• 12 Mar, 2019

There is no five-point-palm-exploding-heart-technique secret

There is no five-point-palm-exploding-heart-technique secret. What does a Kill Bill reference to the most dangerous martial arts maneuver have to do with I.T.?

This summer we had 9 interns from my alma mater college and course come in to learn and help out where they could. After giving them basic training of our architecture and tools, we gave them their actual tasks with guidelines; but their primary resource were asking their teammates, and Google and Stackoverflow. They all performed their tasks admirably, and the clients were happy with the results.

This summer we had 9 interns from my alma mater college and course. Our training philosophy is to throw them into the deep end of the swimming pool, shout instructions and words of encouragement, and see who sinks or swims. Figuratively of course. They all performed their tasks admirably, and the clients were happy with the results.

That being said, when asked for their comments and feedback, one common thread was that they were surprised by how much they had to look up online, research, and figure out via trial and error on their own. They had come in with the expectation that everything was known and laid out and fixed, and working would give the access to these secrets that would make them master programmers. In short, they thought they'd get to learn the five-point-palm-exploding-heart-technique and have everything they'd need to conquer the world.

Which reminds me of all the programmers and QA when they started. I had been asked the same question over the years by many newbies when they start.

And the painful truth - which I told them - is this: the main difference between us is that I've been programming much longer than they have. Sure, natural talent really helps. But nothing will beat the right kind of practice, and working in the industry and taking on different challenges of increasing difficulty is the right kind of practice.

The best analogy would be a martial art. Because of movies, people think that there are secret techniques they can learn that make them unbeatable. But the reality is endless repetition and drills and forms and sparring, until the techniques become ingrained and instinctive, such that you no longer have to think about them consciously. The exercises also force you to become stronger, punch and kick faster, giving the opponent less time to react. And the sparring teaches you, through painful lessons, the patterns and subtle movements your opponent makes just before a strike, so you can block and counter better.

So I told them that that's what working in the real world is like, especially in the industry like ours (the IT industry) that is constantly evolving and changing. We need all our people to be constantly evolving and changing with us, so we can keep up with our client's needs and the whims of the industry. But for what it's worth, I told them that this is the best job in the industry; we get paid to solve problems all day, sort of like playing a game that you get paid to play. I told them that if they like that kind of job, come back when they graduate, and let's continue then. We're looking forward to whoever is up to the challenge.