Forums are fertile birth beds of ideas.
It’s a medium of exchange, where people from all walks of life(and tech) share their hard earned knowledge.
Unfortunately, not many are drawn to forums, and think it’s a waste of time.
There is a reason for that.
You and I – Are Selfish By Design
Very few actually share what they have learned, fearing that their careers are at risk if others learn what they had to painstakingly acquire.
They believe that it is in their best interests to keep things to themselves, thinking that will enable them to leverage situations to their favor.
And it does, but I can’t help by look down on those who rely on this “strategy” to get ahead.
To make things worse, this attitude is far too prevalent and I believe it is due to a lack of perspective.
First of All
You have nothing to lose.
It’s a fear with no basis in reality.
Let’s look at one such example.
Most of you might have worked with basic regular expressions such as detecting numbers (\d) or letters ([A-z]), but there are only a handful of individuals who have studied advanced regex like zero length assertions.
If someone approaches you with a problem which can only be solved with zero length assertions, one of two things can happen.
Either the person will thank you for the solution and go along his merry way, or he will draw inspiration from the solution you have offered and try to explore it some more.
Most of the time, people are only looking for a solution. It’s only that 10% who are actually interested in developing the skills necessary to get ahead.
But what is in it for me?
I invested my time on you, so what do I get out of it?
To put it simply, you taught someone something new, and at the same time, revised whatever what you already knew.
Sure, that doesn’t sound sexy, but it does add value to both the giver and the receiver.
Nothing is ever lost in the process of mentoring.
Also, do keep in mind that people don’t approach the forum with silly questions(sometimes they do), but do so with project related issues that will give you much needed insight into the product you have to work with.
Not every client will invest in IQ Bots or AARI, but if you expose yourself to the forum, you will at the very least, get an idea of the sort of issues you would encounter if you had to work with them, which in a way teaches you about the tools.
But here is a question for you,
Why Does Any of That Matter?
Regardless of whether the person decides to learn something new, or just leaves after you provide him with the solution, where does this fear of “Oh no! He gunna stealz me job!” stem from?
No one is stealing anyone’s job here, in fact you are solidifying whatever you have learned each time you help someone out.
But that is not all, you are also planting a seed of inspiration.
Forums are a Wellspring
I have come across some fantastic looking solutions on the forum that I still visit from time to time. There is a sort of beauty to it that I can’t describe.
I have also come across some really complex looking solutions that motivated me to stop learning.
It goes both ways you now.
Forums hold a great deal of potential, and most, if not all, of what I have penned on this blog draws inspiration from the forum.
Writing is a tedious and time consuming task, and to give it all out for free isn’t something that comes naturally to us. We are selfish by design, but when we expose ourselves to a universe of ideas, we slowly realize that there is a lot to learn, and a lot that can only be learned by sharing what we have accumulated over the years.
And besides, there is a universe of ideas out there so there is plenty to go around.
The forums teach you that.
“But Someone Smarter Could Steal My Job”
You won’t be drawn to the forum if you are not open to learning.
Most of us learn on the job – either from projects, or by occasionally browsing through the documentation, so when we come face to face with issues we haven’t encountered before, our first instinct would be to get on our knees and beg our senior colleagues for their help.
If things go well, your senior might intervene and sort out the issue for you, and you won’t learn a damn thing.
Read that last sentence again.
You didn’t resolve the issue on your own, someone else did and Mr.Senior only got more practice while you got nothing.
The attitude here is “I have an issue, I don’t know what to do about it, and I want to get rid of it somehow.” Instead of “I have an issue, I don’t know what to do about it and I want to understand it better so that I can resolve it on my own”
Don’t feel bad, I was like that once.
I didn’t understand RPA at all, and was really frustrated with it.
Visiting the forum wasn’t even on my mind because I didn’t think I would find anything there.
Boy was I wrong.
“Why Not Rely on the Free Material Instead?”
Sure, there are content creators out there like Quality Assurance Lab and even Automation Anywhere has put out a lot of its learning material for free, but no subject can be covered in its entirety, which is why most of us get stuck at issues that can only be understood once we studied the subject in depth.
They are mostly troubleshooting issues which are rarely discussed, or project specific issues difficult to work around.
Also, the workspace might not contain the actions to perform the operations you are hoping to achieve.
It is difficult to create an Action for every conceivable operation, which is why Automation Anywhere has provided us with the functionality of uploading our own custom action packages into the Control Room…except not everyone knows how to develop action packages or write scripts.
You have to deliver the process by EOD, and Java isn’t something you can learn by EOD or EOL.
What do you do then?
You ask around in the forum AFTER you search for the query.
You Aren’t the First
Most of the issues you are facing right now were also faced by others, and they have done most of the work for you by bringing it onto the forum.
All you have to do is search for it, either through Google, or on the Forum itself.
Ask Questions…But Do Realize that We Aren’t Psychics!
I have noticed that many find it difficult to articulate the issue(s) they are facing.
I often find myself having to request them to provide few screenshots or more details so as to get a better idea as to what the root cause of the issue is.
But as I answered more questions, I slowly developed an intuition for most common issues, and can now guess what the issue is…well not always but I get it right most of the time.
A humble request to anyone reading this, probe and ask as many questions as you can, but I would really appreciate it if you could also provide a context.
The best way to do so is by providing few screenshots and maybe a 2-3 line description of the error you are facing, and the steps you have taken to troubleshoot the issue.
That would help us understand whether it’s an issue that can be resolved by us, or if it’s something that the Automation Anywhere Team has to look into.
Learn, Grow and Mentor
The best way to grow is by engaging with communities online.
Browsing through the forum also teaches you how to interact professionally, and how to get what you want.
The user is only going to like or mark your answer as the solution if your delivery and timing is spot on.
Your ability to describe and guide the user out of the issue is what matters, along with the way you address them.
Quick response is also an added bonus, but they are here for the solution, so it doesn’t matter how quick you are, the answer you provide has to satisfy the requirement.
This gets you in the habit of brainstorming on the spot, which improves your ability to grasp new concepts, as it becomes easier for you to connect the dots, and find similar bodies of abstraction to relate with.
For example, when you understand how Roles and Permissions work, any software you learn after that will become easier to pick up on since there is less “new stuff” to learn.
You already understand how Roles and Permissions work, what their purpose is, and what sort of issues you can run into if so and so permissions aren’t provided.
Also, there is a competitive aspect to it, which spices things up.
Of course, you might have to keep your attitude in check, because that competitive spirit could get the better of you if you are not careful.
You’re supposed to offer solutions, not spam their mailboxes to infinity and beyond.
Before you start developing automation, I would recommend developing a habit of visiting the forums and browse through 2-3 solutions a day.
What gets you ahead are the routines you consciously set for yourself. The unconscious ones like aimlessly browsing through social media or playing video games are what set you back.
Strive each day to learn something new, and you will eventually reach great heights.
Maybe one day you and I could meet eye to eye on the Leaderboard.