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Johannes Norz: The network will need much more qualified employees

Johannes Norz is a self-employed trainer, mainly for Citrix NetScaler and Citrix XenDesktop design. He was certified trainer back in 2002. So far, he taught in Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, United Kingdom and United States. Languages are English and German. He has several Citrix certifications. Recently we managed to take a few minutes of his time and talk to him about the joy of training and where the industry is heading.

Your first steps in the field?

– In the 1980s I started working with electronics in the medical field. My daughter was the first baby displayed in 3D, because invented 3D electronics. I was responsible for the power supply and then for processors and operating systems. This is where I came into IT. Someone hired me to do some programming for a customer relationship software and I did it together with my wife. In 1995 we had to pull out of this market, because it wasn’t possible to transfer our programs to Windows. It would have been too expensive.

So we sold the source and started a networking business. I did some small to medium size networks. An education center called me because they wanted to sell me some TCP/IP class for Windows to me. I said I have no interest in this and I know it so well I could teach this if I want. They said that is great because they are looking for a teacher. That’s how I had my first class.

Then I started with terminal services with Citrix. Microsoft solutions have always been good, but not perfect. There was always something missing or they were too complex. There are lot of different departments in Microsoft so in the end you don’t get one product. Citrix is different. It was a really small company at the beginning with a handful of programmers doing it. They worked close to Microsoft, so they had good idea of what is going on in Windows so they had a perfect product. With time it got more and more complex, but I still liked it. By that time I was completely out of networking and Citrix bought a company called Netsacaler and they asked me to do trainings for this. I started loving training.

At first I was mainly in the Austrian market, but it is a small market with low wages. So I tried to go the German market, but it turned out to be a bit expensive so I had to go to the high-class classes where it was good. One day a girl from Eastern Europe sent me a message they are interested in me. This is how I had my first class in Bulgaria.

I am always curious. I always want to learn something new. That was the main reason why I agreed to this class in Bulgaria. Then I went to the UK and I got connections to an English company. I started doing it all over Europe and it is big fun. I love to travel, to see different cultures.

What are the main differences you’ve noticed?

– There is a big difference in cultures. For example in Germany I will always open the door and wait and people will go in or out. If I do this in Bulgaria, they always wait for me to go in. These are small things, but interesting. I like seeing how people do the same things in different ways. They have different attitudes.

Like timing for example. The Germans are always exact on time. The Scandinavians are a bit more relaxed. The English are always late, but to compensate this they go a little bit earlier. In Southeastern Europe people are never on time, but they will stay longer. There are so many differences. I like this.

Of course I like the different approaches to technical solutions. There is always some kind of a culture you are born in and brought in. Everybody has their own way. The solutions are different and it is nice to see different approaches. I am constantly learning from students.

The only thing I don’t like is not being at home much. But I like travel at least.

Bulgaria is often said it has many IT talents.

– This is completely true. They have very highly educated people and they are tough. When you teach you get a good idea how fast they understand and learn. Bulgarians are really fast. Then I teach them something, they quickly understand and learn how to use it. They are also very willing to learn. In other countries some people are like forced to come to class.

Do you have to change the ways you teach students from different cultures?

– The methods are not so very different. Some examples do work better in some areas though. Some jokes work better, too. Overall there is not too much difference.

What are some of the best ways to train people? To what do students respond well?

– Some companies push virtual instructor trainings. You are sitting at home with earphones and listen to someone doing something. Some students like it, but most don’t. To understand you need to feel it, to touch it. They need to have an instructor near by. From my perspective virtual instructor training is not really nice because I don’t see the people. I need their feedback. I watch them and if they avoid looking me, I know they are not really interested. If I see them getting tired I can do a break. I can’t do this with virtual students. I can still see them, but it’s not the same,

Everybody have a different approach to reading. Some people learn from reading, some learn from doing, some learn from listening. To me it’s reading. To some people it is doing, but it is always easier with an instructor nearby.

