Category Archives: Literature

Apprenticeship Patterns

Context

The following post will be in reference to Apprenticeship Patterns: Guidance for the Aspiring Software Craftsman by Dave Hoover and Adewale Oshineye chapter 1 and the introductions to chapters 2 to 6.

Opinion

“Most people won’t have an opportunity to work in a formal apprenticeship where they are being mentored by software craftsmen. In reality, most people have to claw and scratch their apprenticeships out of less-than-ideal situations. They might be facing overbearing and/or incompetent managers, de-motivated coworkers, impossible deadlines, and work environments that treat novice developers like workhorses, storing them in small, rectangular stalls with a PC and a crippled Internet connection. (Apprenticeship Patterns)”

This is an incredibly true statement. Due to the current state of the economy, it is very hard for people to gain work experience in any field, let alone in software development. One will frequently see requirements for years of experience in an entry level position, but how can one achieve years of experience if every entry level job requires it? In my opinion, this is the product of many things; moreover, it is an incredibly complex issue, as all issues are. One such thing is the abundance of college degrees. As with many of these possible causes, they are often both positive and negative. Every good action has negative consequences and every negative action has positive consequences.

The positive that comes with the abundance of college degrees is likely self-evident – average people are educated and have more opportunities. However, consider the issue of student loan debt. Many people put themselves into massive debt to get a degree they might not even use. Anyway, it is basic economics at play; you cannot fight supply and demand. The hiring process is simple. Now, the world we live in isn’t perfect but suppose it were an actual meritocracy where everyone has equal opportunities. How can we hire? If we assume that someone who has spent years in college dedicated to studying a topic we work with, we can discriminate based on degree in order to discriminate on skill set. It is important to note that discrimination is not inherently bad. In a meritocracy, discrimination is necessary; in fact, in any value hierarchy where object A has more value than object B, discrimination is necessary. The problem with discrimination is when we discriminate based on irrelevant characteristics. For instance, race has no influence on a person’s ability to be a good doctor. So it is unfair to discriminate based on race when deciding a doctor. However, suppose you need brain surgery and you have the choice of a doctor with twenty years of experience, or a new hire without any experience. In that case, in order for society to function at all, it must be considered fair to discriminate based on experience since that directly affects the chance of success and, in this case, survival. Thus, jobs fairly discriminate based on perceived ability and understanding to find the best for the job. However, the more people that have a degree, the less worth a degree has relative to employment. Having a degree is less of a discriminating factor and so jobs have to create other means of determining skill – hence the absurd amount of experience required.

It is a catch-22; employers use college degrees to discriminate to determine those best fit for their position so average people push their kids to go to college. Then, college degrees become worth less but people still think they are necessary so despite the immense cost, they push their kids to go anyway. Obviously, college is not bad. However, their is a failure to have the necessary discussion with kids. They have to decide whether the career they want is going to be worth the investment. They also need to consider that they might not even find a job in their field after college. It would help the issue if parents and schools viewed college as more of a tool rather than a necessity, and if they introduced kids to trades. Trades also aren’t for everyone, but they are a very founded career path. What society needs overall is a balance and a discussion. In my estimation, the entire education system needs an overhaul; but that is for another blog post.

I would go into the other things I think are causes of such a job environment, but I’ll save that for another day. Instead, I’ll focus on the immense power of environment. First and foremost, people like to view their environment as separate from their minds. However, just think about it. As an example, when you’re lazy, you create clutter in your environment and when your environment is cluttered, it can cause stress or discomfort. Your environment affects your mood and your mood affects your environment, so the distinction between the two isn’t as clear as people might like to think it is. A good working environment is crucial to doing good work. Think back to primary or secondary school and think about the old books and uncomfortable desks with pencil carvings in them. It might go without saying but, if you want to improve your work, put some effort into ensuring your work environment is designed for you to be productive.

Work Cited

“Apprenticeship Patterns.” Accessed February 22, 2021. https://learning.oreilly.com/library/view/apprenticeship-patterns/9780596806842/#toc-start.

From the blog CS@Worcester – The Introspective Thinker by David MacDonald and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.