Reap What You Sow

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Software professionals are a cynical bunch. We complain about management. We complain about customers. Most of all, we complain about other programmers. Whether it's code structure, test coverage, design decomposition, or architectural purity, there's always something that we think others do badly. How can this be?

Well, we learn a lot during formal education, but when we arrive at our first 'real' job we find that what we learnt at school isn't particularly relevant. We enter a new phase of learning, where we get conditioned to the environment at our new employers. There will be new standards, practices, processes, and technologies. Those of us who change jobs regularly get used to (and even look forward to) this learning curve at the beginning of a new assignment. As well as changing employer, there are also advances in the industry to consider — programming languages change, operating systems evolve, development processes mutate.

There are, however, plenty of software professionals who get comfortable with their knowledge and stop learning. They may resist change, even when it can be shown to be industry best practice, on the basis that "it isn't the way we do things here." Beyond the essentials, such as learning about the latest version of their IDE, they may not track changes in the industry at all. Given that you are reading this collection, I hope that it is safe for me to assume that you do not belong to that group. But are you doing anything to encourage others to continue their professional development?

Do you bring books to work and point your colleagues at interesting blogs? Do you forward links to relevant articles, mailing lists, and communities? Do you volunteer to present sessions on new techniques you come across and suggest process improvements to help deliver better value to your customers? In short, do you demonstrate that you are a professional, dedicated to the continuing development of our industry?

Your efforts may often be ignored, but don't give up. You will learn by trying, even if your seed lands on fallow ground. From time to time one (or more) of your colleagues will respond favorably to your activities and this is a cause for celebration. The angels may not rejoice, but (in a small way) you have made the world a better place!

So, put away that cynicism and disseminate your knowledge. Infect your colleagues with your passion. You do not have to be a passive victim of poorly educated peers. You are an active member of an evolving discipline. Go forth and sow the seeds of knowledge, and you may well reap the benefits.

By Seb Rose

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3

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