Between sprint tasks, I continued reading Apprenticeship Patterns: Guidance for the Aspiring Software Craftsman by Dave Hoover and Adewale Oshineye for Software Capstone course this week, focusing on the “Expose Your Ignorance” strategy. In professional environments, software developers are often expected to have a deep understanding of the various tools and technologies they work with, but it’s common to encounter unfamiliar domains/situations.
This strategy approaches these situations by being transparent with employers/teammates about their learning process rather than pretending to already know unfamiliar content – even if the individual is able to self-teach the content to be able to follow through. In reality, they will need to learn the new technologies/skills regardless, and transparency on this allows employers and peers to also see your learning skills and personal growth over the course of a project.
In doing so, software developers are approaching their situation from an honest angle which is far better for building professional relationships and management expectation. In a manager role, I would much rather hear
‘well, this API is new to me but I’m making headway in learning and implementing it. I hit an obstacle, which may delay me.’
Over an employee claiming they are an expert and then failing to deliver on time.
As a part of this, the text also differentiates between an “expert” and a “craftsman”. While experts focus on mastering specific platforms or domains, craftsmen are driven to continually learn and adapt by broadening their knowledge base. Naturally, the craftsman can’t become a master in every topic, but master craftsmen have developed in-depth knowledge of a few separate areas of technology throughout their career and ‘apprenticeship’. So, while they may not be the absolute expert on any given topic, they will have the skills to learn, adapt and overcome challenges involving almost anything.
I appreciated this differentiation and definition of what it means to be a craftsman. Earlier this week, I had a conversation with Professor Meunier in CS497 where he described similar concepts as they relate to graduates and job applicants. As an interviewer, he/others understand that graduates will not have deep knowledge in several areas yet but looks for a wide breadth of concepts/tools we’re at least familiar with and at least one area in which we have a deep knowledge. This could be visualized as a “T” shape – wide topped with one deep portion, but master craftsmen develop a knowledge structure more like an “M”, with a wide breadth of topics and a few with deep knowledge.
Sources: Hoover, Dave, and Adewale Oshineye. “Apprenticeship Patterns: Guidance for the Aspiring Software Craftsman.” O’Reilly Media, 2009.