May 26, 2009

Speak up!

Filed under: Learning,Personal — Freek Leemhuis @ 1:46 pm

Lately I’ve been involved in a lot of workshops and meetings and one thing I noticed is that when a question is asked in a group of developers, it’s very often the younger attendants that reply first. Sometimes there’s a crop of bright young developers who really know their stuff, but other participants with years of experience just seem to be less vocal. In discussing this observation with a colleague last week it started to dawn on me: it’s not that the younger guys are brighter, they are less inhibited because they can still get away with an answering incorrectly.

If you have been a developer for 8 years or more, and someone asks an innocuous question (what is a function?), you probably know the answer. However, suppose you give the wrong answer, in front of a crowd of fellow programmers. Your reputation is on the line. Better keep quiet, and let the young guys go at it, right?

The best way to learn is to be wrong occasionally, even if it means being painfully wrong sometimes. As a programmer, there’s so many things that you ‘should know’ that it’s near impossible to have all this knowledge readily available. There’s never a better learning moment then these. Being painfully wrong means being wrong once. Being silent can mean being wrong many times. So, mainly as a reminder to myself: it’s ok to be wrong. It’s not okay to stop learning. As the lady says, sometimes you just have to feel the fear and do it anyway.


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