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Apprenticeship Patterns by Adewale Oshineye, Dave Hoover

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A Different Road

Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.

H. Jackson Brown Jr., Life’s Little Instruction Book

Context

You have used Draw Your Own Map and followed it diligently.

Problem

The map you have drawn leads you away from The Long Road.

Solution

Follow your own map and remember what you learned during your apprenticeship.

You have been walking The Long Road for some time. But now as a consequence of Drawing Your Own Map you have realized that this road is no longer a suitable choice for you. You have found another path that has rewards more in tune with your current values: more time with your family or more money, or perhaps a new vocation has captured your attention. Whatever it is, it means saying goodbye to the craft and The Long Road. This may or may not be permanent.

Even if you leave the road permanently, the values and principles you have developed along the way will always be with you. As Dave found out when he ceased to be a family therapist, he couldn’t make Prospero’s choice (burning his books and breaking his staff), but instead brought the lessons and experiences from that vocation to his new craft. The same applies to you.

When we interviewed Ivan Moore, Ade’s mentor since ThoughtWorks, he described how he went off to a Greek island for six months to become a windsurfing instructor after his first IT job. He found that he liked teaching windsurfing, but it wasn’t entirely satisfying because he never got to use his brain. Afterward, it was hard for him to get back into the industry because “most HR people in big companies didn’t like it.”

We have colleagues who have left software development to become teachers, windsurfing instructors, and full-time parents. We respected their choices. If and when they came back, we welcomed them with open arms because those experiences had given them new perspectives they could share. Sadly, conventional software organizations may not be so welcoming. They often see these detours as suspicious gaps in your career that you must justify. They will expect you to have a rationale that makes sense within their value system for why you left and why you’re coming back.

Despite this risk, don’t be afraid to do something different with your life. If you walk away from software development, you will find that the habit of rigorous thinking and automating tasks involving large volumes of data will still be useful wherever you go. Your past as a software craftsman can enrich whatever future you choose.

Action

If for some reason you could no longer be a software developer, what would you do? Write down some of the other jobs you think you would enjoy doing. Find people who are doing those jobs and loving it. Ask them what they love about it and compare that to the things you love about software development.

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