Focus on Trainers
Whether you are new to the CAD industry or you are a seasoned professional looking to expand your skill set, you will most likely seek out training of one sort of another. Of course, in order to learn something new, you have to have someone to learn from and that means you will be working with a trainer. But have you ever wondered how people move from the position of “student” to “trainer”? Perhaps you have even considered becoming a trainer yourself, but you are not sure where to begin.
In this Education and Training issue of AUGIWorld, we are going to look at the path some take to becoming trainers.
So you have decided that you want to become a trainer. You have a desire to share the benefits of your years of experience and help others along their paths to being CAD professionals. That is fantastic! But are you sure that you are not already a trainer?
Take a moment to assess your position and ask yourself these three questions:
- Do others in your office seek your help regularly?
- Are you asked to contribute to the most difficult production or design issues in your office?
- Do you enjoy the feeling you get when you see others succeed?
If you answered yes to these questions, then you are already a trainer! It isn’t a title that qualifies you to be a trainer. It isn’t even the technical and communication skills that qualify you to be a trainer. It is the act of sharing that makes you a trainer. Whenever you share a tip or a solution, regardless of how big or small, you are a trainer because “training” is sharing your knowledge. This simple fact means that there are many more trainers in the CAD world than we ever realized. Perhaps these folks do not even realize they are trainers. Though they may not be recognized as trainers, they are still vital to the growth and success of our industry. It just so happens that some of these everyday trainers choose to step out of a production role and become professional trainers specializing in helping others.
Making the Trainer
So what makes a trainer and who are these people before they became trainers? They are CAD professionals with some degree of experience and an ability to convey ideas to others. It might seem that everyone who is the “go to” or most productive person in their office is suited to become the trainer. This is a common misconception. While it is true that a good trainer should portray the confidence needed for others to ask questions and rely on the answers, there is more to it. Training, like any form of teaching, requires patience, skill, and specialized training for trainers. All of this is above the prerequisite of having a deep working knowledge of your topic and possessing the communication skills needed to get your knowledge out into the world.
Looking at these three requirements, patience has to be the most difficult to achieve because it is a matter of basic character, rather than obtained skill, that makes a person patient. That being said, as we mature we tend to become more patient. Some individuals have even “learned” to be patient through various practices. Still, if patience is an issue for you then perhaps now is not the time to focus on training. Give it time and patience will come to you. I guess that requires patience also …
Skill is both the hardest and the easiest of the requirements needed to be a good trainer. In one sense, skill is the hardest quality because it represents the sum knowledge of your years as a CAD professional. Every hard-earned tip and trick and every hour of repetition and practice come together to form your skill base only after hours and hours of practice. In some ways, skill is much like climbing a very tall ladder. It takes directed effort to reach the top. However, once you are at the top of the skill ladder you have those tools under your belt. You do not have to work very hard to keep them in shape, so in that sense skill is the easiest requirement.
Finally, there are specialized skills. These involve communication skills, as working with someone who wants to learn is different than someone who needs to produce. There are endless resources that share thoughts and methods of teaching and communicating, but there are some basic tenants shared by most.
I believe that the most important communication skill is the ability to remember what it is like to learn. This perspective gives the trainer the framework and ability to shape his or her lessons so they are appropriate for the trainee. Too often we, as trainers, suffer the “Curse of Knowledge” and take for granted that our trainees know the “little things” and gloss over this material impatiently. This can be a great disservice to anyone seeking training. Luckily, communications skills are something anyone can learn—with the proper training, of course.
While some trainers begin and spend their entire career involved with traditional, “in person” training sessions and events, others choose to branch out to the other avenues now available. These could include books, pre-recorded videos online or on DVD, or even website-based training tutorials and courses. Each of these venues offer differing benefits that a trainer can use to play to his strengths. For instance, a trainer who is very congenial may choose to specialize in live training sessions or in video-based training. Other trainers who are very technically oriented and perhaps a bit less social, may choose to publish their skills in book form where they can provide more detailed lessons without concerns about time. Just as there is a wide assortment of training available for every CAD professional with a specific learning type, there is a wide variety of avenues from which a trainer can choose from to convey his knowledge.
Once a trainer has decided which form of training is most suitable, he or she begins a new sort of production. While CAD professionals in a production setting work to develop and document designs, professional CAD trainers work to develop and document what they believe is useful content for their trainees. This can be done as a lone effort, but most often a trainer will associate with a book, DVD or web publisher, or professional training school to assist them. Not only can a publisher offer the trainer resources such as training frameworks and guides, they also offer distribution opportunities that the trainer may not otherwise have. From publishing books to scheduling classes in fully equipped labs, a good relationship with a publisher or school can provide much needed help to a trainer just starting out.
