In my job as a roving IT consultant, I have given a number of technical presentations about Siebel. During that time, I have learned that I am much more comfortable presenting material and content that I have created myself. I have also presented slide-decks used by technical pre-sales. This has occasionally led to detailed questions arising about a very innocuous looking bullet point which I was unable to effectively answer; not a comfortable situation.

Occasionally, I have delivered technical workshops about a very specific area of the Siebel product set that was tailored to a customer requirement for a module that is not covered by a formal course offered by Oracle Education. I have thoroughly enjoyed this type of work as I find it stimulating and very rewarding. I also felt the customer also found these workshops useful and valuable.

Last week, I gave a 2 day workshop about EIM (Oracle’s ETL tool to bulk load data into a Siebel OLTP database) and I actually created some practical lab exercises to give the attendees some hands-on experience of failing to load data using EIM. I’m being serious here - I firmly believe it is very important to be exposed to the different classes of errors and idiotic mistakes when trying to achieve a seemingly straightforward task of populating a single customer record.

I visited the client’s offices the day before to check the logistics and the Siebel environment provided for the workshop. I also took the sensible precaution of completing the various exercises myself. To my horror, I discovered at 3pm on the day prior to the workshop that EIM wasn’t actually functional in the customer test environment. Thankfully, I discovered this was due to a missing Service Pack for the Microsoft SQL Server database which resolved the problem and saved me from a very embarrassing situation.

Whenever I’ve attended training courses, I’ve always felt slightly uncomfortable whenever the instructor went walkabout and hovered over my shoulder as I struggled with the syntax of ‘ALTER TABLE’. Consequently, when I set the attendees loose on the first exercise, I tried to take a back seat and only help if someone requested assistance.

I am not a teacher - in fact, I am a lousy teacher as I have precious little patience - and I am not a trained instructor. However, I was quite curious to see how different people attacked the problem. One chap was feverishly reading the manuals, typing at speed, running the tests, examining log files, iterating in an effort to win the race. One of his colleagues had a rather more considered approach and I noticed he chose to take time to assist his neghbour who wasn’t as far forward. Another attendee was very methodical and thorough; he essentially created a full source-target mapping in Excel before he did anything else and was completely unfazed by the progress of others around him. Another gentleman reminded me of myself - he was bludgeoning forward at breakneck speed, making misakes (syntax errors), immediately fixing them and iterating rapidly.

I approached one gentleman quietly beavering away in the corner who had actually completed the orignal exercise but hadn’t shouted ‘Eureka’ or called me over to praise his efforts. Instead, he was now creating a data set of 10,000 customer records to see what throughput he could get compared with the performance of the existing custom COM based data loading tool.

All in all, a very enlightening exercise. Psychologists would probably classify each type of individual with a special name (‘Starter-Finisher’).