Recently the subject of training has come up in the context of some work discussions. Training in relation to an extensive software product like Capital has quite a few facets. For example there is the distinction between knowing the technical details (which buttons to press, which places to look at to make the programs do what you came to them to make them do) and then there is the other matter, not quite so straightforward, of mapping that familiarity into how it works in your company’s business processes.
Mastering the basics, then the detail of the application, that level of proficiency is necessary to move on to planning a deployment if you are taking the lead. Enhanced expertise becomes a baseline from which you move on.
There’s need for a still deeper knowledge built on what you have got to know, to relate the things you do to get the job done, to the right way to do the job and know that for your company, that’s the best and most efficient way. This puts your mastery of the pieces of the software into a context where you are really making it work to the best possible degree for your organization.
My colleagues have devised and deliver training courses which equip customers extremely well to understand the user interface, the nuances of the software suite. I know partly because occasionally over the last few years I have been a guest trainer. In fact if I think back a few years I can recall a teeny tiny bit of contribution to the Capital H training manuals from me. Hardly worth mentioning apart from making the point I understand what patience and professionalism goes into this work.
I am impressed too that a large body of knowledge is imparted in a reasonable time, in a fashion which maintains the student’s interest and these training courses keep pace with the major new features which come into the latest releases. Here’s something which I unhesitatingly recommend to new customers. Take all the training. You will learn some things which you won’t ultimately use. That will be your informed choice. Take it all. You will have the knowledge that your decision not to use a particular way of processing data in favor of an alternative is sound.
Here are some advantages to going on a training course:
1) 100% of the time you can focus 100% of your attention to learning. This is of course much easier if you go to one of the Mentor training facilities. No chance of the boss encouraging you to “just take a look at that issue if you get a minute over lunch.” Well, less chance I suppose.
2) The investment in time is repaid to you and your company by your sharpness and effectiveness and the boss is hardly likely to be thinking she’s going to de-layer your post or disband your role now is she? Quite the opposite, you are being trained because show the qualities your employer wants to grow and develop. Lucky you.
3) You get to take away the training materials and put them somewhere on your desk, your cubicle or in your office, and if you are smart you are going to open it and look at it every now and then to re-familiarize yourself with one or two things.
4) You get to meet one or more really nice Mentor Graphics employees, steeped, marinaded, soaked and pickled in knowledge of the Capital application. You have almost a 100% certainty that the Educational Services division of Mentor Graphics is assigning a person who has actually written the very Capital course material being delivered on the training course. Or occasionally it will be someone “borrowed” from the Customer Support division who is immersed in the application and it is my belief that those people actually know the software probably the best of all.
4) You get to attend a training course with a small group of other students. The trainee to trainer ratio is very favorable to learning.
The way it typically goes is that the early adopters of a new customer are responsible for designing a new processs using the new tool, and you can never know too much, you can never be too curious, too expert when you are scouting the landscape with plenty following you close behind. Because it is not necessary just to get up to a competence so that you can run some of your own data through your installation a few times when you finish the training course and go back to your desk. You have to be able to understand the implications, such that you can make choices which will stick for a few years.
Later students in an adoption of Capital in electrical distribution systems design and harness engineering stand on the shoulders of the pioneers. They may go to fewer classes, or may be attending training organized in-house which is tailored specifically to the needs summarized “just tell me how to get the job done.”
Then there are decisions to be made if you are one of the lead-off group. How does this knowledge fit into the way I want my design process to be reflected in the tool usage? How is what I have learned going to be turned into the most efficient way of using this functionality? You go from a general understanding of the application to how it specifically is going to be implemented.
What about the future? Mentor offers plenty of online classes. Not for the Capital products just yet though. At Capital 2008.2 this year the Capital Academy was introduced from where test drives and video runs-through of aspects of the software can be accessed, together with quick direct links to the knowledge bases known as Supportnet and something I have previously been enthusiastic about in this blog - the Mentor Community for Cabling and Harness http://communities.mentor.com/mgcx/community/harness/
Training is like insurance. The cost of having it is known, the cost of not having it is never apparent until something bad happens. The difference is that application training has a chance of preventing the bad thing happening. Insurance only reimburses you after the bad thing happens.
And remember, if you don’t use your knowledge it slowly decays. Capital is a feature-rich system and there is probably something new you can learn every week. What’s to lose? Well, keep it fresh, practice and keep sharp even if you have no production imperative straight away. You wouldn’t go to a business meeting without preparation - using Capital lasts a little bit longer than a business meeting.
You can never know too much.
For no apparent reason other than providing some color here are some pictures of me learning about art in the Hirschorn Museum in Washington DC during a recent trip. Everybody should learn a new thing or two every now and then. The first one might have been inspired by multicore wire multicolors. The second picture is another one for the Capital H collection - but I didn’t see a Capital logo cut into the south lawn of the residence of the Presidents.