Tales about Aviation, Coaching, Farming, Software Development

Find an expert for training or an expert in training?

Recently I received an inquiry from a recruiting company. On behalf of their client they were looking for a coach and trainer to help a team learn a number of modern web technologies. The list contained about 25 entries and it was a mix of frontend and backend languages, tools, libraries and also database products.

The following lines are not meant to critize anyone. However, the inquiry and related correspondance with the other person made me reflect a bit and I want to share my thoughts.

There is absolutely nothing wrong to look for a technical specialist who has extensive experience in using a certain programming language, tool or library.

But then a few questions arise:

  • Will that specialist also be a good coach or trainer for the rest of the team?
  • Can that person focus on training the others?
  • Will that person not feel an urge to just “get it done” and then simply code something himself?

I think that programming, testing, training, coaching are very different activities that require different people and different attitudes.

In the conversation with the recruiter I learned that his client is looking for a fulltime coach and the contract period were 12 months. So I started to wonder. What will a coach or trainer do at a team Monday to Friday 8 hours per day over a whole year?

If the coach/trainer actually focuses on coaching/training, then the team would not be productive at all. They would spend most of their time learning and only do other things, like working on their product, when the coach/trainer is busy preparing material for the next session. That doesn’t make a lot of sense - does it?

If the coach/trainer is actually a programmer, then he would work together with the rest of the team on the product and therefore being there fulltime makes a lot of sense. But then the person would be a programmer and a team member and not really a coach/trainer who tries hard to help people learn and improve their own skills.

I suspect that somewhere between the recruiter and his client some misunderstanding exists. Obviously I would love to help clarify it but that requires an open conversation with the client without the recruiter being afraid of giving away the client. I suggested a two day engagement to find out what the real need is, but the answer was that it were impossible to influence the client.

Maybe this is deeper

From the perspective of a recruiter finding a person with matching skills who is willing to do a certain job within a given price range is the main job. That is not much different from selecting a product out of several that are on sale. And it does work well for narrowly defined professions.

If an additional welder is needed, then the right person can be selected out of the pool of available welders by simply matching experience in a certain type of welding with the type of welding the company is doing.

However, software development is mostly a complex activity - not a complicated one.

That means that there is mostly emergent practices and techniques. Were it just complicated, then good practices recommended by experts and trained by experts could be used and success could also be duplicated by repeating the recipe.

A coach/trainer would focus in a complex situation on:

  • helping people to find sensible emergent practices that work in their situation to solve their problem based on their existing abilities
  • helping them to transition to something new based on where they are currently

That might involve a tool, library, technique or method someone would like to use. Or it may be something completely different.

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