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Education in IT with Nicole Petruccione | Where’s the Any Key Podcast Episode 8

The following is a transcription of an episode of our podcast, Where’s The Any Key? Feel free to reach out with any questions you may have in response to this recording. You can find our show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever podcasts are available.

Ryan Bacon: Welcome to Where’s the Any Key? The podcast where we talk about anything IT related and even some topics that are IT adjacent. I’m your host Ryan Bacon, the IT Support Engineer at JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®.

Introducing Nicole Petruccione

Alright, so I am sitting here with Nicole Petruccione. She is the senior customer and partner training specialist here at JumpCloud. Welcome Nicole, how are you doing today?

Nicole Petruccione: I am doing pretty well, all things considered. Happy to be here. 

Ryan: Yeah, it’s good to have you here. So why don’t you tell us a little about yourself: what you do, how you got into JumpCloud… a little bit of your background.

Nicole: So I’ve been in Software-as-a-Service for about 10 years. I’ve done all sorts of training and education roles within those 10 years… mostly external-facing roles. I actually started out at a company called Constant Contact and built their in-person customer education program. Then, we transitioned to a virtual customer education program, so that was a really cool experience. I’ve been doing that ever since. Being able to educate people virtually is more scalable; it’s more efficient. It’s easier to consume on the external side as well; people want to take training and education at their own pace, when they need it, for what they need, so virtual is a really cool way to be able to enable people to do that.

Coming to JumpCloud, let’s see… I was at a couple places before that, but I found out about JumpCloud through a mutual connection and it was a really interesting space to me. I specifically had never worked in cloud IT for software, but learning that vertical has been extremely interesting and being able to take everything I know about how to educate people to use a piece of software has been really awesome. So I’m very excited to be at JumpCloud. It’s been a little bit of a learning curve for me on the cloud piece of it, but I’m taking my own medicine I guess you could say. 

Putting the ‘Why’ Behind Using Software

Ryan: Definitely. The reason why we brought you on today is because I wanted to talk a bit about rolling out new systems and that sort of thing, and how to teach your customers — whether they be your end users or actual internal customers — but how to teach your customers how to best use, or get the buy-in for it. In my experience, if an end user doesn’t feel comfortable with a system, or thinks it unnecessary or frivolous, they will do their best to work their way around it, and that never ends well.

Nicole: It’s funny because one of the first things that I learned in my training career when I started to do instructional design — meaning I was creating the training that somebody was going to take to learn how the software works — I saw a video on YouTube about about how to start with ‘why.’ That video has stuck with me for the 10 years that I’ve been doing this because the whole video is about how, if you ever want to convince anybody to do anything — in this case, use a piece of software — you have to prove to them why they should care about it, why it will help them, why it’s going to make their life easier or faster or whatever the value prop happens to be. So I take that approach in every piece of training material or educational material that I make, and that’s exactly the reason. If you have a 15-minute video or screencast about how to do this one thing in a piece of software, if you don’t spend the first 30 to 60 seconds explaining why somebody should care about the next 14 minutes of this video, they’re not going to pay attention. So starting with the ‘why’ is very very important.

I’ve done that in a couple different ways. So you can convince people of the value by sharing statistics about what it means if they don’t do this thing, especially uncovering the pain point of what they’re already experiencing without the piece of software, so really highlighting, ‘Is it taking you a lot of time to do something?’ ‘Are you having to remember a bunch of things?’ ‘Is your process longer because you don’t have this?’ So, really uncovering what the true pain points are, you can use things like statistics to share that. That is one of the best ways for you to capture somebody’s interest for the piece of software in general, but in my case usually to get people to care about learning about it. So that would be my first thing.

Ryan: Okay, and that actually makes a lot of sense. When I’m looking at reasons to use something, seeing that they have put enough thought into it to be able to tell me precisely why they made that choice and why I should care about that choice does go a long way in getting me over onto that side.

Nicole: Agreed. It’s also a matter of showing that you understand what your end user is going through. You might be making the decision from your IT perspective, but people don’t care about that. People care about how it’s going to impact them and their day-to-day lives. We’re all very selfish human beings, that’s just the nature of us; we’re self-centered… not in a negative way. We’re just focused on us and how our day is going to go. So, if you can demonstrate that you put a lot of thought and understanding into their day-to-day experience and how this is going to impact them, that’s just the pot of gold right there.

