Apprenticeship Pattern – Be The Worst

The apprenticeship pattern “Be The Worst” refers to the situation where you’ve outgrown your team and possibly your entire development organization and now you’re no longer learning at a rate that is acceptable to you. The solution to this is the find another group made up of developers where you are the weakest member so you have more room to grow. The quote used in the article to represent this is “Be the lion’s tail rather than the fox’s head!” Another quote that emphasizes this idea is “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”

I think that while it’s true that being surrounded by developers who are smarter or more experienced than you will definitely accelerate your growth or learning, if everyone followed this idea then the “junior” team members wouldn’t have anyone above their experience level to learn from because they would have already moved on to greener pastures. That being said, everyone doesn’t follow this pattern. There are likely many experienced developers who are happy with the level that they’re at and have no interest in switching teams giving less experienced members of their team a mentor to learn from.

Reading this pattern hasn’t really changed my mindset, as it bears some similarities how I had already thought about my intended profession, albeit a little more extreme. While I agree with the pattern as it refers to switching teams when you feel like you’re no longer growing, I feel that it can potentially be an unhealthy mindset to have. I think a better mindset would to start looking for new opportunities once you’re no longer satisfied with your work. The wording here is very similar to the original pattern, however it also takes into account those who enjoy their jobs, even if they might not be learning as fast as they could be had they joined a new team.

Overall, while I’d say that following this pattern would likely accelerate your growth, I don’t think it’s the be-all and end-all solution to a successful and rewarding career. Being the “smartest” person in the room doesn’t mean you have nothing to learn, especially when it comes to learning how to be a good mentor.


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