Are you (programming) in your comfort zone? Please don’t.

Aga Zaboklicka on November 12, 2017

Originally posted at Jump Start Blog I worked as a software developer using only Java tech stack for over five years. And I'm pretty comfortable... [Read Full]
 

Programmers love uncomfortable zones. Companies love comfortable zones. We should take seriously the need for learning if we like to have a job in 2023. We programmers tend to overestimate the need for fun and new stuff.

 

Thinking in terms of skillset breadth only makes sense if you see yourself as 'solving Java problems', 'solving Node problems', etc. I just see my myself as solving (ever more complex) (business) problems, most frequently with Java.

To put it another another way: programming languages are just tools. A small amount of experience with lots of tools isn't necessarily better than a lot of experience with one tool, all else being equal. This also somewhat relates to what they say about having 10 years' experience versus having 10x one year's experience.

 

I've definitely felt in my learning zone when working with Ember and Rails as of late. It's a mix of challenges I've never faced before and knowing I can almost always overcome them once I do enough research and a little trial-and-error. That's where all the magic happens!

 

Some of us, particularly those with mortgage, car and health bills for a handful of dependents, along with ungodly amounts of midnight poop and vomit cleanups behind us, just don't have the time to get out of comfort zones anymore by eagerly rubbing our hands together with glee at 1AM while navigating to the reference website for Node JS... after firing the software developer's proverbial starting gun, the sound of cracking open that heavenly can of diet coke. To be more accurate, I don't think such folks, as myself, actually have or remember what comfort zones are anymore. I have to force myself to learn what's new(er) by shoehorning it into my every day work. My position description is one of a software developer. But, by the nature of my workplace, I do devops stuff on a fairly regular basis. I have to script. But I've been forcing myself to stop using bash so much, and, oh God forgive for admitting it, Perl, when I just need to wade through some log or other data file. Instead, I forced myself to learn Python, instead of at 1 AM, on an as-needed basis. I think I hate Python as much as I eventually learned to hate the Medusa-like ugliness of Perl. But hey, it's what all the cool kids use and, you know what? Getting Python to interact with the likes of databases and networks, among other things, is just a dream compared to Perl, let alone CLI binaries + bash. The moral of my addition to your story is, even if it seems like you don't have the cycles to break out of your comfort zone, it will be worth it, and more than just for the sake of some existential exercise. Imagine the joy of adding yet another buzzword to your resume!

 

It's about getting better, not about running after every hype.

 

Or imagine all those ugly things getting faster as you can deal with them faster after a little bit of a hurdle.

 

Good post, it gets a conversation going!!

Continuing to learn is never a bad thing. I spend a lot of time exploring new technology. I like Python and NoSQL. The POC's always seem so clean and elegant compared to the final product.

But it takes more than a 'bit of a hurdle' to get good enough at something. I have been involved with a number of projects where someone knew something about a new technology. In the end, the promise of faster and better is just that.

I work with folks who are all in for going to the cloud(AWS in this case). For me, studying for the certification exams was a process (excuse) to learn. A new DynamoDB project falls over after a few months and folks wonder why its just NoSQL after all! In the end, they blame the technology and find something new. In fact, it was their lack of knowledge that doomed the project.

The work of software development is difficult, get over it. No new process, framework or methodology is going to make life unicorns and rainbows.

Jason Gabler: I feel your Perl pain...even after years of therapy

 

To me, the most difficult thing is to find the sweet learning spot. Challenged to a point where I can learn, but not too much where I’m only guessing.

 

It's a good advice. Besides my web dev skills, one day out of the blue I started learning R, it was really fun experience with some enjoyable challenges. This is all good, however, one must not get too adventurous in all sorts of different tech. There are simply too many things to learn now a days and all are interesting.

So overtime if I find something very interesting, that I don't have enough time to explore, I readily save it to my Read Later list. To comfort myself, I literally have the following note pinned on top of my Read Later list:

Read Later list will grow over time, will have sub tags, will be revised again and again - but that's all for the greater good. Life is a journey, you don't have to accomplish everything at once 🤣.

 

I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone the last few weeks. My boss is a real nice guy and gives me a random project, which had to be built from the ground up. By doing this I definitely learnt quite a few things, for instance how something simple as bootstrap should be used. Previously bootstrap was on the list "to learn someday". I got kind of forced to do it, and I do not regret it.

For the record, my boss is a real nice guy who (probably) intentionally gave me a whole project to do by myself.

 

That's how you spot a good leader. Someone that helps you grow! Good for you :)

 

I've been for 4 years in the same company doing basically the same thing, and he felt an anxiety that did not know of where it was, and also was afraid to leave the company, some events have made me open my eyes and realize that what hurt me was the comfort zone that I found myself, I took courage and go out from there to work in a more challenging place, I feel anxious yet, but a "good" anxiety, why when I can make things work, I feel very good and confident. Thanks for sharing this

 

Good advice and good read!

But also:
comfort zone cat

 

Nice read it's about all days challenge for a software engineer, we have to challenge ourselves even when we are in our confort zone by reviewing code quality .

 

Or by adding new tools/scripts/frameworks etc. that will help us be more effective in the future ;)

 

As developer, you should always put yourself out there and be uncomfortable but sometimes is a bit relaxing stay in your comfort zone :)
But I agree, it becomes boring in the long run.

 

Nice article, I think it’s important to learn new technologies. But I think it’s better to stick to one stack instead of hopping from one to another.

 

If you ask yourself what you're learning now, always should exist an answer 😊

 

Oh that panic zone, been there and you are totally right, it's needed to step out of there in order to continue learning and enjoying.

Awesome article Aga, thanks for sharing!

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