Flashback circa 2006 – Florida

It isn’t so much that I was a literary genius back when I was rambling on-live without focus,  before I knew it was called blogging.  But like any form of journal writing it is nice to see where you were, what ya thought and how those things looked back then.

This was one of the 4 week trips I took to Florida for work.  I usually am part of a team that will travel for 4-6 weeks to train a company we have purchased on the new software system and procedures for our company.  We spend 2 weeks training them one on one with the new software and then FLIP DA SWITCH “Go-Live” and support them for 2 weeks walking them through the actual application of all that training.  I remember this branch in Rockledge, Florida having a very positive attitude with a small crew of 5-6 to train.  One of  my New Hire training stories I use to this day, I experienced at this branch post Go-Live.

The Florida adventure:

It has been quite the LONG adventure to Florida for the last 7 weeks for work.  But the final outcome was more than I could have hoped for.  The branch I was working with had a fantastic Go-Live day and there was so many things that made that possible.  The great co-trainer I had, Katrina; the open to the important suggestions Branch Manager, Chris; and finally myself keeping enough checklists that I remembered to cover and recover almost EVERYTHING.  It was a great experience and I am truly blessed because the Branch Manager actually called my boss and asked me to stay an extra two weeks.  I didn’t end up staying, but I would have because this crew was such a good one to work with.

It was a long time away from my friends and psuedo family, but when I came home it was just as sweet.  The only down side was realizing I had left my own space in total chaos, so there is a lot of organizing and sorting to do.  Goodness I hope I get out from under all this mess soon.

So how am I doing… I think things are good.  I have at least four major work projects coming up and I am hoping and praying I don’t screw them up.  I am getting really good with my lists and lists.  I am trying to cut back on the caffeine, at least the mochas and the Dew.  Since my stay in Florida I am now drinking more water daily than I have most of my life.  I am gonna try to keep up the habit.  And I have pledged to be more thrifty in the next few months in an attempt to get a better handle on my finances.  I know its possible… just need to focus my attention.

Today’s Reflection: 

I have since sworn off Mochas in my daily life, am practicing a sugar-free life in my drinks (no more Mt. Dew), but I am back to struggling with the water.  For some reason I just can’t seem to get that part of my lifestyle into place.  I have DEFINITELY made progress on the financial front.  Come December of this year 2013, I will be FREE of my stupid Debt and only have my Student Loan (although HUGE) left to pay off.

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The New Way

Maybe it isn’t that I want to do things the wrong way, in complete rebellion of everything that has come before.  Maybe it is just a desire and want to find some thing new. 

I have been in my job for 8 years, so you can say that I have been here for a smidge of time.  When I arrived there were no printed training materials: training guides, quick reference guides, checklists, practice pages, or activities to assist with the technical software training my team does.  And even more surprisingly, no one was interested in creating them or even using them.  I can’t help but have flashbacks to the book “Telling Ain’t Training” in some of my initial debates and “discussions” I had with my co-workers.  So in my region I started to develop ALL of these things to be used in my new hire training.  It was based on a small sampling of training industry norms, but the rest was developed out of practice.  Watching a learner move through the process and seeing the things that hung them up, as well as the unforseen side effects of using some customers vs others; not to mention finding those PERFECT situations to demonstration real world situations. 

So fast forward 4 years and most of that trial and error is finished, and I am fairly proud of my materials that I have created and implemented.  No one else wants to use it, but I feel confident in its succesful application in my region.  I have had many of the immeasurable responses from my managers, employees, and support staff; so YES it worked.  But now I’m bored.  I find myself dreading the hiring of a new person in my region, because I have perfected this process so much it is the same thing EVERY TIME!!! I tell the same jokes, refer to the same stories, anticipate participants reactions (even when I cannot see them because we are training online), and have them experience the same learning patterns of the users.  But like I said, I am bored.  So I could rewrite them, or use different stories, new customers, but that’s a lot of work… why mess with perfection, RIGHT? 

Yet this reminds me of those itches I use to get when I would walk in my bedroom as a youth.  I was unsettled, discontented, restless with this unresolved angst I just couldn’t explain.  I didn’t have an option to change rooms, but I COULD rearrange my room, a little.  SO that is what I did: posters on the ceiling, shelves in a different corner, desk on a different wall, you name it I rearranged it.  This carried on into early adulthood in college, my first apartment, and beyond. And as soon as the EXHAUSTIVE rework was DONE, FINALLY… I would be at peace. At least for the next 6 months or so.  *wink, wink*

Many times the designs were not made according to the most efficient use of space, or the best way to keep things clean.  It was simply a matter of KNOWING it was different, new, unfamiliar.  It brought about a sense of accomplishment and pride for having an idea and bringing it to life.  And at times it resulted in me staring at something crooked for MONTHS asking myself WHY OH WHY did I put that there? 

So maybe that is how I see life.  I see the pathways that people have travelled before and I value and appreciate the effort and the experience they had in figuring it out.  But I want the thrill and excitement of blazing my own trail, of finding my own method, or discovering the do’s and don’ts along the path.  Is it because I like doing things wrong, or is it just because I like to experience something new?  Either way I am beginning to take comfort in the fact that just because I have a different way of doing something doesn’t mean its wrong, it just means its the way I wanted to go to get there.

The Amazing Christina – LA Edition

A group of circumstances completely fell into place last December that produced the need for me to go to Long Beach, California for some necessary on site training, which never happens.  The Regional Trainer for the LA area was out-of-town on a much-needed vacation and the Regional Sales Manager was having a meeting and practically demanding the presence of a trainer at this meeting.  As usual, I was all about the pick me Pick Me, PICK ME!!!