Transitioning Users to New Solutions

Ryan: Right. I feel that’s very true. So, you get that communication out there. You initialize, I guess you could say, the conversation with that end user as to why we’re doing this. Then, the process starts to get people to actually use the system. I’ve rolled out new systems several times, even here at JumpCloud. I’ve rolled out several different help desk platforms. One of the things that I’ve seen, especially when you’re deprecating something old and replacing it with something new, how getting people who have been using that old system into that new system is a challenge. What can you do to help that transition? 

Nicole: That’s a good question, too. It is a real challenge. There’s a few things that you said that I thought were really interesting. The first piece is about making it seem easy, and I mean ideally, you picked a piece of software that actually is easy and intuitive to use, but no matter what, the way that you present it and roll it out to your end users has to feel easy. No matter how complicated the piece of software might be, the way you present it or the way you talk about it to them, the words are very important. So, when you say things like ‘Well, it’s super easy to complete blah-blah-blah task by going to this page and doing whatever,’ or ‘By using this feature, you can say time in your day,” bringing it back to that why, the value prop that we already talked about. So the way you present a new piece of software when you roll it out is really important because you can make people feel like it’s easy, like it’s helpful, like it’s going to solve a challenge for them, or not, depending on how you position it. So I think it really is important to consider the words that you use when you talk about it to people, trying to make it appear as easy as possible. 

The second piece is the chance management piece that you just asked about. So, how do you relieve a little bit of the pain for people when they do have to switch or… because I think that’s really what it’s about. When you have people who are resistant a little bit, and they want to keep using the old tool, whatever you were using… my opinion is that they’re afraid that it’s going to be harder or that is going to take them more time to learn than it would to just use the old piece. So, again, it all kind of ties together. If you can convince them why it’s going to be helpful to use the new piece of tool, and you’ve presented it to them in a way that makes it seem really easy,  I think you can address people’s resistance a little bit better.

But the other thing that you can do is making sure that you’re very cross collaborative with the rest of your organization. Getting leadership and management on board with the change is extremely helpful because the more that you have messages coming at your end users about ‘Hey, this is the new process. This is the new tool. This is the new place you need to go… Oh, remember, this is the new process. This is the new tool. This is the new place you need to go…’ the faster they’re going to pick up on it. Peer pressure is a huge tool, actually. The more that they see people around them using the new tool, the more of those people are likely to change over, no matter how resistant they are. So, I think that is kind of in the education role, in the education scope, but more so in the change management scope of getting your people who are higher up on board with you early, really early in the process, convincing them of why it’s important, so that way you have champions out there who are helping you spread the message. I don’t think that it can be a one-man job, really.

Ryan: That makes a lot of sense, and also, to add an answer to my own question: just from my personal experience, specifically with this last time we rolled out a new help desk platform, is that we were adding functionality to our old platform for quite a while and there wasn’t a lot of a gap between when we rolled out our last feature of the old platform and when we rolled out the new platform. So, I feel that probably created a lot of confusion… Do you feel that that has merit to it? 

Nicole: Yeah, I think so. I actually think that’s a really interesting point. Because the pieces of software were similar, it actually caused more confusion. I would have thought that that would make the transition easier? 

Ryan: To give more details on it, so we had a lot of requests to add Slack integration to our old help desk platform, and it took us a while to get that figured out. Then we did get it working somewhat; it wasn’t great, but then we discovered a new platform that is essentially Slack-native that we tested out and we really liked. So we decided to make that transition to that new platform. So, I think that because there was so much similarity between the last change of the old platform, the last feature release of the old platform I guess you could say, and how the new platform functioned, and also how quickly, how close together those releases happened that I think that there was a lot of, that we caused a lot of confusion with them that we could have done better.

So maybe doing a lead up, saying ‘We’re going to be releasing this… in a week,’ and then when we release it being like “This is the new platform; this is how you use it.’ And then, maybe a  post-release email… I guess err on the side of over-communicating. 

