I really enjoyed Keith Klain’s Pursuit of Scrutiny blog post. It prompted a few responses in me:
* I need to get my work out there so that I can determine better what I’m doing well and where I need to improve.
* Having material to get out there is a necessary first step. Unfortunately, my journalling has taken a complete nosedive. I need to get back on track with this.
* In order to get back on track with journalling, I need to get better at taking notes and organising my thoughts.
Keith’s post resonated with me because I’m the kind of person that likes to get feedback on how I’m doing and where I can improve. However having worked as a contractor for a few years now, I’ve found that it’s not always easy to get feedback on the projects you’re working on. If your contract is renewed, that’s usually a pretty good sign, but it doesn’t much help in terms of identifying where and how to improve your work.
So I started to think about how I might be able to get my ideas out there to try to get the feedback (or scrutiny as Keith describes it) that I’m looking for.
It seems like there’s a few obvious routes:
- Social media, Twitter in particular, puts you in contact with a whole bunch of people. Having been fairly active over the past year or so I’m following/being followed by plenty of people who will quite happily pick me up if I say or write something stupid (see comments on some of my previous blog posts!) I could try to be even more active and use Twitter as a feedback loop. LinkedIn might be an option too. Also forums, STC for example. StackExchange in particular seems to have a strong reputation based framework.
- Blogging is another no-brainer.
- Discussing trends in software engineering/testing etc at meetups is a great way to hear about what other people in the field are doing and how.
- Doing a lightning talk or short presentation at a local meetup takes this a step further and means that I need to be a bit more organised in terms of my thinking. I also get to work on my presentation/communication skills.
- I could do the same in a conference setting, taking 3 & 4 several steps further, potentially by way of writing a paper to be published in a journal or other publication (e.g. The Testing Planet).
There’s also some less obvious mechanisms. For example developing a friendship or coaching relationship with somebody who already has the skills you’re looking to improve upon.
There would be a lot of positives to following through on any of the above. In most all of them, I would certainly receive the desired feedback.
First steps for me however are to get my journalling and note-taking back on track, as mentioned above. The tools for me to do this are readily available, To some extent I just need to cultivate the discipline of using them.
Keith’s post stirred another thought though. He identifies the root cause of his need for scrutiny as being insecurity. It started me wondering why I haven’t sought out this kind of feedback more in the past. I believe the answer is fear. Fundamentally, fear of not being good enough. Fear of not being original enough. Or even worse, fear of simply being ignored.
I don’t think fear is a good enough reason not to strive to improve ones craft however, and I’m going to try to do better in 2013. I’m going to strive to get better at doing the things I need to, including note-taking and journalling, as a means to an end. To keep moving forward I need to subject myself to the scrutiny of my peers and discover where and how I need to improve my thinking and skillset. I take heart from the quote below, and offer my thanks to Keith for again setting me on the path of improvement.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt, Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910- Simon