So with an amazing string of luck or blessing I was chosen. I do believe it had more to do with the price of my plane ticket instead of my stellar training skills.  It was a short trip pretty much 24 hr turn around.  The expected training time somewhere between 1-3 hours.  The Manager had provided a set of subjects that he wanted covered, but since most of these items had been trained already, I had to assume they didn’t want a formal training session of the basics.  The subjects I know very well and can even anticipate some of the questions and challenges they may have. 

What I didn’t anticipate was how much I would absolutely LOVE the experience.  It was a nervous wreck at first because I didn’t have a formal Powerpoint presentation and I didn’t know any of the people I was coming to train.  It was typical travel: arrive in the morning, rental car, and I arrive in the conference room and just sit and wait.  Enough time to sit and wait and let my nerves get to me. 

Once I got started with the basics, it lasted about 15 minutes.  The plan, the training, the intended topics, yes at 15 minutes into the presentation, I was smack dab into the middle of crossfire style questions on EVERYTHING.  From processes, to programs, to procedures, and internal branch communications.  It was an amazing rush and of all the questions that were tossed at me or near me for the next 3 hours, I only had 4 take away questions (things I couldn’t answer).  Mostly because I needed to do some testing and followup. 

In a room full of 15 men all master outside sales people with more focus on sales than on training, but there were questions and scenarios flying all afternoon.  I was the center of the room and the center of information all at the same time.  I felt like saying, Queen of the LAB in classic Bones style.  The manager thanked me and we discussed other options for training and situations.  The pricing team thanked me and I was able to connect with a group of people throughout the former corporate office of this acquired company. 

I was AWESOME and valuable and useful and the perfect trainer.  And I love the feeling of a new place, new car, new hotel, and new people.  Some how I had forgotten what it was like to travel and love what I do, even when there is a portion of not knowing EXACTLY what I will be doing.

The Amazing Christina – Trainer that is

Last year I was in a training conference of sorts with my entire team, plus 12 temporary trainers.  It was a week-long conference, where we planned some train the trainer sessions, soft skill presentations, and it seemed we were visited by every department imaginable for 1-2 hour blocks of time.  

We were reviewing a bunch of new material during one of our days in class.  There was a modification being made specifically to our software to allow users to enter specific and detailed information about commercial doors.  I promise I will not provide you with step by step detailed IT trainer description of the modification.  Besides I am sure that the software company will charge you a pricing deposit just to know this mod exists. 🙂  Thus learning the modification was not where Christina was amazing; although I am learning even now that the ability to learn something the first time through is pretty amazing.

The trainer who had been working on the pieces of this new mod was reviewing it with the whole room of 24 people.  Most of us had heard ABOUT this process, but this was the very first time we were SEEING it in the software screens and in actual action.  After showing us a series of 4 different processes, we asked a set of questions, I jotted down a couple of notes; and retired to the reclining posture of my chair.  You know the universal sign for I’m good, I got it, What’s next? 

As a group, we were all asked to log in and attempt to USE the process in pairs.  There were some glitches with this and because we couldn’t all use the same data we couldn’t do the EXACT same process at the same time; and it was obvious that this portion of the training was not thought out completely, but I still felt confident that I was prepared enough for training it.  The room was getting tense and our boss was getting frustrated so we moved on to another part of the seminar, since we were out of time. 

The next day we had a catch-all period of time (that time that all event planners leave open JUST IN CASE there is something that didn’t get covered or needs to be revisited).  When our boss speaks up and asks if everyone in the room feels comfortable training the door process?  Much as she expected everyone seemed to respond with No, not it, I don’t, I’m confused, I’m not sure kind of language.  Then in classic reversal of fortune she asks if anyone in the room is comfortable training the door process.  I look to my left and right there isn’t a single hand, but I was confident, that I have the process down because I didn’t get caught up in the details.  YES FOR ONCE I SAW THE FOREST AND NOT THE TREES.  I threw my hand in the air loud and proud. 

In almost disbelieving tone my boss says, “Alright Christina train the trainer (the guy who originally taught us) how to put in a commercial door sale in the system.”  I jumped out of my seat and walked to the front of the room.  Where I realized I didn’t have to go I could have done this from my seat.  (hee hee hee guess it’s that little inner stage actress that wants to leap onto stage at any chance she gets.)  I begin in classic Christina form, acting and being funny and creative and full of bologna ( you would think I would be better at the card game BS).  But I started with the Thank you for calling Our Company how can I help you today?  Which generated an ENORMOUS amount of laughter from the crowd.  Gotta know your audience, right?

And without missing a beat or a step just like Edge taught me in speech class, I did the best Impromptu speech of my career (well of my life at this job, in front of an audience, of my peers, with my boss, etc).  I guided him through exactly which buttons to push and what information to put in through a series of questions and praise statements.  I let him fill in the size, specs, details, and dimensions (as a real life user would know these things) and ALL I did was tell him which keys to push in order to get to the AREA on the computer screen to put in that information. 

When we were finished, I received an AMAZING applause from the room that seemed to fill my soul with such admiration and appreciation from my peers.  I even got a NICELY done Christina from my boss (gotta cherish those praise moments cuz they don’t happen often).  After my demonstration the whole room felt more confident about how to train this particular portion of the system.  It wasn’t about knowing ALL the specs if was about knowing how to guide the learner through the screens. 

The confidence that filled me was  this age-old belief I have, I can train anything to anyone – I don’t even have to understand it.  There are many a good debates I have been in on that subject (which will remain for another posting); but in my mind I KNEW what I KNEW about the system and which keys to push.  I KNEW how to navigate the structure of the process and I would then leverage the user’s knowledge of the details to complete the process.  Now don’t ask me what the door looks like or how it will hang in the frame or even it is hollow or solid because I just train the software folks, I don’t know what the stuff looks like out in the real world. 🙂