Watch out for those wireless microphones!

In a previous blog entry, I talked about my job at Sybase University running new hire training for new consultants. In 1995 Sybase was expanding rapidly as the company took on the challenge of Oracle in the growth of Client/Server and multi-tier databases. Sybase Worldwide Professional Services was expanding as more companies bought off on Sybase SQL Server. Well, here's an amusing story for you from the SQL training world.

In the 90s, Financial Services customers were leading the way as high transaction throughput, large numbers of users and two-phase commit requirements for a reliable multi-server network solution became leading edge. We were doubling our consultant force every year so the need for new hire training on the Sybase technologies was a critical success factor for the organization. We had access to two fully equipped state-of-the-art classrooms to host up to 40 consultants at a time. We quickly found out that we were booking 40 consultants per session. Although we had separate tracks for DBAs and Developers, many of the sessions were for both audiences so we were faced with a dilemma. Do we cram everyone into one room for those joint sessions? Or do we rent a large conference room at a local hotel at great expense and forgo the classroom machines and built-in network? Bussing the consultants back and forth would present a logistic problem too. We even thought about renting space from another company in the area - Global Knowledge. But their training classrooms were always fully booked and they couldn't spare the space. (Little did I know that I would end up working with them later in my career). The solution I advocated was to produce a removable wall between the two classrooms we already had. The removable wall would be sound-proof, easily removed and would provide excellent flexibility for our project-based technical training. Before the joint sessions we would remove the wall and then when we needed separate classrooms again we would push the wall back in place. One fairly strong person could do it in a couple minutes. Two people could do it easily in a minute. It was not a cheap option but the return on investment compared with the other options was justified and after a few months of pitching to upper management we were granted the budget to complete "The Wall". First the demolition of the original wall, (there's no going back) then the installation and finally the first class was pending. We even had a training session on how to operate "The Wall" followed by Pizza to celebrate. I also remember working over the weekend before the class as we plugged in the computers and the network again after construction. We realized that now the room was so big we needed microphones to project our voices to the far corners. So, off to Radio Shack to purchase a wireless microphone solution. We could move around the classroom un-tethered with 150 feet range. We already had speakers and amplifiers in the classroom. A quick test and bingo - we had a just-in-time solution.

Monday morning and 40 consultants from around the world are congregating in the mega-room with "the Wall" retracted. Their first day at Sybase training. Welcome to the company. The room looks professional and impressive. We have dual screens, dual projectors, synchronized display. A quick test of the wireless microphone and we have five minutes to go.  I had one too many cups of coffee, so I decide to make a visit to the restroom. Big mistake! Can you imagine what happened next?

Luckily, I somehow realized what was happening and switched off my wireless microphone as I entered the restroom and went into a cold sweat thinking of what might have been. The sessions went great and no-one was the wiser but that's what I call a "close encounter". ..




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