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Why I Teach

5 min readView all articles
By John Pauler
May 11, 2020

Of all the things a person could do, why teach?

This is the right question. If you can get to the “why”, you really understand someone.

Today, I'm talking about my "why".

Why teach? Why Analytics and Business Intelligence? Why online? Why Maven?

Why teaching is the thing

I got my first taste of teaching back in college, as a peer tutor for Quantitative Methods, an Excel-based course that taught business analysis and problem solving. My job was to post up in the library three nights a week and be there for any students who wanted extra help. When a student came in needing help, and left totally getting it? Best feeling ever!

Anyone who has taught, coached, or mentored knows that feeling. There is nothing like it.

After feeling it that first time, I seriously considered changing course. Ultimately I decided to continue down the business path for a while. I knew I would enjoy trying to build businesses, and I was concerned about my ability to provide for a family if I chose teaching. I figured I could be a business guy for a while and then teach later. The reverse order sounded harder to pull off. I am not saying this was the right decision, or an admirable one. It was just the path I chose.

For a few years after school, I worked, learned on the job, went back to school at night, and pretty much forgot about the itch to teach. At best, it was somewhere on the back burner.

Then about 10 years ago, I hired my first employee.

The guy was sharp, and actually had better technical skills than most people coming directly out of school, but he was so raw. His first job...yada, yada, yada.

Now I'm in a familiar situation, feeling something I had almost forgotten about. This guy needs to learn, and it’s my job again… to teach.

I realized as a Manager that I didn’t have to choose between business guy and teacher. Managers can have the best of both worlds. Teaching my new friend Analytics and Business Intelligence skills felt especially rewarding. Our learning sessions were teaching him practical real-world skills in an in-demand field, which would make him more marketable, give him access to more interesting roles, and help him provide for himself for the rest of his life. Talk about “teaching someone to fish”.

Since then, I have hired and trained many. It has always felt great to serve as a teacher, and to help folks build skills that would improve their lives. The opportunity to make a lasting impact for these people is a major part of what kept me feeling fulfilled on the business path for so long.

Why online is where it’s at

When Chris approached me back in 2016 about partnering up and teaching SQL courses to complement his Excel library...I said no.

You want me to make videos? No thanks.

Teaching feels great because of the one on one interaction. The reward is seeing the lightbulb moment in a student's eyes and knowing you helped them get there. I assumed at the time that producing educational videos could never deliver the same fulfillment. I was not interested at all.

Eventually, about two years later, Chris was able to wear me down. He sold me on the potential scale with which we could impact the lives of young Analysts, and assured me that there was still plenty of opportunity for meaningful one on one interaction with students when they needed help. He shared glowing reviews and touching direct messages from students who had learned practical skills and accelerated their careers. He convinced me, and I agreed to start producing a SQL course on nights and weekends.

Making your first course is absolutely brutal. I don’t think I can stress this enough. A shocking amount of work goes into curriculum development, recording, and production. And until you ship it, all the work you are doing hasn’t helped a single person. There is no positive reinforcement from happy students. You haven’t even felt that yet. It is just you and what feels like a never-ending stream of thankless work. A tremendous grind. I almost quit three times, and it took me MUCH longer than Chris and I had originally planned for.

Then, that first course launches. You see your first positive review and receive the first direct message from a student you are making a difference for. It feels great, just like in-person teaching. Questions pop up on the forums from students who need help. You jump in and guide them. The one on one interaction feels just as good as helping people in-person, which is one of the most surprising things about teaching online.

Then, at some point, you have that aha moment. You are now teaching at scale. You realize that you were helping someone halfway around the globe last night while you were sleeping. You figure out that at any given time of day, multiple people are using your course to learn job skills, advance their careers, and improve their lives.

You realize that in the first month after your course launched, you have helped more people and influenced more careers than you did over the past decade. Wow.

If you get to this point, you’re hooked. How could you not be?

Why Maven is the perfect fit

For starters, Chris got me into this. Like I said before, I had no interest in producing online courses. He kept pushing on me to do it, and I’ll be forever grateful he didn’t give up.

Much more importantly, in Chris, I have a partner who shares a similar motivation and a similar vision. He doesn’t want to build a platform that boasts “thousands of courses”. Chris cares about quality, and about serving the Business Intelligence market with a best of breed product that will create the strongest Analysts on the planet. His bar for quality is exceptional, and challenges me to be better.

We want the same things out of this too… a good life, the fulfillment of teaching, the challenge of building a business, plenty of time to spend with family, and the opportunity to make a difference for a lot of people.

I am so excited to get to work at Maven, and to have the opportunity to try to help more and more people every day.

That’s me. That's my “why”.

With extreme gratitude,

-John

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Author

John Pauler

John brings over a decade of business intelligence experience to the Maven team, having worked with companies ranging from Fortune 500 to early stage startups. As a MySQL expert, he has played leadership roles across analytics, marketing, SaaS and product teams.

John brings over a decade of business intelligence experience to the Maven team, having worked with companies ranging from Fortune 500 to early stage startups. As a MySQL expert, he has played leadership roles across analytics, marketing, SaaS and product teams.

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