Cross-Train Your Colleagues
Earlier this year, we held a virtual SolarWinds User Group™, or vSWUG, in which my colleague Kevin M. Sparenberg presented an interesting webinar, “Cross-Train Before It’s Too Late.” The idea is to train your colleagues to learn your silo. If you’re a network guy who has coffee with an application engineer, does it make sense to give them a better understanding of what you do?
Within limits, the answer is an absolute yes, because especially in smaller IT teams, it’s beneficial if everyone can help their colleagues. Someone could be out for a day—they get sick or have a family emergency—and if you’re cross-trained, tasks aren’t just waiting to get done. It can help develop yourself and your career and ease your stress and workload. After all, if there’s too much on your plate for you to reasonably accomplish in one day, now you have someone who can help.
Additionally, training your colleagues can be seen as a great personal initiative. You’re helping your colleagues, and I don’t see risk in this as long as no work is falling under the table.
Are there some possible downsides? Of course. The question is if there’s support from the company. It’s risky and it’ll take time away from tasks we’ve been assigned to complete. While the idea is to improve the workflow, work isn’t getting done in the time spent training, and no one will be willing to meet outside of work for two hours of training.
I certainly think the benefits outweigh the risks. In fact, before I was a Head Geek™, this was something I did in my role as a sales engineer at SolarWinds without any official announcements. Each of us learned one, two, maybe three products, and to broaden our own horizons, we asked our colleagues to tell us about the products they specialized in. When the managers got wind of it, they were totally supportive of the idea and made it into an actual program.
I’d imagine most environments globally would find themselves in a similar situation, as long as there’s enough time to do so.