Zero Capacity

I’m three weeks into my new job, and I still can’t get used to the feeling of being “Zero Capacity”.

I have been told that even a highly experienced developer is expected to take a minimum of 6 months to get up to speed enough to “add capacity” or, in other words, to be able to do any actual work. In the meantime, my job is “just to learn”.

I am, in essence, a professional student.

Perhaps this doesn’t feel weird to people who have only worked in the tech field…my Dad, who has been in the field for about 25 years, didn’t seem to understand my surprise.

Every other job I’ve had went something like this:

Week 1: Stupid HR videos that are meant not to educate, but to cover the large, sun-sensitive asses of the company executives.

Weeks 2-3: Job-Specific Training: Out-of-date computer simulations complete with screenshots from the customer-management system that was retired in the early 1980’s and actresses that say, “Thank you so much for educating me about your product! I am happy to sit in your office for an hour while we sign documents, because this rosy-cheeked baby I’m holding is a very patient creature who won’t mind having her meal delayed!”

Week 4: One day of watching an experienced person using the current customer-management system, which is nothing like the one you trained on, while dealing with actual customers, who have red-faced, screaming babies, low blood sugar, and a personal vendetta against the company you just got hired to defend.

Week 4, Day 2: Into the fire! Get out there and help some angry customers!

This job has been completely different. There’s no instruction manual, no training videos, no list of things to learn, no measures of competency.

About once a day, someone takes a moment to explain something to me. Sometimes I get 10 minutes of their time, other times it’s an hour. Every once in a while, I get a full day of pairing with an experienced programmer.

It’s both relaxing and unsettling. If I really am being allowed to just absorb information at my own pace, this is wonderful! I get the time to explore the areas where I need more development, instead of following an outdated one-size-fits-none training program.

On the other hand, I can’t help being suspicious that I’m being prepped for the witch’s pot. One day I’m going to walk in, and they’re going to say, “Alright, you’ve had enough time to train, right? Don’t be shy. Go ahead–jump in the boiling water. Wait, wait! Take some garlic and carrots with you. Wouldn’t want you to go in unprepared.”

Until someone tells me otherwise, I’m spending my time reading the code, googling the terms I hear that I don’t understand, and leaving my pores open in the hopes of absorbing information through osmosis.

I’m also staying clear of large black pots and heads of garlic.

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