you are, you know, if you're sitting down with a couple of coworkers and you're getting them up to speed and using views contextual filters.
[22:40] You know, even if you are, you know, a views master and you know, you can,
you know, you know views contextual filters inside and out, I think to effectively, you know, teach that there's some preparation that that's necessary, I think, you know, just coming up with some, some good examples or maybe like a,
good like little mini exercise,
you know, making sure that that, that the people you're going to be teaching have like a clean local site or a clean personal site somewhere that they can,
that they can play with so that you don't sit down at the top of the hour and say, okay, we're going to use views contextual filters and then one of the students like give me a minute, let me get a site up and going exactly.
Yeah, yeah, I think that's a fantastic point and absolutely got to be top of the list preparation and just put the time in before and the, and the result will be, will be that much better.
Again, It doesn't matter if you're you rod and you're, you know, teaching a room full of people, you know, for 40 hours a week,
or if, you know, you've been asked by your boss to teach a co worker how to, you know, you know, get gulp up and running on their machine.
Exactly, Yep, yeah, we agree on that one.
[23:53] So we've touched on a lot of these already, but let's, you know, forget about all the work that the trainer has to do, let's put the onus on the student for a little bit,
if you're going to attend the training or you're gonna be part of a training or you're going to be the recipient of some knowledge in some way.
What, you know, what can students do to kind of prepare themselves to maximize, you know, their, their, their intake of the material?
Yeah, So I thought this was a great question and, and actually we've already hit on most of my answers.
Yeah. So one of the things I hear really often in training is that, oh, hey, I've seen all your Youtube videos or I watched this course on linkedin and, and I start, I'm starting to get that.
It's kind of funny. It's embarrassing. I start to blush every time, but.
[24:40] But people who come prepared by watching related material or,
trying to digest some related material come into training with a far better hope of having their expectations met and having their learning goals accomplished.
Um now it's not always necessary. Obviously, you know, like you said, if you're sitting down with a co worker teaching,
teaching something in drupal it's not always necessary that they come in and have watched 20 videos and read 10 articles, but certainly certainly come in with that if possible,
have some homework done ahead of time that's partly on the trainer to provide that homework if that's necessary as well.
I think the biggest thing I face again with with my training is calendar and distractions because we're on zoom.
I know people are tuning out, I know people are checking their email, I think as a, as a person who's receiving training, try and minimize the distractions, try and block out the calendar.
I know it's not always possible, but make sure you're coming into the training,
with as much distraction free and environment as possible because we're not in a room together as much anymore unless again, you're sitting down with a co worker at the same desk.
But even then people stopping by or you know, you've got your email client open and your chat client open.
[26:03] I did a training a little while ago where during one of the share screens where we were trying to help the person, uh,
Help the person, you know, through an issue 15 notifications from their chat message popped up while I'm, while I'm looking at their share screen and it's like, so how focused are you?
Right? So as much as possible, clear your calendar, turn off your distractions, whatever they may be and and really pay attention to the training, you're going to get more out of it for sure.
There are those lulls, of course, there are those lulls where you know, maybe you've accomplished a task and we're waiting on a few other people to finish it and certainly you could, you know, quickly zip off and check your email if that was, you know, something you needed to do,
but to leave it open all the time, that's going to be a training killer.
Another one I wrote down was sleep.
[26:56] Um, you know, which for software developers, that's, you know, that's, that's a mixed bag for sure.
You know, if you're in a company again, I had a training a little while ago where they were launching a website in the middle of training guys, come on you.
How on earth can you, can you not be distracted by that or not? Get enough sleep?
Where do you think the priority is going to be? Yeah, exactly. Right.
So, uh, and again, to get your own tech in order, pay attention to the instructions, head out, sent out ahead of time, make sure you're prepared when you come in and actually give some thought to the mindset, you bring to the training.
I think sometimes people come into training and they go and they haven't thought about it at all until they sit down and either walk in the room or open up their computer that morning.
And the more you can come with an open mind set, a prepared mind set, um, the more you're going to get out of it for sure.
So I think, you know, yeah, those would be my top five or six things to.
[28:00] To try and be prepared. Alright, cool. Let's um let's start wrapping this up a little bit with some really fun questions here.
So like what's your, in all of your years of, let's let's has always been software training when you were uh you first started, wasn't software related over the last 10 years, it's all been software.
So although I've been teaching at, you know, different university, I do uh I taught technology and education to people are going to be elementary school teachers, I've taught at theological institutions because that's what some of my degrees are in.
Um I've taught it. Uh yeah, introduction to Speech, you know, Speech One oh one kind of classes.
So I've always taught at the college or masters level since I graduated, but but in the last 10 years, all of the training, like we're talking about has been software related, primarily Wordpress, Shumilin drupal So.
