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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Learn! Or How to Get a Better Job

Learn! Or How to Get a Better Job post image

A couple of days ago I had a chance to speak at a local meetup. It probably won’t come as a surprise that I was speaking on Kanban. In fact, it was a test run of one of my presentations I was preparing for one of big events. The point is, only few people shown up.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t complain. Actually, such events are always win-win. Speaker gets some valuable feedback and an audience attends a session for free, which they would have to pay for otherwise. My end of the deal worked fine – I’ve already improved the session basing on feedback I received. However, I was somehow surprised, and in a negative way, that only few people popped up.

Well, maybe “surprise” isn’t the right word. If you asked me I would say that most people didn’t really care to exploit chances to learn, so they wouldn’t use this one either. People, in general, don’t want to learn. They don’t, even if they state otherwise. People, again, in general, are lazy. They are, even if they deny.

So no, I didn’t expect wild crowds even though I believe the message about the meetup reached quite a bunch of people. I see the same pattern whenever me, or my friends, are involved in organization of a local community events.

However, since I always consider a glass half-full I see a good side of the situation too. If you happen to be the part of this small bunch of people and you actually care to exploit any occasions to learn, not only do you unwind yourself but you also become a demanded employee on a job market.

I was discussing with one of my friends how does he see himself as an engineer. His point was that he wasn’t a rock star developer. My point was sort of similar. He wasn’t a rock star developer… yet.

What I consider as one of his biggest strengths is his urge to learn. He doesn’t have a problem to invest a couple of hours of evening or weekend to attend local community event. He does this as A, it is a chance to learn and B, it is an occasion to meet interesting people and exchange experience with them.

What he basically does is he’s consciously working on becoming a better professional than he is right now. So if you asked me about his value on job market I wouldn’t answer talking about what he knows at the moment, but what kind of potential the guy has and how he is using it. Give me the choice among him and another developer who is very skilled but have a regular “I don’t give a damn” approach and it would be a no-brainer for me when it comes to choose who I want to work with.

Sometimes I hear complaints about different trainings or presentations people attend. It wasn’t that stunningly mind-blowing, or the trainer could have been better, or two third of content wasn’t new at all or whatever else. Now, let me stress it, in my whole life I’ve never been on a training, conference or meetup where I wasn’t able to learn anything at all. Yes, it is true that sometimes you learn by negative examples, meaning the only thing you get is knowledge how not to do things. But it is still a lesson, and a valuable one!

So even though I expect people don’t give a damn I’m still surprised why it is so. If I asked all these people whether they want their career to be just a bit better they would agree in a second. And yet they do nothing to improve the situation they’re in.

If I counted all the hours I voluntarily spent on learning, including all the ramblings I share on this blog it would be hell lot of time. And believe me; I don’t regret any minute spent on this, even though I learned many things I don’t use at the moment. And no, no one paid me for that. It was just an investment on my side. The investment, which pays off, as I’m better professional today than I was yesterday. Or so I hope.

This basically means that if you happen to hire me you don’t just buy what I am today, but you also get all the potential I’m striving to exploit. The same I look for when I hire. I look at who you can become in a couple of years, not only what you’re worth now.

Why am I writing all that? I do, to make you move your butt, look for occasions to learn and exploit them! Yes, I have selfish motivation as well. Next time I do something in local community I want to see more faces popping up. I want to see more people who strive to learn since it means there are more people I want to hire. And now that you asked, yes, I consider it win-win.

in: personal development, recruitment

8 comments… add one

  • Scooletz October 17, 2011, 1:33 pm

    I’d add, that even if all the ways you described, the good ones and the bad, that allows you to learn sth, some are much more efficient than others. Working with a person with a passion, which still invests into one’s development – that creates a real synergy in the others to learn and I’d consider it as one of the supreme motivators :)

  • Pawel Brodzinski October 19, 2011, 12:18 pm

    @Scooletz – Actually, I’m not trying to validate value of different methods of learning. Different things work differently for different people.

    I know people who virtually consume books. I know those who are able to suck knowledge from conferences to the last drop. I know folks who focus on exploiting their own experience. I know guys who value guidance but are extremely quick-learners.

    My advice: try different things, see what works and what doesn’t, use tools which are good for you and, finally, move your butt out of your comfort zone.

