BACKGROUND IMAGE: iSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES
A former software engineer, Jessica McPeake now leads technical training programs at Akamai Technologies. She's applying her engineering experience by bringing Agile iterative development approaches to her team's technical enablement processes.
In this video interview, McPeake talks about creating Agile technical training programs and the differences between bringing business staff on board and software engineers. She also explains the role emotional intelligence plays in training. She is senior director of technical enablement in the Global Services and Support organization at Akamai, a content delivery network and cloud services provider based in Cambridge, Mass.
Jessica McPeakesenior director of technical enablement, Akamai Technologies
Many technical training programs consist of long presentations followed by a questions session. Yet, people don't retain information well when it's delivered in large doses. "There's a lot of overhead in training," said McPeake.
Way back in 1956, Princeton University clinical psychology professor George Miller published a study on short-term memory. He found that people can retain five to six pieces of information in their correct order. After that, retention declines. Though this finding is called Miller's Law, it has been considered a rule of thumb in education since that time.
Recognizing that people retain information that's delivered in bite-sized segments, McPeake started her Agile training with researching and determining the learning objectives before packaging shorter lessons on key topics. She has found that this method works well with software engineers, who want to learn about a concept, tool or approach and then "go and play with it," she said. While an overview of concepts is often appropriate for business staff, software engineers want to get intimate with all the finer points.
Emotional intelligence training fits into Agile technical training programs because Agile is a team-focused methodology. A key trait of improving emotional intelligence is being able to understand and react to others appropriately, McPeake said. In team settings, for example, developers and businesspeople have to understand each other's point of view. Sometimes, this boils down to something as simple as knowing if the business user is asking the right question about using a technology, she noted.
In this video tutorial, McPeake goes into more details about her work in Agile training and bringing software engineers on board.