Monday, December 12, 2016

You Can’t Teach Experience.
Al Richardson, VP of Technology

I’m sure that all the readers know Murphy’s Law, if anything can go wrong, it will and does. And probably most of you have had one or more instances where it has happened to you personally or on a project. There are books written on the subject of project management, quality management and from time to time I read one or two of them to determine what might have changed, if anything. In the process of reading one of these books I came across one saying that caught my eye -

Horner’s Five-Thumb Postulate: Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.

Let me take a little poetic license and instead of saying equipment ruined, you might say schedules missed, programs over budget, cables faulted by sea creatures, etc. If you have been in the business long enough, things have gone wrong. So why is this important?  Currently R&R System Solutions is under contract to “teach” cable design, mechanical/electrical/optical performance, etc..   Providing cable system training is one of our favorite business services. The list is almost endless on what can be taught. The easier elements are wire size, insulation thickness, fiber strain, weight in sea water, bending stiffness, etc.  Also, knowing or teaching what questions to ask customers, checklists, lessons learned etc. is a critical part of the training.  As there is no current medical cure for ignorance and to use the cliché- You Can’t Teach Experience may also apply. Most, however, don’t believe that experience can’t be taught. You can teach the lessons of experience but you cannot normally teach the actual experience of a given situation. You can be a teacher, a mentor, a coach, but there remains one thing that seems to elude the education process, actual experience.

Let’s take Calculus as an example. A few years back I had the “opportunity” to teach Calculus to a group of seniors in a high school.  I spent a semester imparting knowledge but not a lot of teaching.  You can show students the methods of integration, parts, substitution, partial fractions, etc. but you can’t “teach” them when to use the methods.  And that is the key to know when to use the methods taught or related by more experienced personnel.

The same can be said for cable engineering.  It is extremely hard to teach what R&R defines as Cable System Engineering. This is the life history of a cable.  Everything from the first set of requirements, through design, through manufacture, through testing, through deployment, and finally ending up in service.  Cable System Engineering is everything the cable comes in contact with, every interface, every environmental concern, everything. Years and years of working on ships, in cable plants, and behind a desk has taught me one very important thing; You Can’t Teach Experience.

In the end, the learning experience reflects upon monies lost or gained for a company and the stability of a workforce. Experience is what is needed to recognize where the best solution may lie.

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