Turns out, one of the best ways to get better at simulation modeling is to give back to your fellow process improvement community members.
I recently stumbled on a short post from one of the many “money advice” blogs out there. In it, the author gave an interesting recommendation on how to gain the skills to be your own general contractor (thus saving money while building or remodeling a home). Their advice? Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and actually help build a house for somebody else.
I personally prefer watching YouTube videos for my home improvement knowledge. But the idea did make me think. Where could I possibly go to get hands on experience building a house? No licensed professional would ever let me on their job site as a friendly (and clumsy) volunteer. The obvious answer is through trial and error on my own home projects… but I think I’d rather learn a few things on a Habitat for Humanity build site before blowing out my bedroom wall.
A wise person once said: “To be good at simulation modeling you must practice daily.” The tried and true solution is to find more projects to work on within your organization. But I’d like to submit a more charitable path.
Simulation helping hands
When we set up FlexSim Answers last May, we hoped for an active and helpful community. You know, the type of place where people are willing to pitch in, help each other be successful, and get better at simulation modeling.
And then Kari Payton came and blew us away.
If you don’t already know, FlexSim Answers is our knowledge base and Q&A website. (Feel free to head over and check out the top posts—I’ll wait.) Recently, a student in Singapore posted a three-part question about simulating a national library. It could have been a homework assignment; it’s not entirely clear. What was clear is that the student didn’t have a strong background in FlexSim.
This is where Kari comes in. She is an Industrial Simulations Engineer at LM Windpower, and had herself come to FlexSim Answers to learn. “The national library question caught my attention because I am always looking for questions that challenge me to learn something new,” she said. Kari answered all three parts of the original question, complete with annotated pictures and a demo model. She even answered the student’s follow-up question.
Then Kari answered five more. She was even happy to do it.
“It took me less than 10-15 minutes to answer the question each time whereas it may take him or her hours to figure something out,” Kari explained. “I felt like the user would gain encouragement by having support. Eventually I had to say ‘post another question and/or search in the other questions’ but hopefully I helped them get off to a good start.”
Giving leads to learning
This story is inspiring because it’s the sort of moment where a simple support website evolves into a community. It’s the type of place people actually want to return to and give back to others for the help they’ve received in the past. FlexSim Answers is regularly monitored by FlexSim’s support team members, so this level of participation certainly isn’t required—it just makes the community that much better.
Remember that quote about practicing simulation daily? You might have already figured it out by now, but Kari is the wise person behind that advice. Here’s the end of that quote: “This site [FlexSim Answers] gives a solid platform to gain knowledge in aspects of the software I may never discover on my own.”
Not everyone has a (simulated) house to build, or even a small home project to tinker with. But I guarantee that there is always someone eager and grateful to accept help on their own simulation model. FlexSim users come from all sorts of backgrounds and industries, so the odds are you’ll learn something new and useful. They’ll probably return the favor in the future, as well.
“It’s my role in the community to encourage and help others just as it was done for me,” Kari says. “I know I wouldn’t be this far in my modeling skills if it were not for the Answers site.”