Category Archives: Week 6

Accurate Self-Assessment: Be the worst – Blog # 6 

As a developer, I have always thought that “being a small fish in a big pond” rather than “a big fish in a small pond” was a great advantage for career advancement, both as a way to advance your knowledge, skills, salary, and position. I learned an incredible amount from other developers at EMC, Nuance, and Kodak, because these companies had teams where many of the engineers were brilliant and knowledgeable yet had no problem meeting with me to share information, and help with difficult design and debugging challenges. Although I usually obtained more from these teammates that I taught them, enough situations came up when I was helpful to them that they were happy to help me when I needed them.

I usually took the approach of only “bothering” them when I was really stuck on an issue. This had the benefit of making me fully understand the problem, and therefore taking less of their time. Before I would ask for a meeting on such an issue, I would take notes on what the problem was, and then write down a list of questions to ask. I found that some of the time, when I did this, I was able to get the answer on my own. Another interesting phenomenon would occur quite often. I would actually be able to come up with the answer to the problem on my own as I was going through the issue with them. I would then get a response like “See Joe, you already knew the answer. You just didn’t know you did”.

The whole concept of “sink or swim” is quite interesting. When working in a challenging environment, I was always more motivated to learn the skills necessary to produce solid code than when I was one of the more advanced team members. Since most of my career was as a consultant/contractor, sinking at a company was less problematic than when I was working as a corporate employee. The expectations of working as a consultant were usually higher. You were treated less as a team member by some also.

I found, though that I really liked both worlds. About a third of my career, I worked as an employee, and enjoyed the benefits of “being part of the team”, getting paid vacations, going to conferences for free, and the obvious sense of security. The other two thirds of my years in software either contracting as a 1099 or W2, or when I hung my own shield with my corporation “Twinstar Enterprises Inc”.

From the blog cs@worcester – (Twinstar Blogland) by Joe Barry and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Breakable Toys

In breakable toys of Apprenticeship Patterns, the authors clarify that developers should have room for failure, and failure makes greatness. Good experience is built upon failure as much as success like in the saying “Rome was not built in a day” which means there is no overnight success. Mistakes are made, but learning from mistakes is a way to help us gather deeper knowledge and also aid us in collecting further experiences.
What was interesting in Breakable Toys was the close bridge between learning and failing. Failure is part of a software developer and without failure, there would not be a great developer as well as great software. What I agree is developers should be given space where they can seek out failure to train their mindset and to develop their practical involvement. The example was Steve Baker (a teenager working in Nova Scotia), people looked upon him as a leader and an expert within his small development organization. Thus, he could not afford to be wrong and obviously could not walk away from his people who were depending on him. The solution that he later found out was using a breakable toy. Breakable toys were the tools that he used to help him learn by failing.
What I have learned is that when implementing the breakable toys pattern, I should make the system relevant and useful to my life as an apprentice. The examples were building my projects such as a to-do list or expense tracker. At first, the solution would somehow be overengineered and failed. Yet, these are the type of projects that were designed to be backslid without any bothersome. They are used to develop my ideas and techniques and could be a disaster but that is a part of learning. By building these projects, they give me a deeper understanding of designs, data structure, and language. Furthermore, not giving up on problems would help me eventually get them right. Beyond constructing things myself, consider team efforts as one of the alternative ways of learning.
The point that the authors try to make in this chapter is by building things will help developers learn better than listening to plain lectures. Allowing space for failures is a way of improving and expanding knowledge as well as experimenting to learn deeper and to understand thoroughly.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Hung Nguyen by hpnguyen27 and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Expose Your Ignorance

The apprenticeship pattern Expose Your Ignorance is about the importance of feeling comfortable with showing your ignorance. Asking questions is how you learn and shows that you are good at understanding. The difference between an expert and a craftsman is someone who broadens their range of knowledge rather than only sticking to digging deeper into a single domain. The action the author recommends is to write down your

The quote included in this pattern from David H. Hoover was thought-provoking. “I actually had grown attached to feeling ignorant on a daily basis; it let me know I was in the right place. I was growing.” The quote reminded me of the Daoist view of yin-yang where on one side there is chaos and on the other side, there is order. To grow as an individual, you need to be in the middle of the two. As Hoover’s quote says, feeling ignorant means that you’re exposing yourself to new material and are learning. If you never feel challenged, then you are not doing anything new and therefore not gaining new experiences. If you are uncomfortable with feeling the unknown, then it means you are uncomfortable exposing yourself to new things.

