Honesty is the Best Policy.

“It is better to be honest about your skills and fail to land a job, than it is to lie and put yourself in a situation that’s over your head.” – Someone, probably.

That quote, while partially meant as a joke, does have some truth behind it. Unfortunately, in this world of ever-increasing job requirements, it seems enticing to claim skills that you don’t actually have. This, however, can lead to an avalanche of constantly falling behind on work, and procrastinating/struggling to keep up with the rest of the team. Tapping into my previous entry (“Being the Worst”), we can see that is better to be honest about ignorance than to “shove it under the rug”, as one would say.

“Apprenticeship Patterns” essentially states that for this pattern, we must face a very difficult aspect of our lives – admitting that we are not the best at everything, and that we need to ask for help. Similar to “Being the Worst”, I find this philosophy to be familiar, but fascinating nonetheless. While it took me more time to confront my ignorance than to challenge my skills, I understand that both of these processes will make me a better programmer (and a better person) in the long run.

The most useful aspect of this pattern is the idea that, regardless of what we do with our lives (from scientific advancements like coding software to artistic talents such as playing guitar), it is more important to learn how to learn, than to “learn towards a goal”. To phrase this with better clarity – if we can understand the most effective way to learn, it will make our challenges much easier to overcome than trying to simply take on the challenge directly.

While I don’t think that this pattern has changed my thoughts about professional programming, I do believe that it has emphasized the importance of brainstorming, “thinking outside the box”, and other important factors of discovering unknown material. Most importantly, exposing ignorance shows that, as programmers, we know that we don’t have the solution that our client desires (yet), but we are also searching for it.

Maybe it’s because I’m no stranger to shame, but I must say that I disagree with the idea that there is “tremendous pressure to satisfy clients, regardless of one’s actual competence”. For me, the best way to satisfy clients (and pacify my own anxiety) is to select the most reasonable long-term solution – in this case, admitting my ignorance. “Dodging the bullet” during the sprint planning might provide short-term anxiety relief, but the problems avoided remain unchecked, building up far more anxiety in the long-term.

Published by Mike Morley (mpekim)

Current student at WSU. Knowledgeable of C/C++, Java and Python. Always interested in learning the basics of as many languages as possible.

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