Practice, Practice, Practice

Problem

The performance of your daily programming activities does not give you room to learn by making mistakes. It’s as if you’re always on stage.

Solution

The book suggests taking the time to practice your craft somewhere without interruptions, in an environment where you can feel comfortable making mistakes. Ideally we would use the technique “deliberate practice”, described in K. Anders Ericsson’s research: a mentor would assign you exercise based on their knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses. The mentor would help you evaluate your work and then you would work together to create the next exercise. The mentor would then use the experience of working with other students to create more challenging exercises that add small chunks of abstract knowledge that allows you to hone your strengths and correct weaknesses. Unfortunately we do not live in an ideal world and a lot of our practice on the job. The first example the text mentions is called “code kata”, which is essentially a practice session that some companies are starting to utilize for their teams. The text mentions another pattern, Breakable Toys, the ability to work on a piece of software in a stress free environment where you have control of everything. Finding new challenges and working on problems that are harder than you’re used to can help keep you master your craft.

The pattern had good advice and good information. The idea of having “code katas” seems like a good way to practice your skill and see what other people are working on. I think most developers do this already but the textbook mentioned the Breakable Toys pattern, where you take time to develop software in a stress-free and playful environment. I think it’s important to get periodic feedback, the text mentioned if you aren’t getting periodic feedback you could be developing bad habits. I think it’s important to always practice and find more challenging problems. I think having unique experiences with developing keeps an interest in the subject and avoids created burn out from seeing the same language or pattern you’re used to working with. Reading about this pattern has reminded me to try to always keep an interest in the subject by creating unique challenges,  practicing, and seeking feedback.

Find Mentors

Problem

You’re walking along a path with no idea of what’s around the next corner or how to prepare for it. You need help and guidance.

The solution the book offers is to seek out those who have gone ahead of you and strive to learn from them. Since our field is fairly young, it can be difficult to find someone who is truly a master craftsman. More than likely you will get support from a series a mentors with varying degrees of mastery. Help can come in many forms, you can get help one-to-one with someone or remotely via the internet. While an apprentice is trying to find mentors, we must remember we are all walking “The Long Road” and no one knows everything. More problems you might have is finding a mentor who in interested in mentoring or who isn’t intimidated by the task of being responsible for another persons learning. It may seem risky to ask someone for help and fear rejection but the payoff is worth it if your offer is accepted. Just as people will be ahead of you, there will also be people who are behind you. You are also tasked with finding those who you may offer to help with information you’ve learned. Passing along what you’ve learned in one of the ways you can being the transition into journeymen status.

I think it’s super important to find someone or a group of people to ask to pass on what they know about the current state of our field. I think work is a great place to meet people that can offer you their skills and knowledge, especially because you will be building relationships with these people and seeing them every day. The text advises picking a tool, library, or community that has an active mailing list and learning the values of the community. Learn who the teachers are and seek out those who may be interested in offering help, I would consider this a great idea. I think sharing what we’ve learned if very important, it helps everybody, it helps the world. I would be super grateful for anybody who’s willing to take the time to share what they’ve learned and I know some people enjoy sharing their knowledge and would be flattered if someone asked for their help.

Your First Language

Problem: You feel your job depends on you delivering a solution written in a specific programming language and of the same standard of quality as your teammates. Alternatively, obtaining a job in the first place depends on your proficiency in a specific programming language.

Solution: The text suggests picking a language and becoming fluent in it, as it will be the main language you will be using for the next few years to solve problems. It’s a difficult choice to make, especially when looking for jobs that may been looking for specific skills and languages. It’s “important to carefully weigh the options, as it is the foundation upon which your early career will be built.” One good way to gain experience and become fluent in a language is to actually have a real problem to solve, and to “seek out opportunities to create feedback.” Becoming fluent in a language allows you to start working more on test-driven development, allowing you to check your assumptions and aiding development of new languages.

This pattern has good advice, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard someone suggest working on one language and perfecting it instead of trying to learn multiple languages at the same time and expect to be fluent in each one. An interesting tip from the text was building a toy application in the language you’re trying to pursue a job with, one that your prospective employer would be able to access. Good learning experiences come from solving real problems, school gives you a good foundation to build upon and learn from the problems you solve in your professional career. Working in the field and running into real problems, the ability to work with other people and learn from them is a big part of gaining skill. I think Java would be a practical choice to become fluent in as it’s a high demand language that receives a lot of bad press but it running on 3 billion devices. The book also mentioned the community behind these languages and all the resources you have at your disposal. They suggest taking advantage of the support network you have and attending local meetings related to that language.