For this post, I decided to read the pattern “The White Belt”. This pattern talks about the ability of a software developer, and craftsman, to unlearn something and use an entirely different approach to solve a problem in order to maintain the ability to learn. The pattern talks about the idea of getting stuck at what seems to be your peak potential but that this is merely because you aren’t trying something completely new that would force you to try to solve the problem with a new approach.
I agree with the overall premise of this pattern. Personally, I’ve found it incredibly difficult to try to learn new languages without internally trying to write Java in language X. This summer I had an internship where one of my projects was to make a prototype program for a chat bot using Microsoft’s existing AI technology. This meant that I had to veer away from my good friend Java and attempt to use a new language, C#. I honestly don’t remember that much about C# other than that it looks like a lot like Java and I was able to manipulate the code so that it worked. I spent the entirety of the project focused on how it was similar to Java and how to write Java in C# and never even remotely became a master of the language. Granted, it was a short term project (roughly 4-6 weeks and 20-30 hours a week), so mastery was never feasible. The problem is that if I have to work on another C# project at some point in my career, I will have to start over. I never unlearned my Java knowledge to write in C#.
This coming summer, I’ll be starting a position where I will almost exclusively be writing in C++, a language I have never written a line of code in. Before I start the job, I’m giving myself time to learn the basics, but I know that I’ll need guidance along the way from the subject matter experts at this new company. There will most certainly be moments where I am completely dumbfounded about how to solve a particular problem, or what is wrong with my solution. I’ve learned that over the last couple of years of interning, and at those companies I was using a language I thought I was pretty comfortable in (Java).
Being able to put on the white belt and learn from the masters is one of the things you hear about from everyone in almost every field of technical work. I plan to put on my white belt as soon as I walk in the door at my new company.