Sweep the Floor

A good amount of the Apprenticeship Patterns that I see when choosing one to write my blog post about have contexts, situations, and descriptions of people who are confident in their programming abilities, have a defined role on a development team, and are eager to get in the meat of the problem.

However, this context does not describe me very well. I am not confident in my abilities as a programmer yet, I do have an apprenticeship opportunity, but I have no defined role or job title, and I am nervous to tackle important complex tasks because of my inexperience. Thankfully I came across a pattern which describes my situation pretty well.

The “Sweep the Floor” pattern is for people like me who are unsure of the team and vice versa. People who want to contribute to the meaningful work in order to grow their skills and find a defined place on the team, but have only just began their position in the group. This context really spoke to me and pretty much read my mind without my thinking it.

The solution they provide is so remarkably simple that I’m surprised I didn’t think about it before to put my mind at ease. The authors suggest that in order to gain trust and find your place in the team is to in the beginning “volunteer for simple, unglamorous, yet necessary, tasks.” Hence the pattern’s title sweep the floor. If I can’t contribute to the main problem yet, then I can demonstrate my usefulness by handling tasks that are either tedious, not fun, or otherwise that the team does not want to do.

“Typically, you’ll want to focus on the edges of the system where there is less risk, rather than the core where there are usually many dependencies and lots of complexity”. This quote from the authors gave me a lot of clarity about what steps I can take in my internship to make myself known and actually be useful to the company.

However, they do highlight a risk about applying this pattern which I know all too well from other jobs I’ve had in the past; if you constantly are taking the ugly tasks nobody wants to do, there is a risk the group will want to keep you doing the boring, menial tasks. I have had this happen to me to the point where my coworkers would jokingly call me what translates to “Cinderella boy”. To mitigate this risk, the authors suggest to advocate for yourself and look for every opportunity to prove that you can produce quality work on a higher level.

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