PowerBuilder: Article

Maximize Your Sybase Training

Maximize Your Sybase Training

Black & White, the year's hottest PC game, allows you to play a deity. Whether you become an evil or benevolent one depends on your attitude, actions, other people, and your current environment.

In the beginning, it's easy to start out with every intention of being "good," but, by the end of the game, you can wind up being a veritable Darth Vader.

Corporate computer training can be like that. As an instructor I see training from many viewpoints on a daily basis. Over time, you see what works and, unfortunately, what doesn't. Since time and training dollars are precious and few, you want the best return on your investment. You want to maximize your training. Avoiding the Pitfalls
Training, unfortunately, is not always a great experience. Often, every turn on the road to "training success" reveals another obstacle. You can fill in some of those "potholes" by avoiding these common reasons for failure:

  • Student attended the wrong class: The student's skills or objectives were a mismatch with what the course offered.

  • Student didn't meet the prerequisites: Sending someone who's used Power- Builder to an EAServer class for a month is an example. He or she has limited NVO or datastore expertise. Within a few chapters, the student is overwhelmed.

  • Classroom climate: Disruptive students do attend classes.

  • Bad intent: Instead of learning new skills, the student came to get solutions to his or her application problems. If solved, the class was a success, if not, a failure. For example, a student brings SQL queries from work and asks the instructor if they're right. Short of verifying the syntax, the instructor can't tell without knowing configuration settings and seeing the schema.

  • Novice instructor: You may get a new instructor or one new to teaching that particular class. Instructors attend the course twice as students, spend a week on the setups, labs, and materials, and then coteach with a seasoned instructor before they're allowed to teach the course alone. Those first few times might be a little bumpy. Another possibility could be the instructor's delivery or personality. People issues do occur.

  • The course material: Sybase endeavors to keep materials and courses in accord with current trends and needs, but the update process always moves slower than the needs.

  • Bad location, lodging, and travel: Fear of flying or spending time away from home can easily distract a student. Add in substandard lodging, airline delays, etc., and you have a distracted student.

  • Negative attitude: I've actually heard students say, "I don't want to be here" or "I don't know why I am here" during the introductions. A positive attitude and a willingness to learn go a long way.

  • Attendance: Some students are one-to-three hours late every day, leave early for a work issue, come back from lunch and breaks late, or receive phone calls that force them to miss valuable instruction.

    Improving the Odds for Success
    High rollers in Vegas are always looking for new ways to increase their odds or at least decrease the house's. Here's how you can increase your odds:

  • Select the right class: Sybase Education has an extensive Web site, www.sybase.com/education, where you can view suggested course tracks, curriculums, computer-based training (CBT), online courses, passport information, and the new ProPass. Course catalogs list when and where courses are. Contact Sybase Education for further clarification on what the course offers. Area education managers schedule the classes and manage the instructors. Knowing who your AEM is can be beneficial, especially for training satisfaction issues.

  • Ensure the student is ready to be trained: Does the student meet the course prerequisites? If not, sending him or her to class could be a disservice. Sybase courses last only one-to-five days. Many are notorious for needing every available class minute. This does not leave time for students to cram knowledge they were supposed to have prior to class. Not as critical, but important: Is the student having personal problems? Having additional issues can wreak havoc on a student's ability to perform at his or her peak level.

  • Create a conducive work environment: Make sure the student immediately uses the skills learned. Unfortunately, I see quite a few "return" students - and not because they like me.

    Does this sound familiar? You came back from class and didn't use a lick of what you learned. Six months have passed and now you're finally going to use the information, yet it's been so long that you forgot it. Voila'! Back to class to relearn what you learned six months ago. Sybase and I thank you, but it can quickly drain your training budget.

  • Establish a mentoring program: Make use of the experience and knowledge of your veteran developers. Assign every junior developer to a mentor. When a student returns from class, they should meet with the mentor. Together, they should review the course, concepts covered, the labs, and solutions.

    This works well on many levels. Students get to reinforce what they learned and the mentor might pick up something new. Afterward, the mentor and student should agree on a training plan. Once students are able, have them teach others and work their way up the mentoring "ladder." The best way to learn something is to teach it to others. Questions you never considered and views from different angles from a student force you to think through your answers. By the way, it's not as easy as you think.

  • Enforce student responsibilities: Reiterate to the student the need to be on time and available from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (an average course day). Reinforce that their mission is to attend the class and gain the skills presented in the course. Success requires that they work through labs, take part in class discussion, and work with the course materials.

  • Ancillary classes: Every developer, analyst, and DBA should take Fast Track to ASE. In one day you'll learn basic SQL; in four more, you learn about creating/using indexes, entity integrity, domain integrity, referential integrity, constraints, rules, how to make/use stored procedures, triggers, tables, views, and cursors. Having solid database knowledge puts your GUI developers a cut above the rest. If a developer doesn't understand basic database structure, objects, and concepts, how can he or she ever write effective queries, let alone DataWindows and Stored Procedures?

    Sybase wants to ensure that you're completely satisfied with the training. If you have a bad experience that was out of your control, contact your Sybase training rep. Be prepared to justify the complaint as Sybase thoroughly investigates satisfaction issues and provides remedies quickly if warranted.

    Dollars and Cents
    I've seen a trend over the past year where training costs are no longer the top priority in the approval process. Instead, the amount of time you are away from work is slowly becoming one of the most important factors in attending class or not. However, costs still matter greatly.

    Sybase has a wide range of courses at varying costs. Cost-wise, the most expensive option is to "pay as you go," the least is purchasing an "Education Passport." An average U.S. course is around $545 a day (Canada $750); a U.S. passport is currently $6,700 (Canada $10,385). It allows you, and only you, to take as many courses as you want for one calendar year, as often as you want, at any U.S. Learning Center. When you take 13 or more class days per year, then a passport is the best value, saving you $545 per student a day, starting with day 14.

    Sybase Education has a new program called "ProPass." You purchase a 10- or 13-day package of training, the curriculums geared toward obtaining ASE or PowerBuilder certification. If taking the PowerBuilder Associate certification test were a goal, you would take the 10-day PB Associate ProPass. You might also consider Sybase's "Bring a Colleague to Class" option. You and a colleague (or more) get a 5% discount when you attend together. Not as good as a passport, but it's still cutting costs.

    Hosting the class on site is another option. This is an excellent choice if keeping attendees close by for work issues is important and you want to eliminate employee travel expenses.

    Coordinated Effort
    Maximizing your Sybase training takes a coordinated effort among all the players, research, attitude, and a good, solid game plan. Sybase and its instructors are able to produce only a portion of the pie... guess who is on hook for the rest? As a recap, here's a Top 10 List of Tips to maximize your Sybase Training:

    1. Buy the "Education Passport" or "ProPass."
    2. Cancel classes at least two weeks in advance.
    3. Make use of special promotions.
    4. Consider having on-site classes to save travel expenses.
    5. Select the right class and make sure you have the prerequisite skills.
    6. Give the student decent lodging and travel.
    7. Research the class, description, and prerequisites. Prepare accordingly.
    8. Use the skills learned in class immediately. Use a mentor/student approach.
    9. Take the beginning database course: Fast track to ASE.
    10. Take advantage of Sybase's Satisfaction Policy.

  • More Stories By David Hart

    David Hart is a former Sybase Tools and Database Instructor. He is a certified PB developer and certified ASE DBA from Rancho Cucamonga, CA. He is currently on contract assignments in Southern California.

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