Apprenticeship Pattern – Expose your ignorance

The apprenticeship pattern “Expose Your Ignorance” refers to the scenario in which you’re assigned a project but you are unfamiliar with some of the technologies that are required. Under the expectations of your colleagues, you may feel pressured to hide your ignorance so as not to seem incompetent as a developer. The best course of action, however, is to tell people the truth.

I can see why people might be uncomfortable with the idea of exposing their ignorance. However, I think that anyone who is more interested in actually becoming a better developer rather than focusing on what kind of developer they’re perceived as would be able to agree with this pattern. Sure, you could choose to pretend that you have the knowledge to complete any task already and then try to learn those technologies on your own, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll be successful. If you promise to deliver something and then later have to admit that you’re less knowledgeable than you initially let on, then you’re going to end up worse off. By admitting that you’re inexperienced with certain required technologies and asking questions, you’re able to show that you’re capable of learning while also being able to learn much faster with the assistance. One common phrase that I see commonly used is to “fake it till you make it”. I don’t doubt that there are some people who will look down on you for exposing your ignorance, but as long as you continue to focus on learning as effectively as you can, then you’ll be much better off in the long run.

One of the things I found interesting in the excerpt was to write down five things that you really don’t understand about your work and to put it where others can see it. This is definitely an extreme way of exposing your ignorance, but if people who see it are able to answer your questions and cross off an item on the list, then you’ll improve far faster than if you were to try to do the research alone. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to solve problems on your own, but it’s in everyone’s best interest to seek advice whenever they feel like they lack knowledge.