Thursday, February 4, 2016

New habits

Once you've achieved competence and a reasonable tenure at your job, it's easy to rest.  You have valuable institutional knowledge that newer workers don't have, so it's easy to feel "smart enough".  Furthermore, feeling "smart" is awesome. 

But what's next?

Stagnation, unless you intentionally plan otherwise. 

I've been tinkering with scripting for years.  It's a great rush when something works correctly.  But when it doesn't...and when Google searches turn up nothing, it's easy to be content with what you have.  That was probably too ambitious for me to try that in the script.  Manual testing is just fine for this.  I don't want to waste someone's time by asking them -- they have better things to do, and what if they think I'm stupid?

1) Ask the stupid question. 

I'd suggest email, so you don't interrupt someone "in the flow" -- and a preface of "this is not a high priority, but I'm curious if you know how to do X, or if you've ever encountered problems with X and could share any tricks"  Add what you've already tried, so that it's not something they sigh about under their breath and wonder why you didn't just google it. 

They might think you're stupid, sure.  But probably, that is in your own head.  And they'll be flattered that you ask them.  And they might learn something from you that will make them better teachers in the future.  

And, most importantly from my perspective, you could learn something from them that makes you more valuable.  They could show you a technique that opens up all kinds of possibilities for problem-solving in the future. You solve more problems and faster, and now are a vector for spreading this knowledge if someone else has the same problem in the future. 

2) Ask for feedback. 
Show people your code/your work.  People who know more than you do.  If you're a fixed-mindset (by default), people-pleasing person like I am, this will make you want to throw up.  But, it will make you better.  It's like having a personal trainer available to tell you "You know, you are doing that exercise all wrong.  People are probably laughing at you behind your back, and worst-case, you could snap your spinal cord".  Except with code.  It can break you of bad habits and learn to do better work more efficiently. Even if what you're doing *feels* like exercise and the end result seems the same, it could be working by coincidence or doing something unintentional and awful very quietly.