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Hack More Gibsons

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    Linell Bonnette

The best experience is earned, and all you’ve got to do is do it.

During an internship, a mentor of mine described another developer’s ability to hammer out high quality, high stakes code. He said that the dev in question would have tried 100 things and figured out why none of those work while most folks had just started working out their initial approach to the problem. It stuck with me a lot because I thought I was the weird one — all of my classmates who I looked up to seemed to spend way more time than me before really digging into a problem and, frankly, it seemed like they got it right on the first try more frequently than I ever did. It was nice to see somebody else whose entire approach was “do stuff until it works.”

A decade later I’m doing the same thing. My “stuff” is just better. I’ve gone down two million wrong paths, most of them a dozen times, and have managed to figure out the right path at least a few times. At some level I think that’s just the definition of experience, right?

I feel like a lot of people get thrown off at the “do it” step. I’ve seen people have a great idea that they never touched because they couldn’t figure out some inconsequential part of what needed to be done. Not in a “it’s too hard, let me give up” way, even. It was more of a rejection of the possibility of doing it.

Thankfully software development is so incredibly forgiving of just doing things. With just a little bit of common sense and precaution, you can do just about anything you want with some combination of Google and persistence. Typically the cost of failure is having spent some time learning and then deleting code off of your computer. I cannot stress how limitless the possibilities are. The only required step is doing it.

I guess the message is don’t be afraid to just try some stuff. That’s how you get the experience to know what to try next time.

The title is a reference to the movie Hackers and a previous boss, Josh Deere. As a mentor early in my career, he encouraged me to try stupid stuff often because he knew that was how I was going to learn why the stuff was stupid. As a result, I’ve since associated trying fun, new things that I don’t quite understand with the movie. He also liked Over the Top a lot though, so honestly this whole post can probably be chalked up to Josh having poor taste in movies.