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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

What Makes You a Great Professional

What Makes You a Great Professional post image

I have a small task for you. Think about a few people you know and you consider them as great professionals. Don’t limit yourself to any single role – choose anyone who is great no matter if he’s a manager or a developer or a dustman. Got them? Fine.

Now a second step – try to name one attribute which is common for each of them. Something which isn’t, by definition, related to specific role or specific job. Depending on variety of people you’ve chosen this can be pretty hard, but try for a while – there must be something. Got it? Great.

What you’re trying to achieve here is finding a kind of success factor. Something which would differentiate good from great, but at the same time probably not something which would guarantee a mediocre person to become a star. That just isn’t so easy.

What have you chosen?

My choice is: urge to learn.

This is something which constantly pushes us ahead, out of our comfort zone. Even if we err along the way the overall result is positive. As the time passes we get better and better since, well, learning is all about getting better. We grow to the point when someone thinks about us when asked the question from the beginning of this post. We’re not likely to get there though, so chances are good there’s still plenty of room for self-improvement.

Learning can be a part of your job – in this case you should be pretty happy with it. You can also do a job which doesn’t develop you much at the moment, but it is a lame excuse to stop learning. There are tons of great places to get better at whatever you do or learn something completely new. If you stick with whatever you already know you’re heading to side-track.

I have great news for you: if you reading this, odds are you have this urge. If you take time to look for content discussing personal development in context of your domain (I don’t expect many dustmen here really) you’re well ahead of the rest of the pack. You’re here to learn something new. Otherwise why would you spend your time reading this?

If you’ve chosen something else than urge to learn tell me what is your choice and why.

in: personal development

7 comments… add one

  • Joshua Lewis January 21, 2010, 10:41 pm

    This is on my reading list: http://oreilly.com/catalog/9780596518387

    I think that part of why developers sometimes have a bad reputation is because even if people want to learn, there aren’t necessarily formal avenues of growth. There’s no professional body, and there is no form of apprenticeship (at least in my country). Hopefully this will start to change soon.

  • Pawel Brodzinski January 22, 2010, 1:58 am

    I wouldn’t make it formal to the point when you expect some kind of apprenticeship to learn. You can learn in your free time if your current occupation doesn’t support you with this. Then you can just change a job using an advantage you’ve built learning thus enable further self-improvement path.

    Best specialists I’ve ever worked with never treated lack of opportunities at work as an excuse to stop learning. They were starting another part-time job or running their pet projects or were just reading hell lot of new things which broadened their knowledge and perspectives. Later, when right time had come, this experience or knowledge appeared invaluable and it was something which made them stand out form the crowd.

  • Olga Kouzina January 22, 2010, 4:38 am

    speaking about opportunities to learn: you can go and learn something if you wait for testers, and don’t ask for new user stories :) as in this blog post http://www.targetprocess.com/blog/2009/12/kanban-psychology-can-you-say-no.html these are not “formal opportunities of growth” but chances to practice learning whenever possible. Little learning is a dangerous thing, so learn on :)

  • Pawel Brodzinski January 22, 2010, 5:56 am

    I would say in given situation developer should ask how she can help with fixing a bottle neck which restrains her to take another story. And if there isn’t anything she could do she may switch to self-development mode.

    But in general I agree. There are a lot of small learning opportunities at work. Many people however prefer to spend that time reading about celebrities or something. After all it’s just a matter of choice.

  • Rini January 23, 2010, 3:07 am

    The drive to always do things better today than they did yesterday!
    Learning is part of that, however, learning alone does not improve things. Knowledge, when not used, is still useless. So, what makes a great professional for me is someone who does enjoy the succeses (and failures) of today, but always has the intrinsic drive to do even better tomorrow. But, for sure, learning is a prerequisite.

  • Pawel Brodzinski January 23, 2010, 4:42 am


    I believe we think about the same thing but look at it from different perspective. Learning just for the sake of the process is useless. And I think people who don’t use gathered knowledge are very rare.

    But yes, you can call it drive to improve things and most of the we’ll be talking about the same people.

  • Elena April 29, 2012, 1:00 pm

    Hi Pawel,
    Thanks for writing up my frustrations. I have my own startup and I agree 100% with you. I am trying so freaking hard to motivate employees to learn and be truly better professionals with a deep knowledge of our sector in constant change. I use my free time to learn, I have always used my free time to learn. And thanks to that investment I have what I have right now and we’ll see what the future brings, but rest assured I’ll build it up with my own hands and effort, only possible to ongoing learning, trial and error…I would like to ask you if I could translate your post into Spanish and share it on our blog, of course with due credit and trackback!
    Regards from Spain,

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