The Pragmatic Craftsman :: Simplicity from complexity : by Stanley Kubasek ::

PPP: Practice, practice, practice

Practice makes perfect.

I think you can agree with me on that. To become a craftsman, you not only need to acquire new knowledge and new skills, you need to be able to apply that knowledge, be able to polish your skills, and improve the output every time. I don’t remember who said it, Mozart I think, that every time he played the same piece, he did it differently. He was always looking to improve it. That’s the type of mentality of a true craftsman. And that’s what I need to develop to become a true craftsman.

Practice new technologies: put your knowledge to the testOver the last few years, I must have read 20-30 software books. I learn a lot, no doubt. But rarely do I actually put that knowledge to test. I just read, make notes (sometimes), and move on to another book. Doing it this way, I think my knowledge is not deep enough. I really cannot do anything with it, and I easily forget it.

I need to read a little and be able to put that knowledge to practice: I need to apply it. How do I do that? By writing a project based on that technology. By practicing — playing — with the new technology.

For instance, I want to learn Ruby (and Rails). Before I can say that I learned it, I should build a website or another project in Ruby. Only then I can say that I learned Ruby.

Same with any new technology. To really learn it, I should create my own project based on it. Anything new, whether it is a pattern or a technique, before you really learn it, you need to be able to put it into context. Ask yourself, how can I put that technology to use?

Practice to polish your skillsIn an ideal work environment, we would get to work on new and different technologies fairly often. That does not happen in the real world too often (or you’re lucky). As a result, we stagnate and get used to our working environment. I don’t think that’s a good situation. As a craftsman, you can never let your skills stagnate — lose freshness. You have to stay abreast with new technologies, acquire new skills constantly. But how? On your own!

Use your down time at work to freshen up on your skills. Once again, practice comes into play. Think the project you’re working on could benefit from migration to a newer, better technology. Do it! On your own. Start a new project, and migrate the old project to the new technology. Doing this keeps your skills fresh. You’re gaining new skills.

Playing with new technologies is very important. If you cannot do it at work, you need to find time for it, whether at work or at home.

Practice to polish — improve — the productEvery time you build a product, always strive to make it better. Better than your previous one. That’s the mentality of Mozart. I think that’s a mentality of a craftsman. And that’s what you want to become, right? Then you have to have that mentality! In design meetings, suggest a better way; when designing on your own, reflect and see what could be improved from your last project.

By practicing continuously, you’ll be able to see how things can improve. You’ll be able to build on your skills. You’ll be able to keep your skills up to date. This is key to getting better, improving your skills, and becoming a better developer, a craftsman. And remember: you can never stop practicing!

Once again, and that’s the bottom line, to move into architecture, to move up, to become a craftsman, you need a lot of practice. You need to continue practicing or you will not be “crafting” but “hacking.” Practicing takes time, but that’s the only way to make sure that you “got it.” BTW, as a craftsman, you should be loving it! :-)

2 Responses to “PPP: Practice, practice, practice”

  1. Bradley Woods says:

    I am glad that I have found your site. I agree alot of the work with software development is the practice that goes on behind the scenes. At least for me anyways. I like to get the code from the books I am reading, notate them, and keep them in my personal code repository. I have been programming most of my life but just now starting to get serious about my craft. I am 27, guess its never to late to start. Will be checking back for more posts soon.
    ciao

  2. Staƛ says:

    Bob,
    Being aware is really the 1st step. I like to work with people that care about their craft, that always try to improve, that try to make things better — not just hack and “get things done.”
    I also keep my own repository. Serves as a great reference.
    Hey, you’re only 27, for a while I thought you’re much older! :-)

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