[28:55] What's an anecdote that you like shared a dinner party when someone asks you about like, what you'd do and is it fulfilling?
And does it make you happy? Like what's kind of your go to little story that you share?
Well, it's kind of like, so if this was at a dinner party, I would say something along the lines of, I just love it when the lights go on above people's heads for something that they're interested in or need.
But a more specific story that I would probably share,
with a smaller group or one on one with somebody would be, there's been a few times like this, but one in particular where I got,
a follow up email after a class where the guy said, you just have no idea how much your training this week impacted me. It's changed my life.
And I went, what dude? It's it's software training. He said, no, you don't understand. My job was on the line.
I'm at a crossroads and this week literally has saved not only my job, but I feel like it's given me a new direction.
[29:58] And I think, you know, trainers who teach almost in any area probably have stories like that where somebody came along and they desperately needed you.
[30:08] And you know, it's just such a, it's such a fulfilling blessing to, to have that opportunity in people's lives.
You don't always hear those kind of stories, but when you do and when this person came back to me after the training and and he was just so genuine. It was, it was very encouraging.
Um and I get stories, you get stories like that every once in a while and people are complimentary of the things you put out there.
I did a, I did a quick engaged for Aqua in Miami a,
few weeks a couple months ago and one of the ladies in the class was saying something along those lines, just, I've watched all your videos, it's so cool to meet you and I'm blushing the whole time.
And I really, I do, I don't do well with that at all.
I really don't let me bring it back down to reality.
[30:56] Okay, worst anecdote. The worst. Okay, so I was doing a junior, I'll make this quick because I know we need to wrap up, I was doing in person training in Washington D. C.
And a lady started screaming at me 15 minutes in and I'm going like literally, she was crying hysterical screaming at me going, why aren't you teaching me what I came to learn.
This is 15 minutes in for heaven's sakes. So it turns out she was she was just not prepared.
She barely knew what html was, She barely knew what a browser was and she thought she was going to come in and be able to build a website by the end of the day And completely unrealistic expectations.
So I took her out of the room and we chatted for a few minutes and I gave that everybody else a quick assignment and I said come back at four,
I'm gonna give you some basics, I'm gonna give your money back because it was probably $2,000 she put into it, I'm going to give you your money back.
Um and and I'm going to just spend as much time as you want this afternoon, I'm going to tell you the basics.
So she stopped crying and like everybody in the room was like shocked and it was just one of those, right?
She came back and fortunately you know what we were able to work it through and help her out and we became friends for years, this is probably going back about six or seven years ago now.
And uh but yeah wow it was like what do I do?
[32:25] I haven't had anything that acute.
[32:29] It was it was dramatic like I've never seen anything like it. She was just so so gone.
But sweet lady, she was just in over her head.
So you know again I'm not crazy about that because it started off horribly but you know you ended up very nicely which I try I mean.
[32:50] I just don't have any horrendous, horrific stories, you know it goes back to you know experience and and being willing to help and I think most trainers are like that.
Uh I mean I've had fire drills where two people didn't come back again in Washington D. C. It must be in D. C. Thing.
We had a fire drill at 10 a.m. And two women from Arkansas didn't even come back.
They'd had enough of you, they were looking for a reason to get out, their computers were still in the room, they went shopping at Macy's next door so I had to go get them.
You too funny anyway. Alright, let's wrap this up. I got one final question for you. You ready? Yes sir.
Um as far as you know, are there enough people in the drupal community like you that play hockey ice hockey, that's for us to feel the squad.
[33:42] Do you know six people for us to feel what, sorry, what was that last part of the team will not feel to feel put together a team, you know what?
I honestly don't know I do play ice hockey twice a week I had two games last night because I know I know of two or three including you. Okay.
I know on my profile picture. drupal dot org.
I'm in my drupal eight hockey jersey that I wanted. drupal con L. A. That's my profile picture.
Yeah, for sure. I don't know. But boy, that would be fun. drupal Hockey league.
I'm guessing like the folks that digital echidna, they probably have a few, Right?
Because that's where they probably would from. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah, it did. I would imagine they have a few up there.
I know, I don't know if I'm not going to say his name, but I know someone uh from the southwest us who plays as well.
Well, I know we're going to Pittsburgh in 2023. We could probably rent the rink and go at least go ice skating.
We need a goalie, we got to find a goalie I think.
I don't play. First of all, I'll just be in the stands like, you know.
Yeah, well, Hey, at least you know, maybe not hockey, but maybe we just go ice skating, you know, I could help with that.
Well, thank you very much for your time sir. This has been fun.
[35:03] All right, thanks mike.