“The expert in anything was once a beginner.”
In taking the plunge from teaching to training, one would think the distance would not be that far. After all, they are quite similar. Teachers train the minds of their students. In academia, training is a great skill to have. It incorporates a variety of professional skills and competencies that are invaluable for personal and career development. Still, the leap from teaching to training presented an interesting challenge.
For any substantial growth, both professional or personal, it is always important to take challenges head on and engage in new opportunities that help realize potential. Moving to Shanghai had kickstarted my growth and I knew to continue on my road of develop. This meant doing things that made me uncomfortable. So, I intended to take advantage of the growth opportunity by creating my first training session– even though I was terrified. As an online teacher at my company then, I was in the unique position of being able to present in-center trainings at our office. The trainings would be delivered on topics of interests in regards to knowledge areas, interpersonal skills, and other professional, related topics.
Now I must admit that with all the advantages of training, I was not too keen on doing this new thing. I was tentative for a few reasons. First and foremost, I was and am an introvert and being in front of more than one person causes me great anxiety. Secondly, I was a teacher and I taught children. Speaking with children is completely different than adults. There was also the task of selecting a training topic that I needed to be confident in delivering.
These three items could be easily surmounted if not for the final inhibitors—fear and doubt. Public speaking terrified me, despite being a teacher (I spoke everyday), and I doubted that whatever I would say would be received. While I could have let these excuses hold me in a place of fear and stagnatism, I had to remember that I moved halfway across the world… by myself. I knew no one, could not speak Mandarin and had no sense of direction but somehow made it to work everyday; so, I could speak to a room of my peers for an hour. It was decided.
My first training session was delivered on project leading. This topic was perfect for my department with our number academic project focuses, and I could also deliver this session with a level certainty being an MBA Project Management student at the time (Now, I have graduated. Yay!). The business unit has a detailed process for organizing training sessions that actually incorporates the five project management processes of initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. As a near obsessive planner, a lot of time was spent in the planning process.
For this session, I was thrilled to team up with a fellow teacher at the time, Justin. It is always nice to have partner and Justin is great person to work with. When we started, we initially struggled with condensing the material to give the meat of what project leading is and how to relate it. Our major task was combining theory and practice. After we put pen to paper, we started this wonderful play of ideas that meshed well together. We focused on the main concepts for discussion and application through a case study on the Titanic.
After a great amount of time and planning, training day came. The training took place over two days, with one day taken by either of us. We tailored each day’s presentation to our personal style, so the only similarities were the information given. On my day, I think I might have had three cups of coffee before the starting time. Interestingly, coffee settles my nerves, so when the time came, I had it on the podium as an unnecessary crutch. I barely even used my notes that intricately detailed flow, transition phases, word-for-word instructions, and activities.
Did the session go exactly according to plan? No. Plans usually don’t, which is to be expected. The key is not to let them see you sweat. While executing the session, different stages had to be adapted, but the training session went the way it was intended. There were thoughtful questions, discussion, and even post-training follow-up. My manager, who also attended and monitored this session, gave insightful back.
After it was all said in done, it surprisingly went better than I thought it would—and I didn’t pass out, so that was good in my book. It was wonderful to see people walk away from the session with key takeaways. One of the most important aspects of project leading that relates to training and teaching is lesson learned. Now that I had delivered the session, the work was only just beginning. I realized how connected training and teaching are. Throughout preparing and conducting the training session, I had to rely on my skills as a teacher, refine others and break out new ones. Continuing to proactively propel my growth in this way could only do well for the future.
Do I still have reservations about training? Yes, but I am no longer hesitant to take on another one should the opportunity arise (by the time of writing, I have already completed three more) and am more open to facing tasks that put me outside of my comfort zone.