This pattern made me realize it is not only okay to be in the presence of the unknown but that it is also necessary for personal development. Personally, I do not act as if I know everything or that my solution is always the best option. I make what I know heard but leave plenty of room for others’ opinions. There are times when what I recommended is ignored and then later those recommendations are then incorporated into the project. It is better for that to happen naturally than for me to force my ideas into the project without the full acceptance of the other people involved. I do not disagree with anything in this pattern, I agree with the author fully on his opinion.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Jared's Development Blog by Jared Moore and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Draw Your Own Map

This apprenticeship pattern discusses how software developers need to chart their own paths. It talks about how a software developer’s career is their responsibility, and they must take an active role in shaping it. The pattern notes that it’s not up to your employer, your career counselor, or your professors to decide what the next step is for you career. You should also not let company culture or expectations prevent you from achieving your goals. Only you can decide what is the right step and what is not.

To make progress in your career as a software developer, first you need to identify an ambitious but logical next step. Then once you have identified your next step, you need to come with up with smaller intermediate steps that will help you reach that next step. The pattern really emphasizes breaking things down. This is because the pattern notes that difference between doing things in a daydream and doing things in reality is the willingness to take that very important first step. The pattern recognizes that this could be a terrifying thing to do, and so breaking your goal into small bite sized, realistic, and achievable steps would help make taking this first step less daunting.

The pattern also highlights that there is no such thing as a single path or a perfect path to take. Everybody’s career map is different because everybody has different circumstances and values. Your own career path should be based on your own circumstances and values. You should be continuously reassessing your career map as your values and circumstances change. Sometimes this results in your career map aligning with those around you and sometimes it does not, and you must chart a new path.

I think this apprenticeship pattern can be summarized into three simple steps. First, search for and pick a logical but ambitious goal that advances you in your career, break down those goals into small and achievable tasks so you can turn it into reality, and finally make sure that you’re following your own path that’s based on your own values and circumstances. By following these steps, you will have a much easier time analyzing and identifying the next destinations on your career map as well as being able to do what’s necessary to turn your goals into reality.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Fadi Akram by Fadi Akram and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

“Familiar Tools” Apprenticeship Pattern

Summary:

This apprenticeship pattern is concerned with a lack of familiar tools that a programmer has on his belt. It’s recommended that the apprentice become very skilled at five tools such that he does not need to read the documentation while also understanding the nooks and crannies of them. As time goes on, and he moves from job to job or project to project, become sufficiently familiar with the tools he learned. This does not mean that an apprentice that is good with these tools means it will be good for others or for the team.

This pattern is similar to the “Your first language” apprenticeship pattern, which states that it’s good to master your first language before moving on to a second language. I like this apprenticeship pattern because of its ideal of mastering and recording the tools that one learns. I also like the idea of trying to find better and more powerful tools available whilst the apprentice writes down the tools he is already familiar with. 

The pattern has somewhat changed my view on my intended profession. However, I don’t have a hardline goal about what my intended profession looks like, I’m completely fine with bending my skills and attitudes based on what my employer wants me to do, and what is required of me. If my team at a future company requires me to learn a new system that I’ve never used before, then that’s what I’ll do. Likewise, if they require me to use what I already know, then I’m also completely fine doing that as well. 

I’m not entirely sure if I fully agree with the fact that all of the tools that an apprentice will learn and be familiar with will become obsolete by the time he becomes a journeyman. What if a student / apprentice becomes very familiar with Java and eventually becomes employed as a software developer who utilizes Java? I know as time goes on, tools change and languages become favored or disfavored as the development landscape changes, but I am having a hard time agreeing with this statement. I know that a lot of different apprentices can have many different skills, many of which can me more useful than others, especially when taking into account what type of work they’ll likely be employed in.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Chris's CS Blog by Chris and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Breakable toys – Apprenticeship patterns

The apprenticeship pattern I have chosen this week is the “breakable toys’ pattern which was very interesting to me. The pattern was about failure and how it is usually the best way to learn. There is a problem however when the place we are working in does not tolerate any failure and any such occurrence will have dire consequences. Here with the breakable toys pattern, we are allowed to make our own systems that are still relevant to our work. This way when we work with them and make mistakes, can can apply what we have learned to our workplaces without it hurting other people in the process.

