Two weeks ago I wrote up a spur-of-the-moment thread on Twitter about how we are all Lifelong Beginners.
Nitya | #Codeland Conf! http://aka.ms/codeland-cscSeemed a perfect time to re-up this post I wrote last week. I will convert this into a @ThePracticalDev blog post soon because I genuinely want to see how we can reimagine "beginners" in tech.
If you are at #Codeland or in the #CodeNewbie community let me know what you think! ♥️ twitter.com/nitya/status/1…22:39 PM - 23 Jul 2020Nitya | #Codeland Conf! http://aka.ms/codeland-csc @nityaI have been thinking about this for a while now .. and I wanted to share my thoughts .. let me know what you think. My belief: We are all lifelong beginners. We need to redefine the word as one that empowers people and not undermines or reduces their contribution. A thread. https://t.co/LpOhIYNcL1
It was a 16-part thread that has attracted 12K views (and counting) with positive feedback. So I thought I'd convert it into a blog post and potentially jumpstart a discussion.
Once you've read it - I'd love to hear from you:
Do you agree with this definition of lifelong beginners?
What other such words can be reclaim in a manner that empowers (instetad of marginalizing) learning?
I have been thinking about this for a while now .. and I wanted to share my thoughts .. let me know what you think.
We are all lifelong beginners. We need to redefine the word as one that empowers people and not undermines or reduces their contribution.
The dictionary definition of "beginner" is someone JUST STARTING to learn a skill. While this might be factually true, it might not cover the broader context. Are they learning it for the first time? Are they revisiting it after a period away? Do they know similar things?
The reality is that learning is personalized and contextual. Every person learns differently (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) and their journeys to that starting point are different. Economic disparity plays a role!
We are not (and cannot be) given the same "beginner" label
In tech the term "beginner" can be used (perhaps without intention) as a way to exclude or marginalize people's contributions to a discussion. "Your opinion on X is not as valuable as Y's because you are a beginner in this topic Z"
This fails to understand user JOURNEYS
I want to change that. I want to reclaim "beginner" as a source of pride and value. Because here is the real truth. BEGINNERS ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE STARTING JOURNEYS TO LEARN! They might be taking that journey for the 10th time
Or might be taking a detour from another journey
So they have value in every conversation based on
WHERE THEY ARE GOING
WHERE THEY CAME FROM
AND WHAT THEIR PURPOSE IS RIGHT NOW
If each journey is seen in isolation, then we are all beginners. We are all starting new journeys to learn, unlearn, relearn and evolve every day. But if we zoom out and look at the aggregate value of the beginner journeys, exploring the histories of travellers, the intersections where they travel together - and the detours each chooses to take (to give their journeys meaning) ..
And emergence is a powerful tool that uses collective knowledge and experiences to build incredibly resilient and innovative systems of knowledge and discovery. We need to be thinking of beginners as those pioneers on adventures that can create pheromone trails for others
The reality: No individual person knows everything. EVER. There are no experts. There are only people with contextual expertise (e.g., X knows more than Y about topic Z RIGHT NOW because X has been using Z more recently than Y. But Y might have written the first book on Z)
Let's not confuse KNOWLEDGE (understanding of a concept through usage or through familiarity with related ideas) with EXPERTISE (contextual knowledge e.g.., through usage in current time or relevant domain)
We are all experts in something
We are all beginners in EVERYTHING
And this brings me to my Brain and Smithsonian analogy.
The human brain is an elegant, complex, inexplicable and magical entity that we cannot completely fathom however hard we try. There isn't a supercomputer in the galaxy that gets close. Human Brain Facts
It is also resource-constrained. To be effective, it has to make decisions constantly on what to PRIORITIZE for its immediate needs. This is why we have short-term and long-term memory, why we have triggers and responses, why neural networks are pattern detectors at large.
Now look at every person you know - not by their age, gender, ethnicity, skin color, socio-economic status or other label. Instead see each individual as a multi-faceted supercomputer capable of greatness. Their current task (visible profile) is but one facet of potential
Think of each of us as an individual Smithsonian. As large as it appears, and as many faceted galleries as we see on display - WHAT YOU SEE IS LESS THAN 2% OF THE ACTUAL KNOWLEDGE STORE THAT IT IS CAPABLE OF SHOWING
At any given point in time, the "expertise" we are showing is like a themed exhibit in one of the Smithsonian museums. We trawl our memories, dust off relevant artifacts, polish them by (by practicing or applying new techniques) and then bring them out for use in projects
And hopefully this ties my thoughts back to the image (at the bottom of this thread). We are all Smithsonians with vast repositories of knowledge that we just need to access, refine and build on - every time a relevant project arises.
We are all Beginners with journeys to learn
⚡️ Summary: ⚡️
Hello! 👋🏽 I'm Nitya. I've spent 25+ years in research, development, community, academia, startups and life. I have a lot of knowledge in my vaults but I choose to exhibit my advocacy artifacts this season.
I am a lifelong beginner.
And my journey is fabulous.