Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Curiosity does not always kill the cat!

“Curiosity killed the cat” is a famous saying used to warn people not to get too curious because it could get them into trouble.

It is not always so! I personally know of two persons, Inquisitive Driver and Inquisitive Helper, who reached from "nothing" to "something" all because their curiosity got the better of them.

Few years ago we had implemented a system for tracking the movement of the company fleet vehicles. During one of the training sessions the trainer was giving orientation to a group of drivers on how to record the trips they made. 

He explained that details of the trip is entered by identifying the vehicle through the Fleet Number. A meek voice came from behind “Is Fleet Number the Primary Key”? The trainer stopped dead in his track as if someone had knocked on his head, then with a surprised look on his face, he turned around to see who the Inquisitive Driver was. The other drivers giggled thinking that the Inquisitive Driver who asked the question must have said something silly. The trainer looked at the Inquisitive Driver and said “yes, Fleet Number is the Primary Key”. With that, the other drivers fell into an embarrassed silence.

It is quite understandable why the trainer was surprised at the question. Primary Key is a technical term used by database designers and computer programmers. A lay person is not expected to know about it.

We were quite keen to know how this Inquisitive Driver came to know about such a technical stuff. The explanation he gave was simply amazing.

He told us that before joining our organization, he worked as a driver for a software company. While transporting the programmers from the office to clients and back, he used to overhear the programmers discussing about their work. The driver was quite curious about some words the programmers used in their conversations.  Somehow, “Primary Key” caught his fancy. 

Out of curiosity, he asked one of the programmers what “Primary Key” meant. And, thus began his journey of learning, culminating into his becoming a programmer. By asking many more questions and with the help of the generous programmers he became very much interested in computer programming.

Later, he took up a job as a driver when he got a better offer from our organization. He also told us that after joining our organization, he had requested the management to give him a chance in the IT department but it was rejected  as he did not have the basic qualifications as required for even the junior most post in the IT department.

As he started telling his story, we realized that he had a very good concept about databases, programming languages and even Lotus Notes. It was his lucky day that this episode took place during the training session.

The trainer took up the issue with the management by conveying the passion and the tremendous potential this driver had for learning. It needed special recommendations to push his case forward. Finally, the management agreed to send him for a basic qualification course. Inquisitive Driver has been given a chance to pursue his passion, all because of his curiosity to know something. I am sure, in due course he will be a very good programming resource for the IT department.

The second story is about the Inquisitive Helper who joined the organization as a “helper”, many years ago. At that time, the bar attached to our club needed a helper to assist the bar tender. The club management was trying to implement a Microsoft Access based system to keep track of the stock. When the system was ready for implementation, the Inquisitive Helper volunteered to do the data entry. 

Whenever there was a problem, as the programmer would try to debug the programs, the Inquisitive Helper would peek over the programmer's shoulder trying to figure out what he was doing. His interest in programming started to increase and he desperately wanted to learn more. 

He borrowed books on programming and with the help of the programmer, his journey of learning began. In due course of time he started doing some very basic programming with the generous help of the programmer. Soon, word spread that the helper was some sort of a computer wizard. 

Few years later, the management decided to do away with all desktop based systems by  consolidating the applications into the enterprise system. The management decided to give a chance to the Inquisitive Helper to work in the IT department. He grabbed the opportunity with both his hands. He spent hours, learning from books and other documentations, on his own, by staying late after office hours. This man with just secondary school education, with no formal IT education is today a very important programmer in the IT department.

According to a Danish Proverb “he who is afraid to ask, is ashamed of learning”. Millions saw the apple fall, but only Isaac Newton asked “why”. Because of that “why” today we are able to fly in the sky, in a mass of metal, comfortably sitting in a chair, thousands of feet high, defying force of gravity!

"Curiosity does not always kill the cat!"

According to a Chinese Proverb “Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere”. How true! It is not just the curiosity but the thirst to learn, that makes a person successful! Learning is "an endless, incredible journey", age, color, creed, nothing matters!

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