This here is an interesting pattern to think about as so far, most students have been in a environment where mistakes are common and tolerated but later down the line, they will most likely face a much harsher environment than what they are used to including me. This means that later down the line, I will have to invest my time into these side projects in order to obtain failure and stimulate learning. There could even be one used in some of our current projects in which we could make some side projects in order to boost our learning. This also makes me wonder on the tolerance of different places on how much do they tolerate failure which is most likely very little which makes these breakable toys all the more important for one to use. Although that does make me think on whether or not the person would actually have the time to develop these programs. There is the chance that the work this person is working on is already very time consuming and that if their life was a bit too hectic with outside responsibility’s to actually make of any use of these toys in which this pattern might not be for them.

This pattern overall is a good one to learn on failure without it negatively affecting other people, especially if I were to go into professions that were high profile or had any basis in security in which failure is not an option.

From the blog CS@Worcester – kbcoding by kennybui986 and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Apprenticeship Pattern “Practice, Practice, Practice”

In this apprenticeship pattern, it talks about the importance of practicing our coding skills and how we should practice. The section starts off by talking about how the reason why people make coding mistakes on the job is because they are practicing and learning the skill while they are doing it. A lot of programmers do not have the time to practice and learn the skill before they have to put the skill to use at their job and with the looming project deadlines that is why there are often so many mistakes made on the job. So, the first thing that the chapter talks about is the importance of finding time to practice coding skills on our own without any deadlines. Without deadlines, it removes the pressure of having to learn a skill before a certain date and we can learn at our own pace. In addition to making time to practice our coding skills, the section also talks about how we should allow time for criticism. This is because if we don’t, we may or may not pick up bad habits without knowing it. The last topic that the section talks about is the importance of not practicing so much that it becomes a permanent habit and that instead we should be careful on what we choose to practice.

I agree with this section and think that practicing is very important. I think this is something that I personally need to work on. Often after I learn a skill in class, I don’t touch that skill again until it is brought up again in another class and usually by then, I had let that skill become stale. Another thing that I agree with from this section is the importance of not practicing too much and that we should be careful of what we practice. I agree with this because I was guilty of letting this happen before. A while back when I was practicing coding with my cousin, we were both working on the same problem, and I coded it how I normally would. My cousin asked me why I was coding it that way and I told him that it was how I always coded it. Then he showed how he did it and his way was very different from how I did it. So, he showed that I was letting practice become permanent and that I was coding the same way whenever I see a similar problem. So, my cousin reminded me that there may be more than one way to solve a problem and that we should consider the best way.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Just a Guy Passing By by Eric Nguyen and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Nurture Your Passion- blog 5

For this week, I read a pattern called Nurture Your Passion. This pattern will occur when you work in an environment where you are exposed to hostile conditions, such as “demoralizing corporate hierarchies, project death marches, abusive managers, or cynical colleagues.” These conditions will sap all your time and your energy. If you do not have a proper way to against that negative energy and protect your passion, you will burn out after only a short time walking on your long road. Furthermore, you may not want to continue to walk on that long road anymore because you are exhausted and completely uninterested in your passion. To prevent that from happening, this pattern will provide you with some solutions to nurture and maintain your passion when you actually encounter those hostile conditions.

First of all, you need to work with yourself. You should find ways to grow your passion and enhance your knowledge over time, such as building some breakable toys to dig deeper, reading timeless books to open your eyes to a different world, joining a group to learn and share your knowledge, or drawing your own map to look for organizations that can offer you suitable career paths. Second, external factor is another important element that you need to care about to protect your passion. You should have a clear boundaries about the types of environment that you want to work in. You should be willing to say “No” or to refuse anything that might destroy your passion. One of your responsibilities as a software craftsmanship is to keep your passion strong, track on your improvement every day, and try to find a suitable environment to develop yourself.

In my opinion, the Nurture Your Passion pattern is one of the most essential pieces that apprentices should know to help them prepare mentally to avoid burn out in the face of hostile conditions. For myself, this pattern is very useful for my future career. I believe that in the process of going on a long road, there are many problems that will drag my passion down and at some point it will stop my progress. So, knowing this pattern in advance is one of the advantages that helps me avoid or eliminate most of the negative energy to protect my passion. As long as my passion remains, I can overcome anything that stands in the way of my progress and continue on my long road.

