Discover in twos

Acquiring new skills and learning new technologies or platforms is a delicate undertaking - it’s a necessity but also very expensive. My suggestions: Discover in twos.

As software engineers, we need to acquire new knowledge constantly. New languages, frameworks, platform concepts, architectures, and practices are proposed every day and require our attention. But attention is a finite resource. One only has so much of it thus, it must be deployed carefully and deliberately for maximum effect and to avoid loss of focus. To help with that, my proposition is as follows: Discover in twos. The proposition is easy: Once you come across something new, commit to it in stages by investing 2 minutes, 2 hours, 2 days, and 2 weeks sequentially, evaluating your discoveries’ utility after every step:

2 Minutes: Give every discovery at least 2 minutes of your time. Listen to your gut, then determine whether this may be something useful, relevant, or necessary in the future. If so commit to the next step:

2 hours: Your discovery now deserves a closer look behind the curtains of the initial impression, behind the marketing facades. What problems could it help solve? Does this complement my existing skillset? Maybe give it a try, install the tool, or code a Fibonacci sample.

2 days: Now we get serious: Take an in-depth look at your discovery: What are its strengths and weaknesses? What are the limitations? How can it be combined with other concepts, frameworks, and tools? Is there a project it cloud be deployed to? Share your discovery with peers and get their ideas and feedback to validate and challenge your observations.

2 weeks: Now it’s time to transition from discovery to skill. Invest in getting to know the technology in depth, test drives a concept in a project, write some serious pieces of code with this new language and participate in its community.

At the end of every step evaluate carefully and with the maximum honesty you can muster: Is there value in pursuing this further? It may just be true, that you know enough after 2 minutes to know that your discovery is not relevant to your situation. That’s a valid outcome and lets you focus your energy on something more promising. Never hesitate to revisit your decision should the topic come up again. Circumstances change and the assumptions that lead to your decision may no longer be true!

Stay curious and keep discovering!