Some days ago I tweeted about that when you are trying to master a topic, you should both find different sources to learn from, as well as different mediums, such as reading, listening, watching videos, but also not to forget labbing. I also wrote that teaching someone else is a great way of learning and retaining information yourself. You might be familiar with the saying that “You remember 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, 80% of what we personally experience, and 95% of what we teach others”. How truthful this statement is, is up for debate, but I think we can all agree that you will recall more of what you have learned if you are teaching the topic to someone, as opposed to just reading about something.
How do you find a place to teach, though?
Thankfully, there are a lot of options today to teach, even some that may not seem obvious at first. Let’s go through a few of them.
Blogging – As you’re reading this blog, hopefully you are learning something. It may not seem like teaching, considering that it’s not a realtime event, but it is a form of teaching nonetheless. When writing a blog, before posting, there will be research, collecting thoughts, perhaps asking someone for input on something, and then you will start writing. This is a creative process where you have to think, and considering that it’s up for public viewing, you will want it to be as accurate as possible. That means that blogging is a nice way of teaching and also having your notes where you can find them. I stumble upon my blogs myself every now and then.
Youtube – I’m not the biggest fan of Youtube for various reasons, but there’s no denying that it can be a good source of information when it comes to IT training. You could record videos where you are explaining a topic, doing a demonstration in a lab, or something similar. Forget about how many views you have. Someone will find it useful and you will guaranteed learn a lot from the process.
Streaming – It’s also possible to do streaming. There are different platforms such as Twitch where one can live stream an event. This might seem like a lot of pressure, but the thing with streaming is that it’s supposed to be an interactive event where you call things as you see them. It’s not staged, and things will happen. Maybe someone viewing helps you get past a problem you have been struggling with? There are for example people studying for the CCIE that have streamed in this fashion.
Study groups – Study groups is another great way of learning and a place where there is room for teaching. For example, when studying for the CCDE, me and my friends would prepare different topics that we would lecture on. When preparing material for someone else, you go through that creative process that I mentioned before, and that really does a lot for your understanding of a topic.
User groups – With a pandemic it’s difficult to meet in person, but there are many user groups out there that you can use to both listen and lecture. These events are virtual for now, but can hopefully start opening up when the situation improves. A user group is a great way of meeting people with the same interests as you, learn from them, but also to have the opportunity to lecture when you feel ready.
Forums – Forums is another great way of both learning and lecturing. For example, I’ve been involved with the Cisco Learning Network for many years answering questions on different technical topicsl and giving people advice on how to study. A forum post can be very simple and short, or it could be something longer and deeply technical. You may not think you are lecturing, but you are. People will really appreciate if you can help them with questions that they have.
These are just some of the things you can do, and if you work in an enterprise, there are even more things, depending on size, of course. If you are the only person in IT, you might not have many people to speak to, but in larger organizations, or working for a VAR or similar, there will be many opportunities for lecturing. I will list a few of them below.
Lunch and Learn – Not the best option in a pandemic, unless you go virtual, but having lunch together with your colleagues while lecturing and discussing a topic can be a great way of learning in a not so formal fashion. Make sure your boss pays for lunch, though!
Present to your team – At Conscia, I run one of our virtual teams where we once every quarter get together to have people talk about different projects they have been working on, a technical topic, or updating about new platforms, software, etc. This is a great opportunity to do some lecturing. Maybe you want to start out slow and talk about a new platform rather than a deep dive in MPLS, and that’s perfectly OK.
Present to other teams – You could also present to other teams to give them insight into what you have been working on. This will help in many ways such as others feeling more informed, creating better working environment between the teams, as well as giving you time to do lecturing. It doesn’t have to be something super technical, either.
One of the scary things about lecturing is that you are afraid you won’t be good at it, that it won’t be appreciated, or that you will say something that isn’t correct. No one is great at something the first time they do it. When you think of someone like Wayne Gretzky or Michael Jordan, do you remember the shots they missed, or the ones that hit the net? Truth is, they probably missed more than anyone, but they also scored more than anyone, because they were willing to take those shots. You have to get into that mindset as well. Maybe you won’t be great the first couple of times. Does that really matter? You will get better as you get more experience and you can really reshape and evolve. The people that are most vocal about something, are often the same people that aren’t willing to take that shot themselves. Keep that in mind!
I hope you find a place where you feel comfortable lecturing and I guarantee you that it will be helpful both for you and anyone participating.