The Seven Lives of Guy Thomas
Guy's Life in a Nutshell
Below Are the 7 Stages in My Life So Far .....
Number 7 has been the most satisfying of my 'seven lives'. The best part of being my own boss means that I can choose which direction to go in. In practical terms, it means that I can learn what I am most interested in, pursue challenges as they arise; in other words I have complete freedom to enjoy my life.
When I started my own business in 1990, in common with many entrepreneurs, it was not a success. However, I tried again and formed Computer Performance Ltd in 1996 and have not looked back since. My hobby is learning bridge.
A Typical Day's Training for Guy Thomas
A typical training day starts the night before! I like to run through my PowerPoint presentations and think about how I am going to bring each slide to life. Even if I have trained the course many times before, I still go through the course notes to guard against rushing an explanation, or omitting a key point. Sometimes a new analogy or a topical story springs to mind and I add that to the module.
Where there are practical labs, I look for improvements. If delegates were confused by a lab last time, then I substitute a 'Guy lab'. This is a high risk, high reward strategy, but since I am confident of the subject matter it is worth experimenting with new ways of getting the knowledge across to the delegates. Incidentally Windows Server 2010 courses have new look labs which have had great review. The key point is that the delegates are given just enough information to do the task, but no more. As a result people have to think, which they like.
For a new course I would have begun preparation a week or even a fortnight before, reading the trainer guides and making notes in the margin. The hardest part is to anticipate the questions that delegates will ask.
Finally I can hear Pauline's voice saying 'have you got all the disks that you need?'. That means check the laptop, check my CDs and check my brief case.
The Course Itself
Just before the delegates arrive I get into 'state'. I try and visualise the delegates, their experience, background, what they want from the course. This vision of what the delegates need becomes clearer as on each subsequent day, that's one reason I like five day courses.
During the course my twin aims are to bring the slides alive, and provide the delegates with plenty of hands on experience.
On the first morning I like delegates to introduce, not them selves, but their partner, this acts an ice breaker and encourages team work.
It's a Man Thing
Pauline is brilliant at multi-tasking but I am one of those men who can only do one thing at a time. So when I am training I am totally focused on presenting the course, hosting the delegates and coaching the practical tasks. I have to admit that returning phone calls, dealing with admin has to wait until the evening.
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A Typical Day's Consulting for Guy Thomas
Framing the Problem
It usually starts with a phone call. Some-one has a computer ailment, often they are vague about the symptoms However they set a solution in motion by phoning a colleague, agent or friend and asking for help. That person then phones me, so I get a second hand version of a the problem. No worries! This is a situation I am used to. Once I contact the owner of the predicament two things happen; firstly by judicious questioning they are able to crystallise the problem, secondly I am able to give them some initial advice and set them on the road to recovery.
There are few magic bullets. What I bring is network know-how and familiarity with computer problem solving. Sometimes they just want an independent view from an outsider with no department to defend or axe to grind. On a good day, I have seen the problem elsewhere and know what the cure is. On a regular day I get out my toolkit, and go through my problems solving repertoire. On a bad day, I have to confess it's not in my expertise and pass them on to another expert. Their good news is I work on a no fix no fee basis.
My role is to ask the right questions, make sound deduction and build up trust so they put my suggests into action.
One of the sad paradoxes is that large companies, who have little problem with my modest fees, need my services less then small companies, who are unwilling to pay even when I offer them a cut rate. Another indication of the difference is that large companies often have too many servers, whereas small companies sometimes only have one server - not even a backup.
My altruistic streak cries out to help small organisations, there are so many things that I can help them with. This is tempered by my business streak that says they are terrible payers, and occasionally they go bust and I do not get paid at all.
The Horror of 'Keyboard Error 401'
One day I was running a training course for a Technical support outsourcing company. At break one of the delegates was on the phone and I could not help overhearing 'what's the fault again - 'Keyboard error 401 oh dear...', I whispered tell 'them to plug the keyboard back in. He put his hand over the phone and said to me,' shhh, we can get a nice little earner out of this'. Then he said to his customer 'right we will send an engineer around this afternoon'. Well I was horrified.
With me its often the reverse; I am forever giving free advice. For instance I tell them not to install more domains, so they do not need to spend out on kit for backup domain controllers. I always look for cost nothing solutions such as load balancing. For example rather than having a domain controller do everything, move tasks to the under-worked member server.
Writing the Report
The day does not finish with visiting the site, there is the report to write. Its not just enough to list faults with cures, I have to present a well argued written case. The client needs a document that can be referred to as well as actioned. Writing a report is a separate skill, and always takes longer than you think. A spell checker is a help but then I am indebted to Pauline's for her hawk eyed proof reading.
This is where I served my apprenticeship as a trainer. I learnt so much from the other trainers: dealing with delegates, technical tips and how to develop a training persona. The best trainers are actors as much as technical gurus. They each live the part, and have their own tricks to engage the audience.
My training managers first words were 'you will never please all of the people all of the time'. To me this was a challenge, I have tried to disprove this cynicism, but alas it is true. With skill, preparation and interest in people you can succeed 98% of the time, but there will always be those personality clashes, that technical glitch. All the trainers I meet dwell on those 2% of problems rather than focus on the 98% of people they help master the software.
For eleven years I felt I was doing a lot of good teaching at Northease. The boys at this 11-17 boarding school were all of above average intelligence, but all had one factor that stopped them achieving at a regular school. Most of their problems were dyslexic, but some had maladjustment traits.
My roles of science teacher, boarding master, and games supervisor enabled me to see many sides of the boys. It was rare that a boy was good at all three aspects of school, equally it was rare that someone was bad at all three.
People often ask why I left. The reasons are complex but basically driven by two thoughts, one I wanted to try something else, secondly I became disillusioned with education. One of my best pupils went for a job at BT. BT said 'what do you know about electronics?' 'Nothing they replied, it was not on the syllabus.' Well that's no good to us they replied'. If this had been an average pupil I may have thought no more, but he was the pick of his year, so began to question what school in general was achieving. I still believe that education needs a complete overhaul. In a nutshell, education should prepare pupils for the 21st Century, rather than try and create pupils in the image of teachers of the 19th Century.
I had a very good innings at University, and left with the idea of teaching. I had experience of demonstrating to undergraduates and this lead me to think that science teaching would be for me. What a shock I let myself in for. In retrospect I should have left after the first term. But I had the determination not to let the pupils or the system beat me. Well it took 5 years to master teaching by which time I found it satisfying and moved on to another school.
3) Southampton University 1971-74
Three years at the cutting edge of research flew by and I wish that my contract had been extended. 20-25 is a great idealist age. Just enough experience to apply to the creative ideas, but at that age we all need a steadying older hand to guide us. I still believe that the 'young Turk' and the old professional are a great combination.
A gap year between 'A' level and University is a great idea, it is just a shame that it was not popular in my youth. University was a wonderful time with dazzling opportunities in the academic, social and sporting front. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute but often wish that I could go back for a purely academic time.
Guy made, carefree, happy, smooth progress through 'O' Level and 'A' Level. Lived breathed and dreamt of sport when not in the classroom. This typifies my feeling that at each stage of my life I have done the appropriate things at the appropriate age, and that is the secret of having no regrets. Recently I have had much pleasure in tracing old friends from Friends reunited
They say you can judge someone by their humour, here are a few funnies that I like.