Nicole: Yeah, I think that that is an excellent idea, and in my opinion, the timing is not as crucial as the way that you communicate it. For us working in the software world, if we think about our own product, it’s really common that we would make an enhancement to the product and we would release it, and then in the next sprint, we would release another update. It might be a fast follow, right? Our users, at least in this space, our users are not un-used to having to adjust quick changes to a piece of software. It’s more about how much awareness we create about it, and when we talk to them about it and when we do talk to them about it, what do we say and what kind of resources do we provide for them so that they’re really prepared. I would be curious what your communication plan was in that particular project? 

Ryan: Saying that we had a communication plan is probably a bit generous. It was really crafting a single email and sending it out and then you’re just making it to ourselves available for questions and that sort of thing. So it was more of a ‘let people know,’ and then a reactive stance, where I think that what you’ve been saying this whole time about communicating multiple times, maybe from multiple channels… I think that probably would have been a lot more successful than what we did.

Nicole: I think I agree with you based on what you’re saying. I definitely agree about leveraging multiple channels. You guys are not an island and you can totally leverage the other people in the organization to help you spread your message. Getting in front of, like I said, leadership and managers: If you have champions around the organization who are very invested in what you’re doing, reach out to those people because you’re not going to be able to enforce or spread your message all by yourself. I mean, you might be able to, but it won’t be as easy if you have other people who are talking about this when you’re not around. Getting the buy-in early, like I mentioned before, getting the important people on board and aware before and early before it happens is a good way to do it. 

I think what you just said about communicating multiple times is also a good idea, and it doesn’t have to all be via email. You could be spreading that message in a couple different channels that you have around the organization. Giving people a heads-up before it happens… Here’s like, the minimum: giving people a heads-up before it happens, giving them notice like ‘Hey, today’s launch day; it’s live,’ and then getting some type of follow up after. It doesn’t have to be assertive either, it doesn’t have to be like ‘Hey guys, we launched this thing a week ago, need you to be following this new process.’ It can be more open ended, like ‘Hey, we launched this thing a week ago, wondering how it’s going for everybody? Feel free to send us your feedback.’ Or celebratory, like ‘Hey, we launched this thing a week ago; it’s going great! Here’s an update about what’s been happening since we launched it.’ Even just sending quick messages like that, that helps stay top-of-mind so that people think about it more often. Again, that’s just the reinforcement of: people learn better when they hear something multiple times. So, any excuse that you have to talk about it yourself or to have other people talk about it on your behalf is going to help bring it to the top for people so that when they do have that issue, and they need to use this new piece of software, they think about it. 

Ryan: That makes total sense.

Break: Questions From the Field

Ryan: Let’s take a quick break and answer some questions from the field! The question for today is another one that I’ve run into a lot personally and I’ve also seen it on some community forums. 

‘Chrome is acting up in a really weird way; it’s not behaving properly and you’ve cleared the cache and it’s not working… what do you do to fix it?’ 

So what I run into is, most often, this is a corrupted Chrome profile. All you need to do is close out Chrome and then go to where the Chrome profiles are stored — it will vary depending on which OS you’re on — and then delete the default profile. When you restart Chrome, the profile will be rebuilt and everything should be working properly. And now back to the episode.

Tailoring Trainings to Your Audience

Ryan: So when it comes to doing customer training on a new product or platform, an example of what you’ve done is you have created a tutorial series for our own product. It’s a fairly in-depth training course, at least from my perspective. How do you determine what avenue to take when training customers on a new product or platform? 

Nicole: So the first thing that any Learning and Development person should think about is ‘who’s the person who’s going to digest their training?’ Everything that you do after that is based on the answer to that question. It’s very important to know who your audience is, how tech-savvy they are, how they prefer to learn, and then you can make something that will meet their needs. For our customers, I really had to cross collaborate with people who speak directly to our customers and ask them questions: ‘How tech-savvy are these people? What is their typical role? What’s their typical level of experience? How long have they typically been using our products?’ Then, you decide how complicated — or not complicated  — you want to make the training, so understanding who your audience is going to be your first thing. 

The other piece of it is deciding what are the primary tasks that you want people to be able to perform? I like to start my trainings, or my curriculum in general, with the basics, the must-have requirements. A lot of pieces of software have a lot of different things that go into it, right, so sometimes it can be very overwhelming to decide where do I start with this? There are so many pieces that people have to know. So, my recommendation is to boil it down to the primary tasks that your end users are going to have to complete within the software, and start there because that’ll make it a lot more approachable and it’ll also be more relevant to the people who are taking your training. So just figure out, what are the top tasks that you know they need to complete, and then based on how tech savvy they are, how they prefer to learn, you’ll know how deep or not you need to go. 

