Developer Tea

The Unique Advantages of Being a Beginner

Episode Summary

Humans are no strangers to being beginners. In today's episode of Developer Tea we're talking about the unique advantages we have in beginning something and how to take advantage of that opportunity.

Episode Notes

🙏 Today's Episode is Brought To you by: Command Line Heroes

Command Line Heroes is an original podcast from Red Hat about the people who transform technology from the command line up.

A new season was released on July 14th,  in which Author Clive Thompson joins host Saron Yitbarek to share his insights from over 200 interviews with coders for his latest book.

This 3-episode mini-season will cover: the many paths to a coding career, where coders work, and what coders expect from each other.

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Episode Transcription

Music Humans are no strangers to being beginners. We start out lives, obviously, as beginners at everything that humans do. But throughout our entire lives, we go through new phases. We are beginners at school. We are before school, beginners at walking. At the very simple things that we take for granted every day, like talking to our family or our friends. And so throughout our lives, we have these moments of being a beginner. But some of those things that we are beginners at can cause a lot of fear or concern. Let's say, for example, that you are just starting out at a new job, or maybe you're a brand new programmer. This can be a terrifying position to be in. But in today's episode, I want to talk about why you have a special and important role as a beginner. In fact, you have some advantages over the people who are not beginners around you. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, and you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. So if you are a beginner, you probably know what I'm talking about, especially if you have people around you who are not beginners. It's a little bit easier to feel at home, or not feel like you're standing out if you have a bunch of other beginners with you. For example, if you're starting out college, maybe you have a lot of other freshmen with you that can help you feel a little bit more at home. But when you step into a classroom, maybe you are taking an elective, let's say, and there's a lot of other people in that class. Many of them are not freshmen. Just being around the people who are not beginners can give us a sense of self-consciousness. And it can cause a little bit of worry, a little bit of anxiety, that maybe we're going to be found out for our beginner-ness, whatever that means. Or that maybe we're not really cut out for the thing that we're trying to be a beginner at. But there's another very important side to being a beginner. And you've probably seen some of the effects of this. You might call some of it beginners luck. And today's episode, I want to dive into some of those strengths of being a beginner. And there are so many of them that will probably end up doing multiple episodes on this topic for that very reason. There's just so much good. There's so many opportunities in being a beginner. So I want you to understand and really fully grasp the idea that, first of all, everyone is a beginner. This is not news to you. This is something that a lot of people have probably tried to tell you to make you feel a little bit better. So everybody was a beginner at some point, but here's the thing that people won't tell you very often. Many people who are no longer beginners wish that they could go back to where you are right now. Think about that for a second. Many people who have a lot of experience, maybe they've built an incredible career for themselves, but they still wish that they could go back to where you are now. And that's because you do have an advantage. You have some actually quite a few advantages. There's a lot of strengths to being a beginner. And that's what we're talking about today. So let's jump straight in. The first strength, especially if you're joining in, let's say, a company or a new person at a company. You have no political allegiance. You have no social allegiance. There's no can pre-programmed lean towards any group of people. And whatever opinions you have have not been shaped by any group thought in that group of people. Now in some ways, this could actually act as a source of anxiety. You don't really know where you fit in, but here's the critical thing. The people who are in the company or the people who are in that group, whatever you are joining. They're kind of looking to you in a way, beginners act as leaders, not necessarily in their authority or in the org chart. But rather, people look to the beginner because they have a fresh set of eyes. They have a new perspective. And in a company where the perspective has kind of gotten stale and we've gotten used to the same things, having a new person join can bring a lot of positive creative energy into a company. And that's not just a fuzzy term. This is backed by science. The fact that you are coming to a group of people without any kind of predetermined, pre-programmed ideas based on that group of people's common problems or problems. That puts you in a different social situation. It might make you feel or worry that you're an outcast, but actually the opposite is true. People are going to be very likely looking to you. They want to hear what your perspective is because it's new, it's fresh. It's something they haven't heard before. So this is a huge advantage of being a beginner. So don't try to rush in to try to kind of find your place in a group. Don't try to blend into quickly. Instead, take advantage of that situation of being a real beginner, of not having any political leans or alledances or any social groups that you supposedly fit into or that you kind of tend to agree with. And this is kind of a running theme. This idea that you don't have kind of the imprint of whatever your new group is, whatever that beginner experiences, whatever those are. You don't have any of that imprint yet. You are in a lot of ways fresh. Similarly, you bring fresh experience with you. This means whatever you just now did, whatever you were most recently doing before your new venture as a beginner is going to be different from everyone else that you're working with from everyone else that you're practicing with that you're going to class with. No one else has that fresh experience that you do. And this fresh experience doesn't necessarily have to be going from one company to another. And here's why that's so important. Our experiences, our life experiences, the things we go through, the things that we learn, the people that we meet, all of these act as kind of hooks. And imagine that our brain is full of hooks. And as we experience new things, the more hooks you have, the easier it is to relate one hook to another hook. You can imagine that you're kind of trying to draw threads between all of those hooks. And so now all of the fresh experiences that you have, those hooks are readily available. You can easily reach them. You remember so much about