Last week, LDLockhartJr posted what he called a potentially hot take:
Lawrence AKA Coding Paths on Twitter: “Potentially hot take: once you get your feet wet in “tech”, it’s perfectly fine to be mentor and mentee. Always learning and willing to share what you’ve learned.” / Twitter
In my retweet, I mentioned that I support this message, as long as you are clear in the expectations of the relationships. I have juggled these roles simultaneously throughout my career – paying it forward by sharing what I’ve learned over the years while also learning from others in our communities.
The second part of his message – “Always learning and willing to share what you’ve learned” – has been something I’ve followed all my career. I work in tech, a field so vast and yet you can go deep into areas without getting spread too thin. There is no shortage of things to learn in this world. Fostering a culture of learning has been a part of my career that I’ve enjoyed. These are some of the tips I used in my classroom and in my teams.
Rather than accepting things as they are, challenge yourself to be curious and understand what is going on. How does this tool work? What if you try automating a process? Why does this work this way? Encourage questions, and talk about how you pursue answers.
Create a Safe Failure Space
While learning, it’s important to allow room for failure. A part of learning should include understanding the boundaries and limitations and knowing how to handle encounters with those. When I’m in the teaching role, I remind my learners that I’m human. I am not infallible – I am prone to the same mistakes that we run into the field. I will have embarrassing typos, especially if I’m coding live. No matter how often I practice the demos, I still get nervous… and I am still susceptible to typing mistakes.
When you fail, you also run into more learning opportunities. With live coding demos going wrong, I take those as debugging opportunities. However, I have to consider the situation before deciding to dive in or table it for a later lesson or discussion. Failures are bound to happen, and there are many lessons that can happen with failure.
When cultivating a culture of learning, also encourage sharing. By sharing what you’ve learned with others, you are also showing your understanding and curiosity, which can be contagious. There are many opportunities out there for sharing:
- Internal blog – commonly seen if trying to get buy-in internally on products and features, showing others how to make the best of the tooling
- Team wiki
- User group meetings
- Conference talks – and not just the big-named conferences. Consider regional conferences and community-organized conferences.
- Content drop – blog post? Video? Combination of them?
These are some of the things I use when helping companies establish cultures of learning and getting their staff up to date on newer technologies. What are other things you do that encourage others to learn and share? I would love to know what others are doing as well!