From the blog CS@Worcester – T's CSblog by tyahhhh and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Apprenticeship Patterns: Expose Your Ignorance

This week, I took a look at the ‘Expose Your Ignorance’ apprenticeship pattern. The pattern describes the dilemma in which your employer is relying on you to do a job, but you are unfamiliar with some of the required tools. This situation can be the result of many things, one of them is you are the only person that was available to do the job. The pattern proposes that you “expose your ignorance” when you need help rather than staying silent and learning on your own. It is potentially beneficial for everyone when you can present the problems you are having. Over time, it becomes detrimental to protect your pride and hide the fact that you don’t understand what you are working with. Not only does it prevent you from learning and doing work, but it also increases the pressure and workload for the team. So the best way to avoid all of this is to get comfortable with asking for help and showing off your learning ability.

As soon as I read through the pattern I could immediately relate to the problem described. In the time I have spent working, there were always a few occasions where I would be completely lost. And though it was embarrassing at first, it was always beneficial to ask for help as soon as possible rather than waste time getting nothing done. I could also see this potentially occurring in a sprint, where team members are all occupied with their respective issues, and you are left with a task involving concepts you aren’t familiar with. There is always the pressure to show competence when working in a team, but as stated in the pattern, asking questions will expose your learning ability to your team and can even help them gain new clarity about their knowledge on the subject.

The therapist’s story mentioned in ‘The White Belt’ pattern was mentioned again, which involved taking a not-knowing stance to better understand clients. But in this case of this pattern, it is not feigning ignorance, but exposing it to learn. I think the comparison between an expert and a craftsman was interesting: “experts will do everything they can to remain wedded to a single context, narrowing the scope of their learning, their practice, and their projects. Craftsmen, on the other hand, need to have the courage and humility to set aside their expertise and wear The White Belt as they pick up an unfamiliar technology or learn a new domain.” But as mentioned before, it is not the goal of an apprentice to become an expert, but a craftsman. I will continue to keep in mind that it is important to expose my ignorance.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Null Pointer by vrotimmy and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Apprenticeship Pattern: Stay in the Trenches

The pattern I decided to read is titled “Stay in the Trenches” from chapter 3 of Apprenticeship Patterns: Guidance for the Aspiring Software Craftsman by Dave Hoover and Adewale Oshineye. This pattern spoke about how people often equate being promoted into a managerial role with success but how this can actually take you away from the craft of programming. The pattern goes on to talk about how we should work with our employers to see if they can reward us in other ways that keep us close to the act of programming. Next, the pattern discusses how it is easy to apply this pattern selfishly but that experienced developers will find ways to make choices that will help their co-workers as well. Lastly, this pattern ends with suggesting its reader to come prepared with alternative rewards in case they don’t like the rewards offered by their potential employers, especially if they take them away from programming.

The most thought-provoking piece of information I got from this pattern was the bit about how I should make choices that are in my best interest, but how those choices don’t have to be blind to the needs of those around me. It was interesting to hear this because in a pattern that I’m learning about negotiating and advocating for myself, I’m also being taught how I can still be compassionate to others on my team. This is refreshing to hear because it seems like developing can often be a cut throat and intense environment to work in.

As far as how this pattern has caused me to change the way I think, I would say it re-enforced some of the beliefs I had. In a way, I’ve learned first hand what this pattern has described. I started working in human services as a residential counselor and worked my way up to managing a group home on my own. I learned the hard way that by entering a managerial role, I did a lot less case management and had less time with the individuals I served than when I was a residential counselor. Because of this and some other factors, I decided to step down back to the role of a residential counselor which I personally find more rewarding. This realization I made is the kind of message I got from reading this pattern. If I am passionate about programming, I need to be mindful of the opportunities I may receive in the future and make sure they are aligned with my desire to be a software craftsman.

Lastly, I’d like to mention that there isn’t anything in this pattern that I disagree with. It was reassuring to hear something I have learned in life being echoed in this book, even though it was in a different career path.

From the blog Sensinci's Blog by Sensinci's Blog and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.