Groundwork for Greatness: The Knowledge Path

Groundwork for Greatness: The Knowledge Path

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Business success isn’t just about what you know; it’s about how you grow from what you learn. That growth typically hinges on: Training, Documentation, and Wisdom. Like the steadfast roots of a mighty oak tree, these elements provide stability and sustenance to organizations, fostering resilient and expansive growth.

Yet, this growth demands more than mere accumulation of knowledge; it necessitates the continuous interplay of learning and reflective thinking. Our journey of acquiring wisdom is one of lifelong learning, paired with critically evaluating what we’ve learned.

“He who learns but does not think is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.” – Confucius.

This delicate balance prevents us from being ‘lost‘ in the sea of information or ‘in great danger‘ from the confines of our unchallenged assumptions.

Training equips us with new skills, and documentation provides the map, but wisdom—the thoughtful application and questioning of what we learn—propels us forward.

This ensures our roots dig deep and our branches reach high.

Lessons in Training: From Chaos to Cohesion

Amidst the chaos of a monumental deal with one of the world’s largest banks, a new challenge emerged: onboarding and training over one hundred Security Engineers from scratch. Many of these recruits were outsiders, unfamiliar faces in our tightly-knit team. As one of the chosen few tasked with their onboarding, I soon found myself facing unexpected hurdles.

The trouble began with a buzzword: “Process One.” It was hailed as the solution to all our training woes, yet its elusive nature left us scratching our heads. Turns out, it was just an idea – a fleeting concept conjured by a colleague who had no intention of bringing it to life.

Undeterred, I took matters into my own hands. Drawing from my years of experience in the trenches, I crafted a guide – a bible of sorts – to navigate the intricate world of troubleshooting a global network with thousands of Firewalls. It was a labor of love, filled with practical advice, troubleshooting commands, and dialogues for handling sticky situations.

“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” – Thomas Edison.

When the architect of “Process One” finally took notice, their only critique was about some spelling errors—a desperate swipe, a sort of grammatical OCD. It was as if they missed the forest for the trees, fixating on minor details while the essence of our endeavor lay in plain sight. Little did they know that this guide would become the backbone of our training program for years to come.

Fast forward, and the legacy of that guide lived on through the next five years. Engineers I’d met long after moving on to other teams shared stories of using it to navigate their lengthy and challenging calls. It’s a testament to the power of practical knowledge and shared experience in the face of uncertainty.

Ultimately, the training maze may have been treacherous, but with ingenuity and perseverance, we emerged more potent than ever. As the journey continues, I’m reminded that sometimes the best solutions come from within – forged in the fires of firsthand experience and borne out of necessity.


Unwritten Rules: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Documentation

Documentation, an often overlooked cornerstone, evokes a mix of emotions. There’s a common myth that crafting clear, helpful documents is a skill reserved for the few with mastery over the written word. But here’s the thing: documentation isn’t about crafting literary masterpieces; it’s about capturing and sharing knowledge in a way that’s accessible to all.

Picture this: you’re given a brief 20% overview, and then, much like being nudged over a cliff into the wilderness, you’re expected to unravel the remaining 80% by yourself in a sort of Bear Grylls survival experiment.

This leaves you stumbling in the dark wilderness, grappling with incomplete knowledge and ill-preparedness.

I’ve aptly named this scenario the ‘20/80 Training‘ because it encapsulates the challenge of navigating through a significant portion of learning or problem-solving with minimal guidance, forcing individuals to rely heavily on their own resources and ingenuity to overcome obstacles.

“Knowledge has to be improved, challenged and increased constantly, or it vanishes.” – Peter Drucker.

This flips the famous Pareto Principle on its head. Usually celebrated for spotlighting efficiency, it paints a different picture in the documentation. Here, a small slice of effort demands a significant reliance on a few key people. This isn’t just inefficient; it leads to stagnation.

Why? Because when vital knowledge is locked away with just a select few, it doesn’t help an organization grow—it holds it back. Documentation is a collective asset, constantly improved and enriched by everyone’s contributions.


Navigating the Depths: Unveiling the Path to Wisdom

My time at a leading cybersecurity firm laid bare a stark reality: our public documentation was like a map without legends. Our journey to help the customers from within was not merely about documenting processes; it was a quest for wisdom.

Vital information on our products, ‘Why‘ and ‘How,’ was conspicuously absent, leaving us in a perpetual state of seeking assistance. This wasn’t just an internal hurdle; it directly impacted customer satisfaction, transforming our role from mentors and teachers to seekers of wisdom (i.e., begging for help) in the vastness of overtly casual Slack channels.

The irony was palpable when the individuals tasked with collecting this wisdom and publishing it seemed more inclined to build walls than bridges. This detachment bred a cycle of confusion and dependency, undermining the essence of what the wisdom available to us should have been—a beacon guiding its supporters through the complexities of the product.

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” -Leonardo da Vinci.

The answers should be straightforward when faced with a seemingly simple question about the inner workings of a feature. Yet, I’ve fielded thousands of inquiries about basic functionalities, each revealing a significant gap in our understanding. It’s a glaring omission often apparent to customers yet elusive to support teams and even the maintainers themselves, as they may be unable to look back at any functional requirements.

Engaging with customers, understanding their issues firsthand, or even just demystifying the platform for internal teams was a road that took time and effort. This less-traveled path should have been addressed amidst the rush of daily tasks and deadlines.

This revelation isn’t just a wake-up call; it’s a compelling appeal for a fundamental shift toward a more comprehensive understanding of our products and their underlying mechanisms. A change towards transparent documentation and ‘wisdom-derived‘ resources becomes imperative, where the inner workings are mapped out, offering insights beyond the superficial to the structural nuances of the system.

Towards Boundless Horizons: Forging the Path to Greatness

As we draw the curtains on our exploration of training, documentation, and wisdom, one truth shines brightly: the journey to greatness demands a relentless pursuit of knowledge.

“In seeking wisdom, the first step is silence, the second listening, the third remembering, the fourth practicing, the fifth—teaching others.” -Solomon Ibn Gabirol.

From the tumult of onboarding Firewall Engineers to the intricacies of crafting meticulous documentation, our voyage has been marked by triumphs and trials.

Yet, amidst the chaos, we’ve unearthed invaluable insights. We’ve gleaned that true wisdom transcends mere information, finding its essence in thoughtful application and dissemination.

We’ve come to understand that documentation serves not just as a record but as a guiding light through the labyrinth of challenges. And we’ve embraced the notion that when approached with clarity and purpose, training empowers us to scale new heights of proficiency and excellence.

So, as we embark on this journey together, equipped with the tools of training, documentation, and wisdom, let us work toward a future illuminated by greatness. May our pursuit of knowledge light the way forward.

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