Trainers Can Stay Put
What’s that? You hope to become a trainer in the company that employs you now? Well, that is great because in-house trainers are very valuable assets for companies with large CAD staffs. Even small and medium-sized firms can benefit from having dedicated training staff on the payroll. These specialized employees work solely to train and support their coworkers and assist with any CAD-related issues that may arise.
While on-staff trainers are normally considered an overhead cost, this can be quickly offset by lightning-fast responses to CAD staff needs and speedy solutions to problems that arise. Considering the alternative of seeking outside assistance that can often be costly in time and money, on-staff trainers are a resource from which nearly every company can benefit.
We have taken a look at what it takes to be a trainer and some of the opportunities available to them. Now let’s take an in-depth look at one trainer and learn his first-hand perspective on training and being a trainer.
For this portion of this article I contacted a long-time friend and professional trainer, William Myers. William is the Course Development Manager with Global e-Training, a provider of asynchronous and synchronous online CAD training for Autodesk products. He holds certification in several Autodesk products, such as AutoCAD® and Autodesk® Revit®, and is an Autodesk Certified Instructor. So when I began to wonder who I could call and ask a list of interview questions, William was a natural choice.
Q. Please describe the circumstances that led you to become first a CAD professional and finally a professional CAD trainer.
A. I was at a crossroad in a previous stage of my life. I realized that I didn’t want to work in coveralls for the rest of my life, and that I wanted to design—or have an understanding of design software. I took a CAD Technician Course at (Autodesk ATC) Digital School in Edmonton, and my certifications are just a by-product of wanting to learn more and be better.
Q. What was it like to prepare for your first training session with a group of students? What were your goals and what fears did you have?
A. It was terrifying! My perception was, “I am not an engineer or an architect—I’m just a software guy,” but I realized that this was my strength and I gleaned confidence from that.
I also had been developing courseware for Digital School with our sister company, Global eTraining, and so I found that I had a wealth of resources to work with.
Q. Was that first training class a success?
A. It was. That first night class for AutoCAD produced a group of very satisfied and competent CAD users. It also turned into an opportunity to teach at Digital School—first with AutoCAD, then Revit Architecture, and most recently with Autodesk Inventor®.
Q. What is the process to become an Autodesk Certified Instructor?
A. The process began, for me, by being invited to observe an ACI conference. It was a great opportunity to learn without being “in the hot seat.” I came back from that experience really excited about going through the certification myself.
After enrolling and doing some pre-work for the conference, I took part as a candidate in the ACI event that Digital School held last year.
The event consisted of three 45-minute sessions, where the candidates instruct on a subject from the Standards resource for the course. In our case it was for Revit Architecture. After each session we were critiqued by the ACEs (Autodesk Certified Evaluators) and our cohort. I was certified shortly thereafter. I’ve now cross-certified as an ACI for Inventor and AutoCAD.
Q. Do you feel that obtaining an Autodesk certification is a worthwhile endeavor for your students?
A. Without question. Every day I work with bright and talented people from all over the world who want to learn CAD or BIM software because they cannot be licensed for their profession in Canada. To me, that certification is a global currency and is recognition of value that crosses borders.
Q. What industries do your students come from? Have you noticed any trends in the topics for which your students seek training?
A. Again, I work with and train architects, engineers, and tradespeople from all over the world who came to Alberta for a better life. They want a foot in the door, and a change to work in their profession.
I also train people who, like myself, want to better their own lives and find a year at Digital School a perfect balance between the need for skills training and the time and cost of obtaining that training.
Q. Approximately how many students do you train annually?
A. About 100. We have four terms per year and our class sizes average about 25 per term.
Q. Would you say that you have one personality trait that, more than any other, drives you to be a professional trainer?
A. Being a teacher—of anything—is the best way to continue to learn something. I love to teach because I love to learn. It is my best chance at the moment to work with design software in a meaningful way.
Q. What are your goals for the future?
A. I want to get another Certification!! I also want to keep getting better with the software that I am certified in.
Q. What advice do you have for our readers who would like to become professional trainers or just share their knowledge with others?
A. Take pride in being able to communicate knowledge. Take pride in your students’ successes. They aren’t your successes—but you are part of theirs. In my mind, that’s golden.
Being a trainer can be a rewarding and fulfilling career choice, but it requires dedication, patience, and determination. For these reasons, as well as others, becoming a trainer is not necessarily the right path for every CAD professional. This fact is evident in the amazingly small proportion of professional trainers to CAD professionals that one encounters in our various specialized industries.
Fortunately though, there are plenty of opportunities for those who feel that training is the right path for them. Whether you are a 30-year veteran or you are just starting out as a CAD professional, there is a path to becoming a trainer. All of the necessary skills and lessons you need are available to you, if you care to look for them. Perhaps you can even be lucky enough to have someone who already is an experienced professional trainer help you on your way to becoming a trainer. That’s right—there are even trainers who train trainers! When you realize that, is there any reason for anyone who wants to be a trainer to not be one?
I don’t think so, either.