Chaos, Order, and Code

I’ve noticed I go through a certain set of phases each time I move into a new job or get a promotion:
  1. Disorientation: I’m too new to have a clear picture of what it takes to be successful in the job. I complete the tasks, but feel aimless, as I don’t know which actions are truly impacting my success, or even what success looks like.
  2. Chaos: I gain a clear picture of all the skills I must master to be truly effective in my job, but I don’t know how to prioritize the learning. As a result, my approaches to mastering those skills are scattered and chaotic, making it difficult to see my progress. This is the frustration stage.
  3. Planning: I reach the point where I have sufficient information to make a plan. I analyze the skills I must master, prioritize them, and estimate how long it would take to master each skill. I begin to feel in control.
  4. Order: With plan in hand, I attack each skill gap ferociously. I steadily gain confidence as I watch the dominos fall. I am calm and focused.
  5. Knocking on the Door of Mastery: I master enough of the skills that my progress becomes apparent to others. Others start celebrating my successes, but I’m still not satisfied.
  6. Mastery: The dominos have fallen. I have attained a level of mastery that meets my own standards. The difference is small but noticeable to others. The difference is everything to me.
  7. Thumb Twiddling: Having mastered the skills, I wonder what to do now that my list is complete.
Both Coding Bootcamp and the first months of my job felt chaotic. I had too little time to stop, reflect and plan.

Yesterday evening I finally found the time to plan. I laid out every skill I needed to learn, ranked them by importance and by my current skill level, and made a graph showing the intersections between skill level and importance level. (Geeky, yes, I know, but that’s been established).

Other developers often try to be helpful by suggesting obscure tools and languages you should learn. They mean well, but if you try to follow everyone’s advice, you end up with DADD (Developer ADD). Sorting out what is truly important is a very difficult task. The graph helped me visualize the top priorities, which means I can finally stop chasing after every stick another developer throws.

It is such a relief to have a plan again.
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