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Meet our trainers: Michael Blignaut - a data geek who loves enabling "a-ha!" moments

17 Jan 2020

A self-confessed data geek, Michael Blignaut loves numbers. More specifically, solving problems with numbers.

This passion for data naturally makes Michael an ideal instructor for Microsoft applications such as Power BI and Excel for Auldhouse in Auckland.

"I get quite excited about anything to do with numbers. What's fun for me is finding the quickest and simplest answer to a question and being able to visualise and make sense of the results. That's why I love apps like Excel and Power BI."

However, Michael applies this passion for problem-solving not just to teaching technical skills, as he also runs project managementand ITIL courses at Auldhouse.

Whether people are crunching data, managing projects or delivering IT services, Michael wants to help them simplify their work and arrive at results quicker.

"I'm always looking to cut out the mundane. Knowing that I can help people reduce repetitive, mundane tasks gives me a kick. By cutting out the boring everyday stuff, people can focus on the more interesting things in their work and personal lives."

This craving for results is what drove Michael into a career in training in the first place.

"The first technology course I attended was in Lotus 123 - a predecessor to Excel - and it was as if a light switch flicked on for me. I discovered I didn't have to grab a calculator to mundanely work out figures. I can just create formulas and repurpose those formulas very quickly to give me additional and in-depth results," he says.

"That was my huge 'a-ha' moment and I realised how much I enjoyed learning new things and that I wanted to share what I learned with others."

'A-ha!' moments

Enabling people to have similar moments is what Michael enjoys most about his work as a trainer.

"There's nothing better than having someone experience an 'a-ha!' moment. When you can actually see people realise they’ve just learned something they can apply in the real-world and it's going to make their life easier."

Although reluctant to call himself a great trainer - despite glowing feedback from students, Michael acknowledges his passion for his work is infectious.

"I get paid to be the centre of attention! What's not to love?" he jokes.

" I do really enjoy what I do, and I enjoy people. I think if you enjoy what you're doing, you pass that enjoyment onto other people. If I was grumpy and boring, my students would be grumpy and bored."

During his close to two decades as a trainer, of which eight have been at Auldhouse, Michael has seen some major shifts in the skills needed by IT pros.

In recent years, cloud skills have dominated from a technical perspective, however people skills have also become more important.

"IT professionals are expected to be able to 'people' more these days. They do need a good mix of hard technical and soft people skills. In today's work environment, IT people need to be able to collaborate and co-create value with users and customers and increasingly need to work better with one another."

This need to deliver value is driving demand for training in proven methodologies and frameworks such as ITIL, says Michael.

"Organisations have a huge need to be better at co-creation of value, and giving users and customers what they need, quicker. ITIL provides an accepted way of being able to actually deliver value."

2020 - a year of ITIL

Michael runs Auldhouse's ITIL 4 Foundation courses and is already seeing a surge in demand for this training in 2020.

"I feel 2020 is going to be a year of ITIL."

And of course, he loves the latest iteration of ITIL, released in early 2019.

"ITIL 4 is beautiful. It makes sense on every level."

Project management skills are also becoming increasingly vital for IT professionals, says Michael.

"As organisations move towards being agile, there is an increasing need to either get things right the first time, or to be able to iteratively get a better result quicker. That's driving the need for learning well-established methodologies and tools. So, for IT people, pure project management skills are becoming more in demand."

Outside of the classroom, Michael likes upcycling old furniture.

"I enjoy buying dilapidated, but good, old furniture and bringing it back to something that be used."

Originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, Michael has been in New Zealand for 12 years and still finds living near the ocean a novelty.

"I don’t think I will ever get used to being able to just go for walk along the beach. Being near to nature and quietness of the ocean keeps me out of mischief."

Overall, what Michael likes about working at Auldhouse is the approach and commitment of its management team, combined with great customers.

"It's an absolute joy to have managers and owners who actually care. Our customers are amazing - they want to learn and ask good questions - it just makes my job easier."