In 1991, after Windows 3.0 started taking the corporate world by storm, Microsoft realized that they needed to educate their market on this new technology. Terms like “Client/Server” and “Distributed Computing” needed clear explanations and these explanations could not come from a Microsoft employee without sounding like evangelizing. They had developed a course called “New Architectures for Enterprise Computing” (NAFEC) and they needed people outside Microsoft to teach it. The course covered Client/Server models, Local Area Networks and distributed databases.
I could handle the Client/Server and the database material with only a small amount of brush up, but the networking material was way beyond my comfort zone. I wanted badly to teach this course, so I dove into networking and studied it night and day. I even put a couple books under my pillow!
The Microsoft manager in charge of the class gave me a piece of advice. “Never admit that you don’t know the answer.” That was the single worst piece of advice anybody had ever given me and fortunately I was wise enough to smile, nod my head and ignore his advice. He and I did my first trial run in front of an audience of about 100 people in Washington, D.C. and then he flew back to Redmond while I went on to teach the class at AT&T in Piscataway, NJ.
I made it through day one just fine, but as soon as I got into the lower levels of the OSI networking model I realized that the folks in the room were the inventors of this layer. I stopped the class and copped to my embarrassment at this point, but they were just fine with it. Yes, they knew about the physical and data link layers of the OSI model, but the rest of my material was all new to them. We spent the next hour with my asking them questions! I learned that it is possible to place an instrument at a bend in an optical cable and catch bits that don’t make the turn and lots of other cool stuff. But most of all, I learned that being honest and vulnerable can reap huge rewards.
I taught NAFEC over 70 times from Seattle to Caracas, Venezuela and San Diego to St. Johns, Newfoundland.