Resist the Promotion vs Step On Up

Reading the discussions between Patrick Morrison and Dave Hoover on Dave’s pattern, Resist the Promotion (here and here), I hereby declare them to both be right and propose a new pattern, Step On Up.

This is what I think I’m doing by becoming an Agile Coach.

Dave says that he’s aiming his patterns at new programmers, but I’ve found that a great deal of them are applicable to where I am in my career. I don’t feel as though I’ve finished my apprenticeship yet, despite having over seven years of industry experience. Maybe they’re applicable at various stages of apprenticeship. I’ve recently come to realise that there’s a whole side to software development which involves communication, accurate feedback, customer interaction and other elements which have more to do with psychology than computing. Understanding the process which goes on in the minds of those involved in software production has to be an important part of software development. I accept that it’s important to understand the technical aspects of the job in depth, and therefore resisting a promotion is important, but I feel it’s equally important to recognise the point at which you as a developer can move on to help facilitate the process which turns ideas into reality.

The difference, I think, between the way Pat and Dave describe the transition to management is that Dave’s concept of promotion is something which someone else decides you’re ready for, whereas Patrick describes managers who really are ready. They’ve moved naturally into roles for which they’re suited, and as a result have redefined their value to the team. It’s very tempting to think that these managers, with their perfect lives and perfect facilitating abilities, have come to the end of their apprenticeships and are now considered to be masters. I don’t think that ever happens. They’ve just taken a natural step which has pushed them on to another level of learning, beyond the ken of us mere mortals.

At the end of the day, the universe is a highly intertwined place. Unless you’re God, you have no way of becoming master of the many interactions and influences which affect your project. Unless you’re a Buddhist who’s achieved enlightenment, I very much doubt that you’re master of your own head. In the same way that an elderly monk might teach a young novice, yet never cease seeking enlightenment himself, I can’t imagine a master who ever stops trying to master his craft. Apprenticeship has to be a life-long pursuit; a journey towards an unreachable destination, but an important journey nontheless.

Dave and Pat, if you read this; I’d be interested to know if this makes any sense to you. From my point of view, you’re masters. Do you consider yourselves to have finished your apprenticeships yet?

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2 Responses to Resist the Promotion vs Step On Up

  1. anonymous says:

    Elzabeth,

    Patrick Morrison here. Thanks for your kind words.

    You wrote:
    > I’d be interested to know if this makes any sense to you.
    I agree with the idea that apprentice/journeyman/master is more of a journey and a process than an attained goal, and I think you put it well.

    > From my point of view, you’re masters.
    In my own view of myself, as presented to hiring managers, I’d say I’m no more than an experienced journeyman. I agree with the medieval idea that a masterpeice is a mark of a master, and I have no piece of work that I’d submit as such a masterpiece. I’d say something like Rails, or 43Things, or Flickr, or Unix, or C qualifies as a masterpiece, but I don’t say that to define the term; I bet a discussion about that would be great, but for another thread. In my own view of myself for my own use, I do no more than to hope that I can do better than I did yesterday, and that I can learn to be the best I can be.

    > Do you consider yourselves to have finished your apprenticeships yet?

    No, never, no way! I suppose there are some things that I don’t need further work on at the present time, let’s call that the ‘journeyman’ stage of development… but there are many, many things that I recognize I need plenty of work on and guidance in. I hope I always believe that about myself… I think it’s an important component of progress.

    Pat Morrison

  2. anonymous says:

    Well if you’re interested in software masterpieces may I suggest looking at: http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?SoftwareMasterpiece and http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?SoftwareMasterpieceCriteriaDiscussion

    –ade

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