Last month was a pretty big milestone for me: it marked my first year as a professional developer. So much has happened in twelve months but, if I had to describe this year briefly, I would say it has been about working on perspective.
My first few months on the job were both awesome and overwhelming. I was hired to program in Ruby, a language I had never used before. My coworkers were supportive, eager to pair, and deeply skilled which was great since there were lots of new things to learn. Honestly, I was mostly trying to keep my head above water in those early days. Since then, I have noticed my skills improving as I take on new projects within our Rails site and beyond. I can say that I suck less all the time; I am actually turning into a pretty good programming pair and code reviewer.
As much as I love learning new things, I now find it a bigger challenge to be OK with knowing I’ll never know everything. When I was in school, projects were small and well defined so it was easy to feel a sense of mastery. Basically, they were nothing like the real world. I now work in a huge code base, work requests are sometimes amorphous, and a solution might be difficult to identify. But that’s what makes work exciting — there’s always something new to learn. That’s also what makes work stressful — there’s always something new to learn. At least once a day I’ll say “I don’t know” or “let me look into that.” No matter how much progress I make, there is always more to do.
Lately I have been thinking about a talk I attended at Philly ETE this spring. David Black spoke about how being a generalist is like being a decathlete: though a decathlon has ten events, there are really eleven. The eleventh event is doing ten thing reasonably well. David’s point was that, though it can feel uncomfortable doing so many things and feeling like mastery is always out of reach, being versatile is a worthwhile skill in itself.
I am starting to embrace that decathlete mentality and, though there is a lot more for me to learn, I am ready for the ride.