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Level Up - Issue #144

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Level Up

May 15 · Issue #144 · View online

Level Up delivers a curated newsletter for leaders in tech. A project by https://patkua.com. Ideal for busy people such as Tech Leads, Engineering Managers, VPs of Engineering, CTOs and more.


Lost knowledge
I was recently asked whether I get tired of teaching the same concepts again and again. Considering that I’ve been more or less training future technical leaders full or part-time for almost a decade, I think the short answer is no. The longer answer reminded me of an insight I had when I was consulting, moving from team to team and organisation to organisation, sharing the same core concepts of agile software delivery, designing for continuous delivery, or basic development practices like refactoring, writing good automated tests or teaching skills like test-driven development or effective pair programming.
I realised early on in my consulting days I shouldn’t be frustrated that people didn’t know what I knew. As obvious as it sounds, just because I learned a concept doesn’t automatically mean others will be familiar with or know the same concept. Here are some of the systematic forces at play:
  • Our industry is constantly evolving - Although it’s true that not every day we discover fundamentally new principles, our industry does continue to evolve, meaning we need to recontextualise existing principles in the current environment, and sometimes, but less often, learn a new principle.
  • We have a low barrier to entry - It doesn’t take much for someone to get started in tech. All it might take is a self-guided tutorial, and someone might start as a programmer or web developer. Not everyone gets to go on a structured course or have the privilege to do so, either.
  • Formal education has its limits - Even those who might graduate with a formal Computer Science or Information Technology/Systems degree will often miss fundamental concepts as our field is so broad and diverse. Some schools may be more progressive with their curriculum, but I believe many are perceived to teach concepts using older technologies or concepts that are less relevant to a vast majority of roles - e.g. C pointers, anyone? 😉
  • Poor role models - Given a number of the previous points, newcomers join environments where teams do not have examples of “good practice.” For instance, there are still many teams not using source control systems, sharing files via folders or via email 😅
  • Limited networks reduce exposure to new ideas - Before the Internet and public knowledge sharing places (i.e. blogs, news sites, open-source pages), people relied on their local networks. A limited network or a network closed to new ideas means people don’t get a chance to experiment and learn new concepts.
If you have learned a concept, it’s natural to feel like we have “lost knowledge” as an industry. What’s obvious to you is not obvious to others. It’s also one of the reasons I try to avoid the phrase “You don’t know X? 🙄” This phrase does nothing but guilt or shame other people; neither very helpful for learning.
In our industry, and for many reasons, it’s impossible to know everything, which is why learning how to learn is such a key skill for our industry and why we need more people to teach, mentor and share their skills. Given the number of individual contributors pushed into either technical leadership roles (like tech leads, staff engineers, etc.) or into management roles (such as Engineering Managers), I think there will always be more people who could do with some support 😉 and we need people who enjoy helping them level up 🥳.
Enjoy this week’s newsletter, and please pass it on to a friend or colleague who might benefit.
Join an online guided course, Shortcut to Tech Leadership (IC track) or Engineering Manager Essentials (Management track) to level up your skills. Or grow your value as a technical leader with self-paced courses at the http://techlead.academy

It can feel like we have "lost knowledge" as an industry, when in reality, people are just starting on their learning journey
It can feel like we have "lost knowledge" as an industry, when in reality, people are just starting on their learning journey
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neeraj arora
In 2014, I was the Chief Business Officer of WhatsApp.

And I helped negotiate the $22 billion sale to Facebook.

Today, I regret it.

Here’s where things went wrong:
A good pun 🤦‍♂️
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Thanks for making it this far! 🤗
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Patrick Kua, Postfach 58 04 40, 10314, Berlin, Germany