And then the other thing that you can do is just break it down by task. So if there are a lot of different tasks, first you determine how tech-savvy, you determine what are the must-have required things that they need to know, and then you can open it up to: these are all of the different tasks they’re going to have to complete. You can prioritize how you roll it out that way.

Scaling Education by Complexity

Ryan: Yeah, that makes total sense. So, would you say the same thing is true when you determine how you’re going to communicate these trainings, whether it’s through documentation, through videos, through in-person? What’s your suggestion on that?

Nicole: That could be a whole webinar in and of itself, a whole podcast episode. That is also a major piece of instructional design: figuring out what is the best way for me to present this information now? If I had to boil it down to my simplest version of making that decision, I would say it depends on the complication of what you’re trying to teach. If you decide that you want to go very, very deep into something or maybe you have to go very deep into something and it is complicated, there’s kind of a scale. 

So, let’s start at the least complicated and we’ll work our way out to the most complicated. If it’s not that complicated, it’s pretty intuitive and it’s a quick process, I’d say documentation is a great way to go. If it’s slightly more involved or maybe it’s very visual, then something like a pre-recorded video that you can just hand over and let people watch would be something that would probably suit their needs a little bit better, especially if it would be helpful to have some audio that goes around the video to help explain, ‘Hey, when you get to this part, it’s really important to remember this.’ That’s when a video would be really helpful. 

The next step after that is a live, virtual session. So if you wanted to do, maybe, an internal webinar to your users and you have people log on for 30 minutes or 45 minutes or an hour, and you physically walk them through the session. This is good for slightly more complicated things because it allows your end users to ask you questions in real time. If it’s a topic that you anticipate people might get a little bit confused about or if it’s something that is really going to shake up their world. We talked about change management before, and if you’ve got those people who are going to be like ‘No way. I don’t want to do this. This is going to totally change my flow,’ or maybe you have those fear people who are like ‘Well, I’m not sure how this is going to work,’ then a live webinar… maybe it simply provides some reassurance to people. It gives you personal visibility. 

The very last piece of that, the most complicated I would say, is in-person sessions, where you really need to be hands on. You need to be able to actively answer somebody’s question or sit next to them and show them how to do something or if you want to present a hands-on experience, where you want your learners to be able to try it for themselves and you want to be there in case you need to troubleshoot. So, that would be the scale that I would use, and I would base it off of the complexity of the thing you’re trying to teach.

The Learning and Development Toolkit

Ryan: Okay, that makes sense. So you covered a lot when it comes to how to decide how to communicate, how you’re going to develop your course, and how you’re going to present your \ training. So the next thing that I would like to hear your input on is that a lot of it admins out there don’t have the benefit of having a senior customer and partner training specialist on their staff or having access to one. What is your go-to toolset for what you do? 

Nicole: It’s funny because that was going to be my next question to you. How common is it for IT people in this situation to have support like me, or maybe an internal learning and development person to help them with this process? Because if you guys are doing this all on your own, that is a job in and of itself. So first of all, kudos to you guys, because it is a lot of work and obviously, it really impacts the other things that you’re doing. If you’re trying to roll out new software to benefit people, if they don’t know how to use it and they don’t actually adopt, then it’s kind of all for naught. So big props to everybody out there who is doing this themselves. 

I can recommend a bunch of different things to help you get around and kinda get set up. My go-to toolkit is, first and foremost, GoToWebinar or Zoom. Those are great tools because they can be really versatile. That can help you in the situation of needing to give a live virtual session, but can also help you record pre-recorded videos. That’s kind of a dual, double hitter there, and it’s really easy to use and it has a lot of features in it. So that’s what that’s a good one that I like to use for both of those mediums. 

