Apprenticeship Pattern Review 3: Confront Your Ignorance

“Confront Your Ignorance” is another pattern that struck a chord with me from the Apprenticeship Patterns book. I chose to talk about this pattern now because of its strong relationship with the “Expose Your Ignorance” pattern which I talked about in a recent post. As a developer who is relatively early in their journey, I realize that there is some skill or tool that I should know that I may be unfamiliar with almost daily.

Confronting your ignorance is all about taking the list of skills and tools that one creates when exposing their ignorance and setting aside time to learn that skill. The approach with which one learns a given skill or tool is unique to the individual. The main goal of this pattern is to be able to confidently say that you understand how to implement a given skill or effectively use a tool after confronting that gap in your skill set. It is important to reflect often and decide, once you have reached satisfactory knowledge in an area, whether you should switch topics or delve deeper into the current one. If a developer does a great job of exposing their ignorance without ever confronting it they can never take the step to being a software craftsman. They will find comfort in their ignorance and rely on others to fill in the gaps. Conversely, if a developer always confronts their ignorance without exposing it, it creates a work environment where everyone pretends to have a skill and then learns it in hiding to appear adequate. This would be a bad application of this pattern and should be avoided as much as possible.

For myself, I find that my learning and application of a skill tend to go hand in hand. I find myself confronting my ignorance at the same time as trying to deliver a product which tends to end in frustration and a sense of failure. In employing this pattern I can save myself the frustration by setting aside time to toy with a tool and learn a skill. Inevitable failures when learning how to use a tool no longer equate to failures in being able to deliver a product. After reading “Confront Your Ignorance” I will immediately start to employ this pattern in daily life. I will expose my ignorance and then give myself the time to fill those gaps in my skill set.

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