This blog article isn’t about giving you homework before class starts. Well, at least not really. When you jump into any FileMaker training class, the amount of technological knowledge can be overwhelming. It helps if you step into the classroom with the right mentality. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Picture Your Rainbow
It’s hard to learn something if you don’t know why you need it. Building a database for the sake of just building one won’t get you very far. Instead, think about a business need, or even a personal need, for a database. Some common examples include: contact management system, invoicing system, recipe database, inventory, etc. Think of a database as doing something the “easy” way. Imagine having to write all of your business’ receipts on carbon copy paper! A database could remove the paper from the process, allow you to email receipts to customers, and keep a history of all items purchased.
Know Your Business (aka Think Like a Human)
FileMaker solutions, like any other software, work as well as you build them. The key to building a successful database is to know your business process and your business needs. Before you even get into the FileMaker jargon, think about your business as a flowchart and what it takes to complete the process. It even helps to come to class with those ideas written out, as you’ll have something to reference as you learn new FileMaker skills.
Think Like a Computer
Knowing your business is all about understanding people, flow, and processes (and even a little bit of office politics). Once you have that information, you’ll want to start thinking about your process in “computer speak.” While this is something you’ll learn throughout your FileMaker training, it helps to be prepared for it. “Computer speak” simply means that you’ll have to think logically, rigidly, and in pattern-form. A good example of this is in my article about Parsing Like a Pro – in order to get FileMaker to do something, you have to TELL FileMaker what to do, how to do it, and what to look for. Being a developer is mostly about being an interpreter/translator from humans to computers.
Think In Analogies
It’s nearly impossible to build a curriculum that covers the needs of every student in the class, unless it’s a class of one. With that said, be prepared to use analogies or examples to tie the material taught in class to your example. If the trainer talks about Customers and Invoices, think about these compared to Students and Grades. Don’t get stuck in the objects or items. Take it to the next level and think about what the items represent and how they relate and/or function together. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Trainers want you to walk away with material you can apply. If something just isn’t clicking, ask for another example or ask how it would apply to your scenario.
Prepare for Mental Overload
Don’t come into the class with the expectation of walking out and knowing all there is to know about FileMaker. As a trainer, my goal is to teach you what I can and expose you to things that might be out of your initial skill’s reach so that you can attempt it later. My goal is to tell you that anything can be done, whether it’s just through FileMaker or with the help of other technologies. Regardless, know that you’ll walk out of the class feeling a bit overwhelmed with knowledge and possibilities.
Set Your Expectations
My advice is that when you’re thinking up your ideal database, put things into 3 categories: Can’t function without this, Important but not required, Nice to have. By prioritizing functionality, you don’t get bogged down with the details. You’ll also find yourself building something that will be functional enough for actual use, so that you can start using your system and continue growing and building the database.
If you keep the above in mind, you’re preparing yourself for FileMaker success! Learning a new technology, or even learning more about an existing technology, is far from easy and takes a lot of work and practice. However, being organized and prepared will lead to a successful outcome as you venture onto your new FileMaker journey.