by Leon Rosenshein

Continuous Education

One of the things that I think is important for developers is continuous learning. There’s always something. From new fields to new techniques in an old field to new tools to really understanding the toolsets that are already in use.

Consider MS Word (or Google Docs). It took me a surprisingly long time to really internalize how to handle simple layout in those tools. Using page and section breaks instead of just hitting enter a bunch. Or using “Repeat as header row” for big tables. It takes a little longer at first, but until you really start doing things that way you end up spending a lot of time manually fixing the format of things. And still end up weird gaps in your docs where you used space to format and then something else changed and screwed it up.

The same is true for most (all?) of the tools we regularly use. Shell aliases. Shell pipelines. Git power tools. Rectangular operations on VSCode/Jetbrains/<Editor of choice>. There are the things we do all the time, the things we do occasionally and look up the details for, and things we have workarounds for, because we never figured out a better way.

One of the reasons I like to work through problems with others, beyond the immediate benefit of a fresh viewpoint and different experiences, is learning more about the tools we share, but use in different ways. Next time you’re pair/ensemble working with someone and you see someone do something in an interesting way stop and get more details. It’s a great way to learn something new, and if you’re in a group setting, you probably won’t be the only one.

Another great resource is MIT’s Missing Semester of your CS Education. A set of sessions that talk about using the tools of the trade. Not the algorithms, data structures, compiler design, or architecture patterns. Instead, how to get the most out of your tools. Automation. Validation. Consistency. How to remove friction from your daily life. Because very often the best way to be faster overall is not by increasing top speed, but by removing drag when you’re going slowest.