Re: Advice Sought: supervising an extreme novice

Subject: Re: Advice Sought: supervising an extreme novice
From: Rowena Hart <rhart -at- XCERT -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 25 May 1999 15:33:19 -0700


I've never supervised an extreme novice, but I remember
being an extreme novice and what my supervisors did to
bring me up to speed on the job/assignment.

First, set up a work plan. The work plan helps the trainee
understand what is expected of them, and helps you keep
the trainee on track (or in check). For example, your trainee
might have the following work plan:

Week 1: Learn the product
- Learn how to install product
- Learn how to use basic features of product
- Learn advanced features of product
- Produce a sample file/project with product
- Talk to developers about product

Week 2: Learn tools of trade
- Read user's guide and online help for tools, i.e. ForeHelp
- Take online tutorial
- Produce sample file/project with new tool
- Sign up to listserve for product users

Week 3: Start project
- Map out document structure
- Map out research methods/approach
- Write draft procedures for several help topics and review
with supervisor and developers

You get the idea. With a project plan like this, the
trainee can really procede with confidence, and
will require less hand-holding or guidance.

Second, set up the ground rules for interrupting your
work, especially if you are carrying a full work load
while attempting to supervise the trainee. For example,
you may want to meet twice a day for 30 minutes for
instructions and "how do I do this" Q and A, or you
could arrange to be in constant e-mail contact. Use
the approach that works best for you.

Third, set deadlines and be honest about you expect
from the trainee. If you want the trainee to solve their
own problems, tell them so immediately instead of being
a total grouch whenever they ask you for help. If you do
want the trainee to solve their own problems, introduce
them to the people in the office who can provide a
technical and social support network -- i.e. developers,
customer support, QA. This can really reduce the
burden on you, and teaches the trainee to take the
initiative. Regardind deadlines, it is important to set
goals so that you, the trainee, and your own supervisors
can fairly evaluate their performance.

Like I said, these suggestions come directly from my
own experience being dumped into some very interesting
jobs when I was a co-op student (intern). Given the right
framework and support, even a total novice can do
amazing things in a short period of time. So, keep a
positive attitude and try to enjoy the assistance.

Cheers, Rowena


Rowena Hart Technical Writer

Xcert International Inc.
1001-701 West Georgia Street Phone: 1 (604) 640-6210
Vancouver, BC, Canada V7Y 1C6 Fax: 1 (604) 640-6220
Web: E-mail: rhart -at- xcert -dot- com


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