your most recent experiences. And so you can pull from those and relate them to your new experiences much more readily than someone who hasn't had a different experience in a long time. We're going to take a quick sponsor break and then I'm going to come back and give you kind of some rapid fire, more advantages of being a beginner. There's just so many and I'm excited to talk about them. But first I want to talk about today's sponsor, Command Line Heroes. The bandline heroes is an original podcast from Red Hat about the people who transform technology from the command line up. The brand new three episode mini season has just come out recently with author Clive Thompson. And he joins host Serrani Barak to share his insights with her from over 200 interviews with coders for his latest book. Past seasons have ranged from the history of open source to the origins of popular programming languages and most recently the creation of Revolutionary Hardware. But this season covers the mini paths to a coding career where coders work and what they expect from each other. Head on over to the podcast platform of your choice, maybe the one you're using right now. To listen and subscribe to Command Line Heroes. Thanks again to Command Line Heroes and Red Hat for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So we've already talked about some of the advantages of being a beginner and hopefully this makes a lot of sense, right? It essentially is just talking about how your unique scenario, your unique perspective as a beginner has some intrinsic value and you just have to take a hold of that intrinsic value. And here's the important part. This is a perspective that is hard to gain again. In other words, it's very hard to return to being a beginner, particularly a beginner in a given subject. Of course, you can continuously make yourself a beginner in multiple subjects, but it's very hard to, for example, go back and be a beginner engineer again if you've been an engineer for 10 years. So I want to take a little bit more time to talk about some of the other advantages of being a beginner. The first one is the license to act like a beginner. Think about this. If you are 10 years or 15 years into your career and you ask a question that you would expect a beginner to ask, it's very possible that someone, unfortunately, will look at you a little bit sideways. They don't expect someone with a lot of experience to ask a question they would expect from a beginner. So there's a little bit less trepidation of failure as a beginner. Once you've kind of walked down that path, you're a senior engineer, a principal engineer, something like that, then it's less expected. Naturally less expected that you would have a catastrophic failure in something that you're trying to do. That's not necessarily saying that this is the way it should be, to be clear. This is more a commentary on the average workplace or the average experience. But as a beginner, you're less likely to have a fear of failure because you're kind of expected to have more failures than people who have more experience than you. You also have kind of a license to ask questions that supposedly everyone already knows the answer to. And this can make you a much better engineer because it's very likely that even though there's this facade that everybody knows the answer to these questions, not everybody does. There's a lot of information that we kind of expect that other people have, but they in fact have a lot of gaps in their knowledge. And speaking of gaps, another strength is that you haven't adapted to those gaps. You haven't found ways of operating without that knowledge. You can see the gaps very clearly, which means that you have a very clear gap that you can fix. This is an opportunity because it means that you have a more solid understanding in the long run. And you can create very good resources for the next beginner. If there's a huge gap in the onboarding process, or maybe in the stack, let's say, that a giving company is using, then you coming in, you have the clearest picture of those gaps. And you can fix it for the next person that's coming in. You can also learn Good Habits from day one as a beginner. This is a huge advantage because it's very easy to get stuck in bad habits. This can happen pretty quickly. If you start with Good Habits on day one as a beginner, then you're much more likely to stick with them. And that's going to pay you back in spades over the course of whatever your tenure is doing the thing that you're a beginner ask. Finally, no one has a predetermined expectation of how you might act. This goes back to you not having a political lean or no allegiance to any group, but on the other hand, other people don't know they don't have any expectation for how you might be. So they're not going to prepare for that. They're not going to have some predetermined expectation from you. So here's the reality. There are so many advantages to being a beginner. And here's my encouragement for those of you who are starting out brand new, fresh, whatever you're starting out as, whether you are starting a new job, maybe you are a brand new student, you're starting in a new school, maybe you're in a brand new relationship, whatever it is that you're a beginner as. Remember that there are advantages to being a beginner. You might feel a little bit uncomfortable right now, but you're going to just change the type of discomfort that you have. So embrace the time that you have as a beginner. It's very likely that once you're no longer a beginner, you will hope you'll wish you could return to that time when you were a beginner. You could change the way you did a few things and really enjoy that time when you have it. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you again to Red Hat and command line heroes for sponsoring today's episode. You can find command line heroes in your podcast platform of choice. Go and listen and subscribe. Thanks so much for listening to this podcast. Those of you who listen on regular basis, you are the reason this show continues to run. You are a huge inspiration source of inspiration for me and even as this global pandemic continues to affect the podcasting world, we will continue making episodes of this show for you because it's so meaningful to me when I hear from you. When I hear that this podcast is having a positive impact on you, so please, please let me know if you're enjoying this podcast, you can find me on Twitter at Developer Tea. You can also the best way to do this is actually to leave a review on iTunes or whatever podcasting platform you use to leave reviews. This is an excellent help to me as the creator of the show because I can go and read what your thoughts are and get actual feedback from you and you're helping other people find the show and decide to give it a chance as well. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode. This episode and every other episode of Developer Teawill be found at This episode was produced by Sarah Jackson. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and until next time, enjoy your tea.