Why, oh why, did I agree to this…

This trip started out on the wrong foot, to be sure.
Unlike other trips, since I’m covering for another department, I get the luxury of a day travel both ways. This left me with quite a bit idle time prior to hitting the airport, something I’m not used to but ended up being a good thing considering how much trouble I was having getting my wits. The starting gun for this fiasco was “braining” myself on the medicine cabinet. After that, it was all downhill.
For the first time in as long as I can remember, my terminal changed at DFW airport twenty minutes prior to boarding. DFW airport is roughly the size of Rhode Island, so a terminal change here can seem as bad as switching to another airport altogether. Lucky for me, I’ve left my admirals club to lapse (Upgrades are better than cheaper booze) and I’m not drinking anyhow so instead of being surprised after being ensconced in bar, I caught the crisis as it happened. This was followed by a misfire by the gate staff as they called boarding right after carting a handicapped grandma down the jetway. So there was severe traffic congestion as they dealt with getting grandma to her seat.
Now I’m not against old-timers. I’m rapidly becoming one myself. However, if you know you’re going to have to deal with an elderly woman getting to her seat, don’t open the gates for first class and road warriors. Two groups notorious for lacking patience.
So after a mercifully short flight, I find myself in Denver Colorado again. Seems like the last few years I’ve been here three or four times per year, which is unfortunate and will be the subject of a wrap up blog later. Suffices to say after all those trips, and my previous two week stay last month, I’ve long passed any tourist style interests and now inhabit my hotel room, hermit-like, leaving only to work and eat. Honestly to me Denver seems like Plano, only lacking character, oxygen to breathe, and good weather.
The locals assured me the last few times it snowed that this is unusual and the deep secret of Denver was they have good weather. Uh-huh. It’s snowed nearly every day thus far.
Some background is probably in order. I am a technical trainer, this is why I travel. I hold classes in probably one of the best unified messaging products there is on the market today and in order to install and service this software, like anything else in IT, you need a certification. That’s where I come in. Techs can normally view lesson content that I’ve created on the web, however for groups and large corporations it’s often a better deal to have the classes live. “The Pat Show” if you will.
Our product sits squarely between the IT and Telecom world. This has been a world in flux for years as IT takes over the telecom duties from ether the dedicated staff or the office manager types that had been performing this function in the past. They are two entirely different types of people, and they collide in my humble classroom.
The average telecom technician in my class is in his fifties (and it will be a “he”). Deals mostly with proprietary systems provided with copious documentation and “hand-holding” style training. He’s worked his way up from installing wire and hardware and doesn’t use a PC for much other than work. These guys are easily agitated, as their world is changing. The telecom world is set up for a tech to call technical support if they have issues, which is often the first thing they do. Usually if I get a phone call, it’ll be one of these guys.
The average IT guy in my class is late twenties to thirties, and can be either male or female. They are immersed in technology, used to finding solutions on their own (self-motivated), and more than likely go home from work and do the same thing they do at work mostly – only on their own stuff.
The telecom guys will be the first to tell you that it’s easier to teach them data than to teach an IT guy Telecom. At one point in my life, being a telecom guy, I would have agreed. Now, I can say for certain that this is most assuredly not so. The IT guys figure our stuff out way faster than the telecom guys.
Mixing these guys in class is like merging the classroom in “dead poets society” with the classroom from “ferrus bueller’s day off”.
This week however, I’m having classes for end-users (in how to use the product), something I generally avoid. The reason is simple; It is generally a complete waste of time, and as such is used primarily by a project team as a CYA function. Shuts down the nay-sayers can complainers- “tough shit, you were trained, you should have piped up then”.
At it’s most basic level, Unified Messaging is simply voice-mail. Voice mail has been around forever. We go through the “setting up the mailbox” drill every time we switch cell phone providers and every time there is a tutorial leading you through the process. Our product is designed such that it can replace a legacy (aka old and obsolete) system with little or no training. Once you go through the tutorial (in other words, do what the lady says), then it’s identical to what you had more or less. We simply add on all the cool stuff like your voice-mail reading your emails or your voice-mails showing up in your in-box or blackberry.


Most of the people that show up for these classes are well familiar with voicemail. Many have a blackberry. They read the handouts, and learn pretty much everything they need to know in the first minute. So as I talk I can see the three reactions to the hour and a half lecture:
  1. Too many carbs. Asleep sitting straight up.
  2. Polite attention, fixed smile or grimace. Don’t ask questions, we’ll get out faster.
  3. Complete inattention. Diddling with blackberry, muttering with pals.

So I’ve done my corporal work of mercy for my pals in pro services and am readying to flee. One bright side is I was told that it was pretty good that I kept their attention for over an hour. Typically they would get up and leave. So I have that going for me.

Next: A non tourist view of Denver.