Apprenticeship Patterns – Expand Your Bandwidth

This is the first pattern in chapter 5 of Apprenticeship Patterns which focusses on how to address the steep learning curve associated with picking up new programming languages and/or practices. The context the authors present in this pattern is one in which the apprentice has acquired a set of “basic skills” that must be improved in order to become a journeyman. They describe the problem as being that the basic skills held by the apprentice are insufficient for high-level projects that require a more extensive knowledge base and/or skillset. The authors use the analogy that up to this point the apprentice has been sipping information through a straw but the time has come where they must drink from the fire hose of information.

As a solution, the authors suggest apprentices should “expand [their] ability to take in new information.” To do this, the authors advocate for apprentices to not just read books pertaining to knowledge they seek to gain but rather utilize a number of resources in combination with the reading to increase retention and understanding. Some of things they suggest are signing up for Google Reader and subscribing to software development blogs, following “luminaries” on twitter, subscribing to online mailing lists and answering people’s questions, as well as physically or virtually attending technical conferences. The authors note that when the so-called fire hose of information is turned on it can be difficult for an apprentice to get other work done as most of their time will be taken up by the process of ingesting a plethora of new information. Hence, they recommend that this pattern should not be used for more than a few months otherwise it may have yield diminished returns by decreasing an apprentice’s development velocity.

I found this particular pattern to offer some highly valuable advise in terms of how to really push my development career forward. I think that I can actually put this pattern to practice after graduation as I am moving into a position that requires a strong understanding of python programming. Up until this point in my career, I would describe my python programming skills as being basic but in order to excel in my position I will need to acquire a deeper set of skills. After reading this, I decided that when I start my new job I will try to put my mouth to the fire hose information, so to speak, in order to gain essential knowledge and put myself in a position to excel.


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