There are a lot of video trainings. There seems to be a big thing. I did some for an Austrian company. I think it is good for the low-cost market, but it is not the same quality. You can’t ask questions. Plus it is always the same thing. When I do trainings I always teach the same thing, but I adapt my training to the audience. I can’t do this in a video. If I explain something, I see if it works or not. The same approach may work three times in a row and not the fourth time, so I have to change it. This is thrilling to me, to be fast, to react. But this is not possible on video training.

I think there is a point to video training but it will never be in the high cost market. It is good for beginners, for lower costs. This will be a good idea for Southeastern Europe, but I think I will not do it. Not because of the money, but because of the language and the things I mentioned.

With that said, what is the future of training?

– We go for e-learning for a long time, but I don’t see the point. That’s just PowerPoint presentations. There should be more. Maybe someone will invent something, but I don’t know what. In the current situation e-learning is not good enough.

The video-based trainings will become more popular, but I don’t think there is anything like instructor training at least for the people who don’t learn from reading. If you can learn from just reading, then instructor training is the wrong approach.

There is another problem. There have to be two persons – student and trainer. I need the feeling to be loved by the students. I don’t know how they can express this to me with e-learning. Emotions is a very important thing.

When you say emotions… what was the feeling during your first ever training?

– It was awfully nervous and it was the worse training I ever did. Not because I was bad, but I had and enemy from primary school who was at this training. I was just rehearsing my introduction and he came in and saw me and it was like he said “oh, not this stupid guy”. He sat at the last row on the left, which is the worst position. He sat there to be my enemy.

In the and they gathered feedback from the class and I got great feedback from the front right corner and horrible on the left. I was lucky because there was another training the week after and they couldn’t find another trainer so I had to do it. I was much less nervous, did it better, got great feedback from everybody and that’s why I am here today. If I didn’t get the second change, I would have to find something else to do.

Could you give students a few tips on how to learn better?

– I personally don’t want my students to listen 100% of the time. This is something no one can do. They should go mentally out of it if there is something they are not interested in. Always some aspects are interesting and some are not.

They should always ask questions. This is not only because I love questions, but it’s like surfing. Why should you sit there and not understand something and not ask the instructor who is there to teach you.

I think students should prepare a little bit so they don’t come completely naked. They should go through the book after the class. If the training takes five days, they should calculate seven. The last two days should be to review the book, but I think most don’t do it.

For most students it is best to get things they are really interested in and skip thing they are not interested in. No one can be concentrated eight hours a day. They shouldn’t feel bad if they miss something. I never blame students for playing Facebook. They are grown-ups, they have paid for the training, I’m not a teacher in school. They can decide. If someone doesn’t do anything all the time, I will ask to see if I can change something. But most of the students listen most of the time.

What do you think will be the next wave of technology people should be training or preparing from now?

– There was a revolution in IT that started with the servers. This really changed the way our datacenters look like. This revolution was involved in applications, but we completely forgot about the network. It is still in the year 2000. It hasn’t evolved much. We don’t have the technology to support these new highly virtualized, highly flexible data centers. The network isn’t fast and flexible enough.

Companies like Cisco know that and are doing something about it. We will see a lot of progress. If you are not on top of technology, you will fall behind. Your wages will go down, maybe you will lose your job. Every time a revolution begins, some people are kicked out of the business and new get in.

I’ve always heard we don’t need so many admins anymore because we have new technology which is much easier. It’s always easier, but on the other hand is also more complex to maintain. We can handle more users, there will be more users, so basically the number of admins will stay the same, but they will handle more and more users which will be more complex. If you can get this step in networking, you will be one of the first who will get the big picture and will understand what is going on.

I think it is already here, but no one really understands it. It was the same with virtualization. At first no one understood what it is good for. It took two years for people to understand it and now can you think of a datacenter without virtualization? The same thing will be with networking. I think this revolution will be even bigger than server virtualization.