Apprenticeship Patterns: Expose Your Ignorance

To start off with Apprenticeship Patterns, I’m going to look at Expose Your Ignorance from Chapter 2. This pattern jumped out at me largely because of something I brought up in my introduction post regarding “putting on airs” in order to appear more qualified than you currently are.

The problem that this pattern is looking to solve is for when external pressures are demanding that you deliver high quality software. This often becomes an issue when you’re unfamiliar with a required technology. Sometimes you’re brought onto a team for a particular skill and you haven’t expanded your skillset to encompass all of the team’s work. Or, perhaps, you’re the only one that they could find to do the job, even though you may not be as qualified to do it as they’d prefer. Those around you are relying on your ability to perform in the face of inexperience.

The solution that is offered is to approach the situation humbly. Accept your inexperience and seek the answers. “Putting on airs”, as I said before, will only make your job harder. If you convince those around you that you’re more experienced than you are and you end up delivering a subpar product, your inexperience will be exposed. On top of this, you will have inadvertently rejected learning opportunities to maintain your image of expertise. Instead of this, aim to be open about your lack of knowledge in this area. This will allow you to perform better than you would otherwise, as you get to genuinely learn the technology on your path towards development. It shows those relying on you that you’re capable of learning and doing sufficient work (or better) in a pinch — and it’ll strengthen your bonds with them as well. We want to work with people who are capable, and including your peers on your journey in self development will show them exactly that. Not only this, but as the book says, rejecting this opportunity to grow can cause people to get settled into one particular niche and become experts in their area. That’s never a bad thing, the industry needs experts. However, an expert is not the same thing as a craftsman. A craftsman is flexible and always searching for the chance to learn and grow as opposed to locking themselves into one discipline and learning it through and through.

What action can an aspiring craftsman take to usher themselves towards the solution for this problem? Make visible your ignorance to your coworkers — the book suggests a list with 5 items on it that is in a visible place. Maintain that list well, update it and refresh it as you expand your skillset. It’s important to show others that you are constantly seeking growth in your craft.

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