My career turned 18 last month. In this journey, learning is the only thing that keeps me fresh and wanting for more experience.
I joined Thoughtworks first in 2008. I came to know about Thoughtworks through the master class series and geek nights that used to happen in 2006-07 times and got inspired to join. When I applied, I was surprised by the depth of the interviews and until I got relevant experience I was not able to crack it. I got into Thoughtworks only on my 3rd try, coming back working on the feedback after every failed attempt. This feedback was not about gaining knowledge (which would have been easy) instead it was about gaining wisdom which is seldom achieved without having hands on experience. I am an avid learner, but it was the first time I moved from mere fact hoarder to a person with expertise on something.
I finally cracked the interview and my learning grew multi-fold when I started interacting with the growing office in Chennai but also felt that there was a plateau that gets hit soon in the learning and it was easy to get going with the flow. My aspiration was to represent Thoughtworks in forums like Agile India and XP conferences but I was not able to find a way to grow myself into that.
Our place was never short of mentors and luminaries, it is when I reached out to one of the mentors for advice on career. What I got was a book to read and get back with the summary back to my mentor. The book was ‘Talent is overrated’. It drove a simple point into my head that, intelligence or being gifted is not as important as deliberate practice. Someone with sustained development day on day will overtake gifted individuals and prodigies.
I was looking for ways of deliberate practice, it is when I did two things that stuck with me forever. One was to write a blog regularly. Not even a month goes by without blogging which I keep continuing. The other was to establish learning communities wherever I am present. I started the learning Thursdays series with a bunch of like minded people and kept it running on every Thursday without fail. We would not find speakers but one of us will always have a topic ready to run and make sure the fire does not die down. Once we picked up the momentum we formed a community event and invited outsiders, as a geeknight series making sure to run every month without fail. Both of these helped me and other presenters shape up their presenting skills.
These exposures helped me to always be prepared for a few topics on XP, agile practices, clean code and I was able to present them in different forums. One of my topics Whistle Blowers was presented in XP 2013 which was one of the first ideas to take examples from biology and applying that for evolving quality code. All of a sudden I could see how things are inter-related and this made it easy to present any information to any person in an easy to consume form. This happens only when unrestricted learning and chunking happens. From a person who had stage fright, I became someone who can do impromptu sessions on any stage.
I always like to keep this fire of learning communities up and running, so when a new office in Mahadevapura, Bangalore was established; I created ‘Learning Thursdays’ and later ‘Friday Socials’ by getting like minded people again. This group evolved into an active one which is running geeknights and other Thoughtworks meetups in the office. Once we stop learning collectively, that is the day we start regressing as a community. So I keep making sure that learning happens not just at a personal level but at a collective level in some form or the other wherever I go.