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Posted Wednesday, March 16, 2016 by Richard Harris, Executive Editor
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We recently visited with Leah McGowen-Hare, Master Technical Instructor at Salesforce, to talk about here experiences as a technology trainer.
ADM: Can you tell us about your role at Salesforce?
McGowen-Hare: I am a Master Technical Trainer with Salesforce. I share my passion for teaching with Salesforce customers and employees on a daily basis, empowering them with knowledge on to build and customize applications on the Salesforce platform.
ADM: How did you become a technical trainer?
McGowen-Hare: I did not start my career aspiring to be a technical trainer. I was a consultant for Andersen, now Accenture, and then became a developer for PeopleSoft. After several years of developing, I had an appetite for something different - not dramatically different, but a change.
My manager at the time said I would be great as a trainer because I understood highly technical concepts, had direct experience as a developer, and could explain and translate technical concepts in ways simple, clear terms. It's great when you have a manager or a mentor who helps you appreciate your talents and is unselfish enough to help you identify opportunities when the time comes to make a career move. I took this observation to heart, and interviewed for a new role at PeopleSoft; thus, began my journey as a technical trainer some 10 years ago.
ADM: Why is it important for companies to have technical instructors?
McGowen-Hare: It is one thing to be innovative and create a great tool that can do wonderful things for companies and individuals; however, if there is no strategy or capability for sharing the knowledge on how the tools work, there is a gap and a huge missed opportunity. To increase adoption and to tap into the power, there must be training. When you have great technical minds that not only understand a platform and all the nuances to it, but can also explain it to others, that is a gift to the user and the company.
ADM: What problem are you most passionate about solving right now?
McGowen-Hare: I am passionate about expanding opportunity to those that are relatively absent in technology today. Specifically, I am focusing on young girls and people of color. I do what I can to expose these under-represented groups with tremendous talent and potential to technology and coding. I want to ensure I am doing all that I can with my platform to advance the cause of diversifying the technology field.
ADM: What’s your teaching style?
McGowen-Hare: When I started my career as a technical trainer, I was given the opportunity to travel around the world teaching students as well as other trainers. This really helped me hone my teaching skills , continually practice my craft and develop my teaching style which I would call my style agile, funny and engaging.
One of the first things I do when teaching is assess my student’s learning style, ie. audio, visual, kinesthetic or combination. I am a big advocate of adding visual aids to help explain highly technical concepts. In graduate school, I studied different learning lessons, from kinesthetic to audio learners. I applied this knowledge to my teaching style and it made me more effective.
People have different ways of learning. It’s never a “one approach fits all” situation, especially for complex or technical topics. When you throw in culture differences, that adds another layer of complexity. I was not taught how to account for cultural differences in graduate school. This is a skill I learned through my travel experiences teaching in countries including: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Holland, India, and South Africa. Graduate school, travel, exposure and observation have made a major difference in my overall effectiveness and teaching style.
ADM: How do you help students overcome their challenges when learning?
McGowen-Hare: When a student is having challenges learning, I work with them to ensure they take advantage of all their resources to help them improve their understanding. For example, Salesforce University has great instructor-led training classes as well great online classes. I encourage students to tap into these resources. I also share with them Salesforce’s very convenient, self paced, on-demand Trailhead online classes as another asset to support their progress.
ADM: In one word, what’s the most important thing to keep in mind when training people?
McGowen-Hare: Be Present (ok that’s two). That applies to both myself and students.
ADM: What’s the highlight of your career at Salesforce?
McGowen-Hare: One of the many highlights of my career at Salesforce has been being able to organize and run an all women’s technology class. I wanted to proactively give back to the community using my gifts and expertise, and that is teaching technical topics. I came up with an idea to offer a pro bono women’s class to our nonprofit customers (more info can be found here: Empowering Women with Salesforce 1-1-1- model). I pitched the idea to senior management and they were in complete support. I received so much internal support for the pro bono class that my colleagues even volunteered to help teach and provided Salesforce swag for all attendees.
ADM: What inspires you to continue to teach people on how to use Salesforce?
McGowen-Hare: Salesforce is such an innovative company and there is always something new to learn and teach. I love expanding my knowledge. I love watching people learn. I have helped many people begin their journey into development when they thought they didn’t have the aptitude for it, and I can’t tell how rewarding that is for me to see people succeed.
Salesforce is also the kind of company that really believes in giving back to the community. The company has integrated philanthropy into the business itself from day one with the 1-1-1 model, donating 1% of the company's stock, 1% of its equity, and 1% of employees' time to nonprofits and higher education institutions. That matters to me and resonates with me deeply.
ADM: Is there anything I haven’t asked that you think I should?
McGowen-Hare: I am an avid believer that my purpose is not to merely get, but to let. Not to just achieve and obtain things, but to share my skills and knowledge. In the world of technology it can appear that knowledge sharing is not the status quo; however, separation, silos and knowledge hoarding does not foster innovation. There are few things that one can accomplish by themselves. In many ways, I am no more effective than my ability to collaborate, connect and share my knowledge with others. As Maya Angelou said, “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.”
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