    If working with passionate people is something which keeps you going, that’s great! Find them, join them, learn from them! Yet I’d personally be far from stating that it is the best method of learning ever.

  • Jon Kern October 21, 2011, 1:58 pm

    Maybe it is a sign that western cultures have been brainwashing their citizens that society will provide a “just” living for all, whether you work for it or not. Breeding the lazy attitude with little downside — such people can hide and survive in lackluster careers within large, bureaucratic organizations (Big Companies or Government organizations or Public Sector, union jobs).

    Therefore, why put in extra time to improve oneself?

    I do agree with you that, for those that do excel at learning and working hard, there (hopefully) will be rewards — at a minimum, personal ones. And if the situation that folks find themselves in sucks, keep learning, improve, be professional craftsman, save your money, and change jobs as soon as you can. Life is too short to waste.

  • Dan October 30, 2011, 1:17 pm

    Can’t even relate to people who are lazy. You’re right, inertia & the easy path dominate most people, but I try to avoid those people.

    But even moreso, I absolutely *cannot* relate to people who don’t want to keep learning. I’ve got a stack of books & lists of things I want to do, learn, master, etc. My biggest problem is time (really, time — not “after I watch football, wash my cat, play videogames…”) I run a startup & have 3 little kids.

    Over time I’ve learned I can feed my family or feed my ego / intellect. The easy path would be to lock myself away, read, workout, become a superhuman, and have no relationship with my family. I choose to learn & do late at night, early in the morning, or during crunch times when the family (mostly the kids) must understand “Daddy has to do this”, even if it’s learning some new esoteric framework for the customer.

    This is a VERY long-winded way of saying I have no sympathy or understanding for people (single or not, family or not) who *have* time but choose to prioritize it in what I’d consider to be wasteful ways, and then sometime later find themselves laid off or stuck in a dead-end job.

    Adapt or die. Always keep learning. Remember the half-life of much knowledge is something like 2-5 years. If you’re still doing the same things in the same ways from 15 years ago, you better read up on the dinosaurs & their fate!

  • Pawel Brodzinski October 31, 2011, 3:20 am

    @Dan – Actually, I know quite a bunch of people who chose do the same thing over and over again and not learn anything new. They’re stuck with projects which are 15+ years old. The funny thing is they are stars in their teams.

    The only problem is that it probably is their last meaningful job. Their careers are going to die at the same seconds their projects are discontinued. Oh well, maybe that’s their conscious choice.

    Either way I don’t to work with such people, because I want my teams to grow. I don’t hire people’s current skills. Even more importantly I hire people’s potential.

  • Tittina December 5, 2011, 11:36 am

    Hmmm….It was the best time to encounter with that writing. I have to say that your thought-flow was right in connection with the people who don’t want to learn and gain more. But I would like to highlight something different which could be another evidence of that: people are simply scared. They don’t want to step out of their comfortzone and do something new because the result could be embarassing or harsh. But as we know, big success can only occur, if we are going to do some act…

  • Pawel Brodzinski December 5, 2011, 3:11 pm

    @Tittina – I believe that, to some point, you touch a tender spot here. Yes, many people are afraid to move out of their comfort zones, thus lack of will to share their knowledge.

    Today I had a discussion on why people don’t want to share. Why people don’t want to teach others. Pretty often, this is exactly it. Being afraid of moving out of the comfort zone. Being afraid of talking to a group of people about anything.

    However, at the same time, learning is a bit different endeavor. You can quietly learn at your desk, not showing a thing to a surrounding environment. This isn’t moving yourself out of your comfort zone. This is just exposing yourself to new ideas. Nothing even forces you to apply these ideas in your work.

    The sad thing is I often see lack of motivation whatsoever to even learn, let alone actively applying lessons in your environment. From this perspective I don’t buy fear of moving out from your comfort zone as a reason.

  • Piotr Sowa May 23, 2012, 1:05 pm

    Who what to self learn and grow up looks for solution, who doesn’t looks for barriers.

    There is a true story that says most people think that will be happy when they will have a bit more money or power. And it is only one small problem of that thinking. It does not work :).

    True be told motivation can be taken from proud from done work. If someone takes happy and proud from its work because loves creating new things then its work can turn into a great work and because it cam from good self sence of happy. That is source of my motivation and I need to say that it works great.

    Take care,
    P ;).

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