With Pith

Ethan Petuchowski

Learning vs Doing

The goal of my first project at my first “real” job is to get something useful done within a few days and start to feel like a contributing member of the team. However it has been about a week, and I still have not finished that project.

From my experience talking with some of my colleagues so far, their collective attitude might be summed up with, “Google it, then copy-paste it, but don’t worry about what it does.” In my life, I have worked with and met many people having that attitude. Partially because of my experience working with those people, it happens to decidedly not be my attitude. My attitude is more like “google it, learn what to do, learn why that is the right approach, take notes, and then copy-paste and modify the best solution to make the final solution as clean as possible.” This strategy got me through many tough situations, so I have built up faith in it.

So, after seeing me spend days learning about ssh tunnelling, ansible, and vagrant — and not finishing my simple project — they finally said something along the lines of

At this rate it will take you weeks to learn how to automate deployment of a virtual machine. Why don’t you just deploy one copy and then learn about how to automate it on your own time?

Now, “weeks” is probably an overstatement, but they pointed out to me that I had sort of assumed out of nowhere that I was hired as some sort of devops role for the company, even though what I’m actually interested in is what one might call “big data engineering”. They said, “If you find yourself repeating the same tasks over and over, then you should learn to automate them.” It is now obvious that they are in the right.

At the time, I was startled by the way they approached me about what I consider to be largely a difference in personalities. But I can see that they are concerned that someone who reads too much never gets anything done, and so far I have fit that stereotype. At the same time, I am concerned that a person who doesn’t read will do their work quickly and incorrectly and will then spend the next few weeks rejiggering a broken project, and so far they have fit that stereotype. In short, it seems that we are all prejudiced and have plenty to learn from each other.

Going forward I shall take their advice and do the more mundane tasks as fast as possible and only learn things that come up more than once. If that doesn’t work out for me because I’m just cranking out shitty work, I will revert back to understanding what I am doing.