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Training - Learning or Torture?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

/ by Srikanth Eswaran

The title is a little hint of what debate is to follow. Is training going to put into your head what you could not acquire so far in life as knowledge? Or is it a necessary procedure only to learn new topics? Can we get trained again and again on the same topics yet learn something differently each time? Lets talk it out a bit….

When we got recruited into a large services oriented MNC in India for the first time after graduation, we were pushed into a world which required guts to survive. The expectation and responsibilities in a service organisation are considerably higher than a product based company. The reason is straightforward - faster knowledge acquisition, better hands on experiences, leads to more efficient output and hence directly contributes to more earnings for a company. So to achieve all this the company trains its people sometimes rigorously enought to shackle the limits of the individual. When we joined in, training was more of a challenge to overcome rather than a session to acquire knowledge out of.

Our final employment depended on how we performed in the training ordeal. I say ordeal simply because of the logistics involved in that program. 36 of us were bundled into one conference room with 18 PCs, one each for two of us. The schedule began at 7:45am (which means we had to leave our homes even as early as 6:45am) and went on upto 7:45pm - a full 12 hours per day. It included the weekends as well most times, and continued this way for two months - a full 60 days. If you calculate the logistics in number of hours put in it comes to 700+ hours on knowledge acquisition which is a record in itself.

We had all sorts of topics covered right from C, C++ all the way upto even hardware diagnostics and real time operating systems. At times even aerospace engineering and a bit of mechanical engineering, mathematics, forumlae, theorems, DSPs, and what not! Perhaps in my entire career of four years before, I had not been exposed to so much in so little a time. So was this a learning or a torture? Well the question itself has many answers depending on the type of learner in question.

There are two types of learners - one who learn in a training room, another who learns outside it. I was of the latter category and hence found this training to be a bit of torture. However since I was leading this training from a trainee perspective, I found this to be more of a business challenge to horde a group of 36 people to listen to me and my organisational skills. So do all of them get to learn what they intended to in a training? Not really. Trainings prepare you for better challenges, they don’t make you a super hero in terms of knowledge.

A real life problem is still a real life problem. But we can always relate to the knowledge gained at a training and perhaps appreciate having got trained when we are sitting with a situation to deal with at this moment. So having said this, I think I have personally seen more challenges in actual situations than gained anything out of that early age training that I underwent. Also training a person on a subject makes more sense after a person has sufficient experience on the job to appreciate the training better. The quality of the training itself becomes better if the trainee is able to ask specific doubts on the subject (which he already knows about). It needless to say also improves the quality and personality of the trainer himself too.

A case in point is that after eight long years in the industry I am able to better appreciate a set top box processor chip, at this point after having known all about its applications so far. So when I am trained on processor fundamentals at this stage, its easy to relate to what you already know beforehand of attending this training. The bottom line is this: Bite as much as you can chew, else it becomes an overload on your processor! Attend trainings for englightenment about a subject not just for the sake of it! And always ensure trainings are of optimal hours to ensure better efficiency and alertness during the session. After all we are all humans and have limits! Work within the limits to achieve the best.

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