Learning and changing

Tonight a thought struck me. I was amazed, because I’m not used to thinking :-). When discussing it with Paula, I did a napkin sketch (yes, the true and original napkin sketch). I include it below for your viewing pleasure, with a little computer-generated makeup.

Learning curve
The learning curve

We usually think that we will become really good at what we do. We left the university knowing that we have only learned to… keep learning. So we score zero on proficiency doing anything.

We get a job, and start being proficient (following the green line). We slowly get out of the “I suck” level and start doing whatever we do well enough as to feel good doing it. That’s important… because we might even like working at that stage.

In theory, we would keep on learning until we become the one-and-only know-it-all of our area.

In practice, however, one of two things will happen (there might be exceptions… but I know none).

  1. Boredom arrives
  2. We change position

In any case, our proficiency lowers… we enter the red line.

We can get bored because we enter the comfort zone… we are good, we earn enough money and the work is not exhausting. Maybe we want more, but there are no opportunities in our company.

Changing positions is another interesting topic. Usually changing positions means that you’ve got a better (like in better paid) job or your company decides that you must continue your career in a different position. Chances are that you end up doing something you weren’t ready for. Being a proficient foobar specialist does not mean that you can lead a team of foobar specialists… leading is something that needs to be learned (let aside those natural leaders).

In general, this will happen once and again, with different responsibilities… each time you are near the I’m good zone, something will take you down.

Well, ok, that’s my experience. And it certainly does need to exist something between the theory and the ugly reality I’m depicting.

That probably means a company who cares for their employees, and employees who fit in the company culture. But what actually is a company culture? Do most companies have one at all? I will be glad to hear your answers… ask yourself what’s the culture of the company I’m working? For extra joy, ask that question to your friends. Including the non-IT workers. And let me know the answers (comments are open for you!).

It’s funny how often the answer is “I don’t know“… or even worse…

Update: I’ve just realized that Cathy Sierra posted an article yesterday titled “Don’t ask employees to be passionate about the company!“. I specially liked this sentence (you might need to read more of Cathy Sierra’s blog to get the full idea):

The company should behave just like a good user interface — support people in doing what they’re trying to do, and stay the hell out of their way.

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