This week, I read all about an apprenticeship pattern titled Be the Worst. This pattern details the benefits of being surrounded by people who are smarter than you and have more experience than you. The idea behind the pattern is that the more time you spend around others, the more information you can learn from them. Why spend your time figuring out a problem somebody already solved when you can learn the veteran’s way of handling it from a colleague? Surrounding yourself with more advanced developers can help build your skills and gain experience in ways you wouldn’t if you were learning concurrently with them.
This is a pattern I can absolutely relate with from experience. Some of my best classes where I learn the most are the ones where there are a few peers above my level to help me learn what they already have. Sometimes, the way someone explains something to you is difficult to make sense of, but another peer can explain it in a way that makes more sense and is easier to understand. Similarly, working with many people above your level gives you a wide variety of different methodologies and ways of doing things, which can help illuminate best practices and start insightful conversations.
The alternative, being the smartest person in the room, can be very unchallenging and doesn’t give you any room for development. It is nice to Share What You Know, but if that is all your doing it can be hard to progress your personal goals. A large disparity in the skill level of developers causes more time to be spent on closing that gap rather than working on the project at hand.
The challenge with this pattern is more the emotional toll it can take on you to be surrounded by smarter people. Being the dumbest person in the room can be beneficial from a self-centered learning perspective, however it can definitely feel a little embarrassing to be so far behind everyone else. Being able to swallow your pride for the development of yourself and the team is a challenge, but the rewards are worth it.