Techsmith is a great platform. They have so many different tools to help you out. Snagit, first of all, is a really awesome tool that will help you record screen casting and audio. You can also take screen captures with that, so if you did want to do something like documentation, Snagit will help you grab some of those screenshots and put it together in the document. If you wanted to get a little bit further in that path, and let’s say you wanted to, maybe, edit some of your videos for your end user consumption, Techsmith also has a tool called Camtasia, which helps you edit and put a little bit of a finesse… I’d say it. Like, I’m not encouraging anybody to go that far. If you’re doing two jobs already, that might be a little bit overkill, but it is a tool that I personally really like, so just putting that out there. 

Those would be the three big ones: Zoom, GoToWebinar/GoToMeeting, and Techsmith tools.

Ryan: I will say that I have used Camtasia for screen recording, mainly for if we wanted to record a meeting or something that is going on. It does make video editing pretty easy, so I could back you up on that one, too. 

Nicole: Awesome, that makes me feel so much better. Look at you go!

Ryan: I will admit… I guess I can say I have an unfair advantage because I do have a graphic design background as well. I do kind of like doing the stuff.

Nicole: Well that is awesome. I have to admit that I have a secret place in my heart for that kind of stuff, too, so that’s why it definitely makes my list of tools.

How To Educate Remote Users

Ryan: So, to give a little context to this recording: we are recording this during the COVID-19 pandemic. So, do you have any suggestions on or insights on how end user education may change when it comes to a remote environment? 

Nicole: You know, it’s kind of ironic because this is not changing my strategy or my execution very much at all. I know that a lot of people are being very impacted by this, but I feel like my realm of customer education is not one of them. That’s just my personal experience; there might be some educators out there who feel differently, but my approach as I have gotten deeper and deeper into customer education for software it’s very much of if we’re going to be scalable, if we’re going to give people the flexibility to learn whatever they want to learn and whatever they want to learn, it is virtual. It’s already virtual. We are doing live webinars. We’re doing self-paced courses. We’re doing tutorial videos. So all of those things are very much already a part of a good customer education approach. 

So, for me, this is almost an opportunity to help people get educated in a space that we’re already trying to play. I don’t see a ton of impact on, like I said, my strategy or execution about how to educate people, but I understand that people who may traditionally be educating people face-to-face, they are going to have to make a move towards what JumpCloud is doing. We are educating people remotely and we’re educating people virtually, which I think is a good idea regardless. So it might be a little bit of a stretch for people who are not already doing that, but in my opinion, this is going to be a good push for people who are not already doing that, because they should be. I think this it’s going to be really good preparation for practicing, ‘How do you educate people in a way that they can get it whenever they need it?’ And, that a lot of people can get it at the same time,whatever their schedule might be. 

So, yeah, I know that a lot of people are really having to make adjustments and struggle, and I’m not 100% immune to that, but I do have to say that I think education should be virtual so that anyone and everyone can access it whenever they need it.

Ryan: Yeah, that makes perfect sense to do a different take on that. I was asked ‘What system policies should we be enabling for a remote workforce?’ My answer was that, from the beginning, we’ve been treating people, we’ve been selecting policies in and acting as if our workforce was remote because people had the option to work from home. We didn’t decide to have a more lax in-office set of policies and a more secure remote set of policies. We just went with a more secure remote set of policies across the board, but I feel like that’s kind of the same thing. A good practice is to move on to this self-paced, remote learning platform.

Nicole: Yeah, I totally agree. It’s kind of a best practice regardless, so now we just have the opportunity to embrace it a little bit more.

Ryan: Yeah, just speed up that natural evolution.

Nicole: Exactly.

Closing Remarks

Ryan: Well, thank you Nicole. You have given us a ton of useful information and I am sure that our listeners will definitely benefit from your knowledge and experience, so thank you for coming on. Again, our guest has been Nicole Petruccione, the senior customer and partner training specialist here at Jumpcloud. Thank you very much for your time, Nicole.

Nicole: Appreciate it, thank you!

Ryan: Thank you for listening to Where’s the Any Key? If you like what you heard, please feel free to subscribe. Again, my name is Ryan Bacon and I work for JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service, where the team here is building a cloud-based platform for system and identity management. You can learn more and even set up a free account at jumpcloud.com.

So until next time, keep looking for that any key. If you find it, please let us know.

About JumpCloud

JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service is Active Directory and LDAP reimagined. JumpCloud securely manages and connects your users to their systems, applications, files, and networks. Try JumpCloud now, or contact us at 855.212.3122.