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Making Software by Greg Wilson, Andy Oram

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Misconceptions That Hinder Learning

Many times during our observations, we noticed some misconceptions among novices that affected their actions and interactions with their colleagues:

I must do everything myself so that I look good to my manager.

This misconception is particularly dangerous, especially in large, complex development environments. We saw it mostly in new hires from outside the U.S. The perceived need to “perform” and not “reveal deficiencies” makes for much wasted time. It also seems to contribute to poor communication and a longer acclimatization. Communication suffered both by waiting too long to seek help and by trying to cover up issues that the novice perhaps felt he “should know.” Additionally, novice developers were occasionally seen to continue to work on issues deemed (by teammates) either not worth solving or someone else’s problem. Though our sample size is extremely small, it’s worth noting that this misconception was not evidenced in new hires native to the US.

Over the two months of observation, the subjects in our study became more self-confident, less stressed-out, and gained self-esteem. At the final exit interview, many participants revealed that their early worries and expectations had been unrealistic.

I must be the one to fix any bug I see—and I should fix it the “right” way, even if I do not have time for it.

This is one of the most ubiquitous misconceptions, likely driven by the lack of team-based development and the deadline-driven grading system ...

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