Teaching Heirarchies

by Jinryu

Working in an office is like being a part of a zoo. As I mentioned when i first started here, I’ve never really been part of the “cubicle culture” before. There are some similarities to working at the hospital, but the main difference is that while I was on a 3 person administrative team to support medical staff, here, I’m part of a 10 person administrative team, and we share the office with another 50 teams (also of administrators).

It’s kinda cool then to just overhear conversations. There’s this one guy for example from programming. I don’t interact with him, because my side of database management doesn’t connect with his department, but he sounds like he’s a real keystone to the company. Not only do I see him occasionally debugging through dual screened code, but I hear him going around and liaising as an analyst between the programming team, and non-programming teams (such as customer support, sales, and marketing). It’s pretty cool to see that someone can be so well rounded—I hear explanations go through him that make no sense because they’re so technical, but he manages to make it all make sense to the non-technical people.

That’s definitely an admirable skill. In a sense, it is the very essence of teaching—communication.

I think there’s a lot of stigma out there that comes with the words ‘teaching’ and ‘learning.’ The prevalent attitude is that a student sits down and shuts up while the teacher talks at the student. It’s true that there’s been a lot of education and workplace reforms over theyears to make delivery methods more efficient and to improve the overall well-roundedness of the ‘student’ so that they don’t just become “book smart,” but at the end of the day, people automatically think certain things when you mention a teacher-student relationship.

Teaching and learning is all about communication. It’s about effective transference of information. Someone who is a good teacher is someone who is able to communicate ideas effectively, while a good student is one who manages to soak it up well. But it’s not a one way street really—I mean, you can teach yourself, for example, and there is a feedback connection whereby the teacher learns from the student.

In the case of this ‘keystone’ programmer dude, he’s not a teacher—although he’s a ranking employee who is higher than the average employee, the way that he presents himself is at the service of others. That’s interesting—because he doesn’t treat himself so much as a gatekeeper as he does a facilitator.

It’s a very different hierarchy functionality from, say, most martial arts schools.