It occurs to me that some random individual shouting to the internet about their revelations and pet peeves might need more than just a big mouth and a website. While today’s technology allows for everyone to have a voice, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile, or other social media outlet, it doesn’t mean their word carries any weight.
What makes me special, important, an expert, or worthy of your time? Absolutely nothing! Well, that’s what I would say about myself when it comes to shameless self promotion. I’m the person that has a very difficult time filling out those annual self reviews. So rather than promote myself, I’ll tell you about the people in my life that inspired me to write. It is by their recommendations that I find myself in a position to share my knowledge with others.
My Boss, My Friend
I’ll hold off on names for now, but I had a boss that was MASSIVELY inspirational, and still is, to this day. Although we are not working at the same company anymore, he has provided me with the confidence to push through any barrier. During the time he was my manager, it was clear that things were different. He gave me the support and backing that everyone dreams about, but he also had extremely high standards and expectations too.
I was a training specialist for the professional services organization at Centrify. This title came with the responsibility for creating, maintaining, managing, and delivering anything and everything related to the word “training”. Every facet of Privileged Access Management (PAM), Single Sign-On (SSO), Mobile Device Management (MDM), Active Directory (AD), Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), and more was covered at one point or another. I could throw out many more alphabet soups of the industry here as well, but why waste all the space.
In this role, I had the opportunity to teach people from around the world. I turned the training program from “passable” to something that is still being taught, even though I no longer work there. I was hired to build a strong program that would stand up to the test of time. We both agree I achieved this goal as the program is still in use to this day. He fully believed in my abilities and the results. My Net Promoter Score (NPS) was in the 90’s; no small feat for anyone who knows that the rating system for 0-50 is “good”, 50-69 is “excellent”, and anything at or above 70 is considered “world class”. Students would send in feedback that would make even the most egotistical person blush. I even had people tell me this was the best class they’d ever taken in their MANY, MANY years of experience. Apparently I was doing something right.
It is this boss that encouraged me to be more than a trainer, more than a person. His desire was that I make a name for myself and be known as the leading authority in my field. Well, good sir, I thank you for your overly kind words and support. I’ll do my best to make you proud.
A Partner in Crime
After I served my time in the United States Air Force as a computer programmer, I found that I have a knack for explaining code to people who probably shouldn’t turn on a computer. This skill led me to working at ARGO, where I met quite a few great people. One person specifically though helped me through the transition from Padawan to Jedi Master.
He and I see eye to eye on many things, and we are the best dynamic duo in training you could ever ask for. There is no competition, no ego to bruise, and no reason to backstab. He had more time in the industry than I did, but everything he did was to help me grow and focus on how to become a better trainer. “Hey bud, you’re saying X too much. Remember to do Y. Make sure we cover Z really well, that’s a problem area.” Tone is everything, and these were all spoken with intent to show friendliness and comradery. At the same time, I was able to provide feedback on areas where I saw he could improve. A truly valuable experience!
I had the opportunity to add input and enhance the training courses here too. One of my greatest accomplishments was in the standardization of our end-of-course project. It was traditionally left up to the trainer to grade each lab environment and make a recommendation of pass or fail based on the work done. While a trainer’s input is valuable, it’s a far cry from unbiased and fair. I created a checklist and point valuation system that graded everything from cleanliness of code to optional “above and beyond” functionality. The beauty of this test is that someone could “technically” get a working lab, but still fail, while a non-working lab would never pass. The important part was the “technically works” but still fails part. If you’ve ever been around code you know that just because something “works” doesn’t mean it’s done correctly. Ever bought a product and wondered, “How did this pass QA?”
Both my partner-in-crime and myself were top-rated trainers. Customers consistently demanded that we were the only trainers allowed to come back to their site and train the rest of their team. I was even offered a job multiple times while working with different customers! The retention rate of student learning was vastly improved; this was validated through a lower turnover rate and higher quality code going out the door. What an amazing experience.
I would not be where I am today without the backing of my awesome wife and my loving grandparents. I have learned many lessons and will continue to do so as long as I live. My wife has seen my ups and downs, my successes and failures, and somehow sticks with me through it all. My grandparents have been giant role models, and I could not ask for more than the unconditional love and support I receive from them.
As I made the transition to PreSales Engineer/Solutions Architect at EmpowerID, my wife was my greatest supporter. While this is “expected”, it was not without some resistance from my side though. She reaffirmed that this career path was exactly where I needed to go. She would remind me of my ability to talk, and relate, to nearly anyone I come across; no matter how different our backgrounds. She would assure me that Eskimos really did buy ice, as long as it was me selling it to them. I even found out that I taught her quite a few things that she thought she’d never learn because I was able to make the topic relevant to her. She tells me that I am, “Her favorite success story.” I’ve not had a pristine life, but I have been able to apply myself and succeed even when things look hopeless. She does a fantastic job reviewing my blogs too; her technical writing background ensures I don’t sound like a complete moron when it comes to writing. I’m truly thankful for such an amazing woman.
My grandparents have seen my growth through life and have made sure that I know right from wrong. I’ve written a tribute to them on LinkedIn entitled, “The old ways are sometimes the best“. One of the most memorable lessons they taught me was to take initiative. Don’t wait for someone else to do it; you’re capable and you need to show it. This goes far beyond a life lesson and has been a cornerstone in my professional career as well. They’ve helped me to become a better person and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share these lessons with others.
If you can’t tell, my background varies in industry and career. I’m extremely passionate and that drives my desire to keep learning. There are a LOT of skills that I’ll be sharing with you as I write and I look forward to hearing from you too. I’d appreciate feedback, topic suggestions, and even general chat. I’d like to make a change in how professionals interact and work, will you join me on this journey?
My name is Mark Christian, and I approve of this message.