Knowing enough to be dangerous

For this Rails Girls London I wanted to talk about not needing to be an expert to solve real world problems.

Most of my career I’ve only had the vaguest idea of what I was doing. Projects have started with me knowing very little about the subject area or tools I was using and having to figure it all out.

Becoming an expert takes a lifetime or anyway 10,000 hours. I’m definitely not an expert in Ruby on Rails or really most of the languages and tools I use day to day. I know maybe six or seven git commands. I do learn new things every day.

Programming is a skill, if you practice you get better. Really there is no shortcut. You need to practice, practice, and practice. This will be frustrating and difficult but over time things will begin to make more sense. You’ll break things so many times but that is ok as it is a great way to learn how things work. You can make this process less painful if you learn how to use source control, I’d recommend git.

Working as a developer is about much more than writing line of code. A lot of the time the programming bit turns out not to be the most difficult part, understanding what the problem really is usually is much for difficult. Your job is really about solving business problems, not any of the fancy techniques or languages

That is not to say those techniques have not value, they’ll hopefully make your life easy and allow you to solve those problems quicker but don’t feel like you need to become an expert before you try to solve real problems.