Codes & Waffles

Day 3: on language and ignorance

Published 18 Jan 2018

It seems that apprenticeship days have a way of being twofold. On the one hand, there’s a very social aspect of discussing with my mentors and other people involved, and on the other hand, self improvement has a big element of inner reflection, which ends up being a lonely exercise.

English, as a foreign language

Language is important. It is so important, that it shapes our behaviour without us ever noticing it. Today, I discussed with Tobias and Wolfram about the role of language in our work. And while the conversation was in itself quite interesting, the most amusing fact was that none of us were speaking in our native tongue. As such, the way we expressed ourselves, about how language changes us, was being changed by the fact we were all speaking english. And that happens all the time, wether we’re speaking in public or writing a blog.

My native language is Spanish, and as my wife keeps assuring people, I’m a much nicer person in English. Now, this may or may not be true, but what’s definitely real, is that whenever I do any kind of public speaking, the language I’m using affects my delivery. Spanish feels like the easiest one, English comes next, and German is quite below, at the “I’d rather not” level. And since one of my apprenticeship challenges is getting better at public speaking, I’m joining an English pronunciation course, here at HolidayCheck, and I’ll let you know if my hypothesis is correct and it does end up improving my delivery. Now, on to the personal topic.

Reflecting on knowledge and ignorance

It’s natural to feel like we know less everyday. The more we know, the more we are aware of how much we don’t know. And while this feeling can become overwhelming sometimes, there are ways to embrace it and harness it’s strength for our own development.

I am reading the book Apprenticeship Patterns by David H. Hoover and Adewale Oshineye, and 2 of the first patterns the book presents us with, are:

  • Wear the White Belt ➡ When learning something new, try to let go of what you think you know. This’ll allow you to not only learn something, but also a new way of thinking.
  • Expose your Ignorance ➡ Accept, and be open about the things you have no knowledge of in order to identify opportunities to fill those gaps.

Both of these patterns deal with our own ignorance, but they manipulate it in a way that our lack of knowledge empowers our journey. In my case, that journey is the one of the aspiring software crafter. And the authors’ recommendation to apprentices, is that they list out 5 things about their job/profession that they know nothing about and would like to. So, here are my 5:

  • Bash ➡ Really, the most I’ve done here is set up some aliases for git commands.
  • DevOps ➡ I know things happen when the system and architecture guys roll up their sleeves.
  • Visual Regression Testing / Headless Browser Testing ➡ Everyone’s excited about it, and I have no idea what’s happening.
  • NoSQL ➡ I saw the first video of a MongoDB course the other day.
  • Next CSS ➡ I used variables in Codepen once.

While exposing our ignorance is scary, it’s also kind of liberating. Now I have some very specific, very public gaps in my knowledge that I need to start filling. And that’s exactly what I’ll do, and I’ll update the list as I go along.

“As you are introduced to the vast reaches of your ignorance you are overwhelmed.” - David H. Hoover and Adewale Oshineye

Side note: I started looking into Vim today. It feels like writing with the left hand while someone keeps moving my notebook out of reach.

Personal Blog of Daniel Bolívar
Writer of Codes for the Webs