Apprenticeship Patterns: Confront Your Ignorance

The apprenticeship pattern I’m addressing this week is Confront Your Ignorance from Chapter 2: Emptying the Cup. This pattern follows the previous pattern in the same chapter, Expose Your Ignorance, which I’ve previously written about here. The idea is that, once you’ve identified where your weaknesses are in your area of work, you must confront those weaknesses in order to grow. It’s hard to know where to start. Sometimes you’ve pinpointed weaknesses in areas where it is expected for you to have expertise, and it seems like you’re the only one who actually has those weaknesses. It’s hard to know where to begin. Confront Your Ignorance suggests that you choose one area and start filling in the gaps. Do so in whatever way is most helpful for you — whether it be through introductory guides or through diving right in.

This pattern is actually very helpful for me in this very moment. Over the past few days, I’ve been dwelling extensively on what I do and don’t know. What is expected of me as a software engineer, and what I expect of myself in this discipline. I’ve come to recognize that I have many weaknesses that I’d like to eliminate — things like algorithms, many topics in systems engineering, and so much more. There’s a lot of things I would like to experiment with, and there are also a lot of things I need to understand before I can do that. Frankly, it has been pretty overwhelming to constantly think of all of these things at once, and it’s been fairly discouraging as well.

I’ve exposed my ignorances (or rather, they’ve been exposed for me through the interview process), and now it’s time to work on them. It’s not going to change over night, and it isn’t going to change all at once. However, it will improve through consistent, deliberate work. That involves choosing one topic and chipping away at it over time. The difficult thing for me is likely going to be choosing which topic to work on, because I have so many things I’d like to learn. I suppose I can’t go wrong though, so long as I commit to learning and keep checking new topics off my list.

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