Is this what they call a learning experience?

IT pilot fish's job involves installing a business software package at companies across the U.S. -- and he's feeling more than a little like he's out of his depth.

"I didn't have any experience in what the software was used for, so there was lots of stress," fish says. "The pay was great, but I always felt like I wasn't giving the customers what they were paying for.

"At one point, my bosses wanted me to teach a class on how to use the software. I'd never taught a class before, and I had only taken that class myself six months prior when I was first hired. But it was on the list of job duties, so I couldn't really refuse when they insisted."

So fish flies across the country to the headquarters of a big pharmaceutical company to teach his first course. The company is even bringing in employees from regional offices hundreds of miles away.

The morning of the first class, fish arrives early and makes sure the course materials are waiting for him -- and they are. But so is his contact at the pharmaceutical company, who wants to know where the customized class materials are.

Excuse me? fish asks. Turns out the company is expecting class exercises that are specifically tailored to how this pharma company will use the software -- and fish hasn't heard anything about that.

"It seems whoever purchased the software and the training had insisted to my company's sales rep that they must get customized training, not the usual out-of-the-box training," says fish.

"So the sales rep promised we would provide customized training. He didn't have to make it happen, only to promise that it would. He cashed his commission check and went on to the next sale."

And that leaves fish with no pharma-specific training materials.

But he has a more immediate problem: His class of trainees consists of a group of hard-driving coffee-achievers, none of whom want to be in a software training class. They're not interested in participating -- and they clearly blame fish for taking them away from their real work.

Fish manages to make it through the first day of training in the face of their hostility by plowing through the lesson plan and hanging onto the podium to keep from visibly shaking.

"By the second afternoon, a more seasoned trainer was flown in to take over for me," fish says. "He was retiring that very week and wanted to just finish some paperwork in the main office, not teach one more class.

"Me, I was on the Flight of Shame headed home, wondering if I was going to be fired."

Had a learning experience? Tell Sharky about it. Send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt if I use it. Comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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