A colleague sent around an article today, Execute Like a Rookie, Lead Like a Multiplier, and a number of points really resonated with me. Liz Wiseman’s many years of research and experience found that “perpetual rookies” tend to outperform their peers for fields requiring “specialized knowledge.”

Rookies are a lot faster than people with experience because they are desperate and uncomfortable. When we get comfortable, that’s when we start to teach and mentor other people.

An interesting thought. I often find myself in an uncomfortable state, such as when I walk into a room, I immediately slot myself at the bottom of the intellectual totem pole without any real evidence to back the action. I think it’s a technique I subconsciously use to socialize and more easily relate with others. I listen more intently, and am generally more curious than if I think I have more to say than they.

Wiseman goes on to list a few attributes of those she’s identified as “rookies”:

They are risk mitigators, not risk takers. They learn how to operate in thin slices, test, and de-risk their progress.

They are never satisfied. “There’s an abhorrence of mediocrity that they share.”

They are curious. They always want to learn about everything, even if it’s not related to their job or immediate challenges

They are humble. “I don’t mean in the sense of low self-esteem. I mean willing to learn from anyone and everyone no matter where they are in the hierarchy.”

They are playful. “It’s not like they try to create fun amid the work. For them, their work is just fun.”

I certainly can relate to a number of those. But it also feels like anyone in the software industry should also follow these tenants, but experience proves to me that this is not the rule.

  • I don’t like committing to work without understanding the scope, or at least setting aside research time for “spikes” and maybe even writing some failing specs as a roadmap.
  • I am never satisfied with the speed of how my code performs. Micro-optimizations are where I like to spend my free-time, but I know when to give it a rest and just “ship”.
  • Curious? Hard not to be! Not enough time in a day to learn all I want to learn.
  • I’m probalby the most humble person on the planet! Possibly the entire universe!
  • I feel very grateful that my work is fun. The challege to solve problems through software is more rewarding than I could have imagined when I started back at the age of twelve. I cannot fully appreciate what I would have been doing had it not been for that Apple ][e.

I’ve always attributed these feelings as a lack of confidence on my part, but Wiseman’s research gives me a different angle to interpret my actions. Ironically, or maybe not so ironically, I still do not believe I will change my actions. I’ll still walk upon a group of peers and think everybody knows more than me, and I’m further behind in my understanding of my craft than everyone else, but, I suppose that’s what makes me “hungry” to know more, and do better. Striving for constant improvement because I feel like I’m perpetually catching up.

More than anything, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in being a rookie.


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