Monday, December 10, 2018

How to avoid the dark side as a developer

There's a fairly well known progression in IT development (not just HealthIT) in which a junior developer (padawan) then becomes a developer (jedi), then a senior developer (master) ... and eventually moves into management (to the dark side).  As developers, we live in a constantly evolving environment, and we cannot always take the time to learn new stuff, because we are often responsible for maintaining old stuff.

Learning is hard work, and takes time.  Sometimes you know you need to use some new thing (e.g., FHIR), but you've not had the time, the resources or support to get training on it, or the opportunity to use the training that you may have been given.  You can "steal" that time (it's not really stealing though) from your "day job".  If you are like most people, your organization will tell you that you should spend time each week improving your skills, but then, the real question becomes, do you actually have that time available, or have you stolen it from yourself to fit in all the other stuff you don't have enough time to get done.  All the while you are learning, there's this other battle going on you aren't paying attention to, much like Luke training under Yoda on Dagobah, but eventually need to go back to fight.

The advanced developer will often be able to get a really quick understanding of what the "something new" can do, and have some very specific tasks they want to use it for ("I just want to use X to do Y"), just like Luke wants to learn to use the force to defeat Vader.  The challenge for Luke is that he's got a ton of ability with the force, but never came at it from the beginning instructional level (much like his father).  The challenge for the developer is, they don't have the basic familiarity with X to understand the answers to those questions posted publicly (perhaps on Stack Overflow, or, or some other online community).  So, learning at the middle (or at the top), doesn't work really well.  You have to stop trying to be an expert, and come back at the problem as a beginner, even if you understand what the expert level capabilities of a component will let you do (defeat Vader).

The trick here, is to go back into the problem with a beginner mentality, and to forget your existing expertise.  You'll be able to reapply it eventually, but you need to start back at the beginning.

If you don't, you'll continue down that pathway that eventually leads into a transition to the dark-side (management).


P.S. Not all managers are on the dark side ... some truly are Jedi Masters, who can still use the force in battle, it's a meme.


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