Kind Words From a Former Apprentice…and Also, a Coworker

This is another one of those posts that’s been sitting in “Draft Limbo” for about a week now, but something happened this week that gave me a little “kick” to publish it.  First, the older stuff:

Tonight I received an e-mail from a former student assistant of mine who is a now working for a major microprocessor manufacturer in California. (Hint: It’s probably “inside” most of the computers you use today.)

He started out by saying:

“Thanks for teaching me how to fish Yoda! Hope all is well -j”

I thought he was referring to teaching him how to fly fish for trout back in the day, so I asked him if he had caught anything.

Turns out he meant something different:

“…sorry, didn’t have time to finish the email. Thanks for helping me fish…aka learn linux with the rtfm comments…”

By way of explanation:  Back in the day at the University, we shared an office space.  He was eager to learn Linux, and I was happy to have his help with my projects and daily work.  Whenever he would get “stuck,” instead of giving him the answer so I could go right back to work, I’d take a little extra time to give him hints and guide him to find the answer on his own.  I can’t tell you how many times I would say, “RTFM, dude.  It’s in there.  I found it, so you can too.  Now, let’s start by looking here…”

Eventually, he was given some of his own projects and systems to design on his own.  At first he would ask me how he should build things. Eventually, as I let him have more space to spread his wings, I would turn it around and ask him “So, how would YOU like to build this?”  It was a great feeling to watch him grow.

He finished his E-mail to me with this:

“This has helped me a ton in my life ever since. :-)”

Wow.  What a great feeling.

Now, back to the coworker that got me thinking about this post again.  Earlier this week, my coworker took and passed his CCNA on the first try.  This is no small feat, especially considering he only came on board a few months ago.  I congratulated him on passing his CCNA, and as we we talking he stopped and said, “I wanted to thank you for something.”

“Ok…what?”

“When I first started, remember when I asked you [something about subnet masking within firewall rules]?”

“Sure I do, but…what’s special about that?”

“Well, you didn’t just give me the answer.  You told me where to start looking, and I learned much more from than if you had just answered the question, so thanks for that.”

I guess it’s like they say:  “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

One thought on “Kind Words From a Former Apprentice…and Also, a Coworker”

  1. That’s a fantastic approach. It’s too easy just to tell people how to do things – it just makes people task executors and not ‘thinkers’. The ones that challenge me to ‘figure it out’ are the ones I respect most in my life. Nice job!

Leave a Reply