Learnings from My Journey as a Professional Trainer
Published on : Monday 03-05-2021
Rajalakshmi Hegde narrates how the experiences accumulated during her training days have enhanced the journey.
Every job we do has its own value. When I received an engineering degree, I was imagining myself working on machines and in industrial environments. R&D centres attracted me because I was a Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics.
Teaching or training was never on my mind. It also did not ignite too much interest in me and was not on my radar of things to do. In the 90s, the job market was only booming for Y2K projects, but I preferred the industrial environment. Thus, I started my journey of looking for a job where I could work on machines.
We did not have too many choices and I took up the first job that stated Industrial Automation and happened to include the job of a trainer.
Today I would like to share with you my experience as a trainer and few learnings, which have given me an edge as I went up the ladder.
Attention to detail
As an application engineer, my main job was to automate machines, but as a part of the job, the engineers also imparted training to clients. This came as a shock to me as I was least prepared to stand and talk in front of customers who were way more senior than me. Not just that, it also meant I had to know the topics thoroughly before teaching. Being a junior who was very new to the industry a big question in front of me was, how can I learn all the topics in automation?
Thus began the journey of a trainer in me. I keenly observed my trainers who gave me around three days of training. At the end of the day, I would note key points that I learnt during the day, not just technically but also from the point of view of training others. Topics that were planned and conducted and the sequence of topics, theory and practice and so on. Three days was too little to get an idea of how to conduct training. In those days, you would be given several manuals to read and understand by yourself. Training meant learning on the job. I realised after a week of reading several manuals, you cannot cover all the topics on your own. What I understood is, you need to learn by sharing experience and learning from others. So, I finished my task of the day and then would check with a few senior engineers if I could see what they were doing and learn from them.
Learning and then implementing those learnings in the job was important. It was also important to go into the details. Let me take an example. In case I have to start up a functional hardware module, like a temperature module, I would need to know what type of sensors are connected to the module, how they are wired, grounding principles, can you check the module without a sensor connected, the data type of the variables, where the temperature values are stored, what kind of scale is required, how the PID works, how it needs to be configured, the list goes on. All these details and more are prerequisite when training others so they could learn the correct implementation of these in the industrial environment.
Being organised is being in control
It was very important to have a practical on the job experience to train. Practice meant working on a few machines, commissioning machines, or supporting a breakdown and getting the machine up and running. It meant balancing my time between site visits and training. It meant a lot of background activities. Though many think training is the easiest of all jobs that is not the case. It takes a lot of experience, understanding the subject, increasing your knowledge, planning the topics to be covered in the given amount of time and quoting actual machine examples and providing real-life case studies. How to make the training interesting also needs a lot of preparation. Then there are organisational points you need to consider. I would dedicate a few hours to a few days in detailed scheduling and organising of the training as this was the key. Though I was very sceptical of being a trainer in the beginning, this process helped me easily transit from my college life to professional life, helping me be more disciplined and more organised. Not just on the job but also on the personal front too.
Preparation helps build confidence
I did mention earlier one of my biggest worries was to stand in front of seasoned leaders, experienced maintenance personnel who understood the automation system much more than I did. There was an expert programmer who was way more confident in the programming languages than I was, and a mechanical design expert who knew synchronisation of mechanical axis much better than I did. Therefore, before every batch of training, I would get to know my participants a little more, understand their needs and then plan their training accordingly. This meant preparing for customised training modules.
If you asked me, “Did you feel nervous?”, and if I answer with a no, I would be lying. I was very nervous, but I would stand there with my preparation, my knowledge and conduct my training. The preparation did a world of difference to my confidence in facing the trainees and answer their questions diligently, and in a matter of few hours projected to my audience, helping them do hands-on training after the theory sessions helped build their confidence as well, and in turn I would learn something new from them in return after every session.
Training is learning
After having learnt the theory, when each one was given a task to be solved, every trainee would have a unique way of solving the same problem. This would help me learn various solutions, the possibility of arriving at a solution multiplied by several attendees. That's the extent of knowledge you gain during training. Also, you discuss problems about their machines, these are real life examples to which attendees look for solutions during the training. You understand, learn and provide the solution then and there or later but you learn a lot. Not all problems can be envisaged when you start training, but after a few training sessions you would have faced several problems and found their solutions. This leads to immense learning. This learning is not just technical, but also sharpens your other skills like creating powerful presentations, public speaking, communication with professionals, networking and etiquettes, to list a few.
Upskilling is important
You had to be updated with the latest product launches and be ready with the training module as soon as it is released. You either have to study them yourself or you co-learn with a colleague who is using the latest product in one of his/her applications. This helps build an understanding with your colleagues and you can do part of the work and help them speed up the process of application development.
There you are, updated and fully ready to train, and you also happened to make friends within the organisation in the process.
Today after over two decades of starting my career as a trainer, I can say I am proud of having equipped over thousands of colleagues from my generation or younger generation with the knowledge and skills to help them kick off their careers. Having networked with many professionals with whom I am still connected with and sharing experiences with all also makes me quite happy to have entered this field and the experiences that I have accumulated during the training days have played a great role in enhancing my journey in the automation world.
Rajalakshmi Hegde is Strategic Account Manager – Global EU’s at B&R Industrial Automation, A keen learner and ready to explore new challenges at work. Serving customers with solution based and value-added services is my key focus area. Two and a half decades of career experience in Industrial Automation. Have trained several engineers in the field of Industrial Automation within company and educational institutes. Networking, relationship building, Team and project management are key elements on my personal career journey.