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You need to take responsibility for your own improvement. That's a good part of what Chad Fowler's MJWTI focuses on getting you to realize. This week's advice follows along that same line: "Give a man a fish; feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; feed him for a lifetime" (quoting Lao Tzu).

As Chad notes however, "education requires both a teacher and a student. Many of us are too often reluctant to be a student." He likens fish to the "process of using a tool, or some facet of a technology, or a specific piece of information from a business domain you're working in." Too many of us take the fish today, and "ask ... for another fish tomorrow."

Being a good developer means not relying on your "server guy" to set everything up for you. Be a master of source control, testing, and of setting up your own development tools: the IDE, outside references or the build path, and the virtual machine (or whatever runs your code).

Learn how to make ColdFusion work with your database. Figure out how to install and run Rails - don't rely on it being preinstalled on Leopard.

For quite some time in college I was afraid of using the command line to compile my programs - I just wrote them in Windows using Dev C++ and turned them in, blindly hoping they would compile and work correctly for the person grading my program on Unix.

For God's sake, learn how to compile your own programs, even if modern IDEs do it onSave().

I hate to say it, but you're in the wrong line-of-work if you are constantly asking for fish. Technologies change too quickly to ask for help every time you run into a roadblock. The problem is magnified tenfold if you have to ask several times to accomplish the same task.

On another note, Chad mentions code-by-wizardry as being particularly painful:
A[n] ... easy way to get lazy is to use a lot of wizards that generate code for you. This is particularly prevalent in the world of Windows development where, to Microsoft's credit, the development tools make a lot of tasks really easy. The downside is that many Windows developers have no idea how their code really works. (page 50, emphasis mine)
I can attest to that. You know that main class that processes all the callbacks in a typical Windows program? I didn't either. Consequently, my first several forays into programming for Windows resulted in disaster. If I could find that code, I'd love to post it for inspection, so you could marvel at how Button1 did something for TextField2 and all of it somehow worked in one GodClass. The magnificence of the horror led to nightmares for me recently as I discovered the XNA framework. The wizards are there to make your life easy - not to be a replacement for knowledge and thought. You still need to understand what they are doing for you.

The point is that you have to learn. Don't be afraid to ask, but when you ask, make sure there is a purpose behind it. If you teach yourself to learn, and you learn everything you need to know, you'll be in good shape. But, to end with some advice from an old professor of mine, be honest about what you know. Don't be afraid to admit your shortcomings - instead, use it as a chance to learn, not as a chance to have someone else do it for you.

Hey! Why don't you make your life easier and subscribe to the full post or short blurb RSS feed? I'm so confident you'll love my smelly pasta plate wisdom that I'm offering a no-strings-attached, lifetime money back guarantee!


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