Have you ever played a board game where you do not know the rules but all the other players seem to? That is exactly how I felt when I entered the tech industry fresh out of college after my finishing my undergrad. It is not that there are no rules, because there are. It is just that there is no rule book that you could simply learn the rules from. The rules are instead distributed in the heads of those who already play the game. So now there are only two ways to learn the rules:
- Networking: Rub shoulders with a lot of players and slowly gather the rules from them.
- Pattern recognition: Observe the moves of others/your own moves and the corresponding consequences and recognize patterns to learn the rules by yourself.
As someone who is not naturally good at the former and not having understood its importance, I ended up doing what I am naturally good at — pattern recognition. But unfortunately, that is an awfully slow process to learn such a complicated set of rules. The sheer amount of data points I would have to observe in order to form reliable patterns with a good enough confidence interval to play the move myself, is not trivial (Imagine being new to chess and having to learn the acceptable moves of a knight in the chess board just by observing and while playing a crucial game at the same time). For example, it took me an embarrassingly long time to learn that a promotion is something I am supposed to ask for or even that it is a topic that I am supposed to bring up myself.
But once having learnt something, I did what I felt was the next best thing I could do: pass on what I learnt to someone like me. Once I slowly began to realize how the system worked and what was going on around me, I understood how immensely important it is to share information. So when I found people who were in the same boat as I am or as I was before, I did exactly that. I shared with them whatever I learnt either from someone else or from my own experiences.
Imagine you buy a very expensive book, you read it and thoroughly enjoy it. But you feel a little bad about how much you had to spend on it. And then you realize that there is this other person you know with a similar taste as yours, who you think will also enjoy that book as much as you did. Wouldn’t it make you happy to pass the book on to them? I guess that is what this is.
Learning the socio-technical aspects of the workplace in this industry is not easy (definitely not for me at least). These are things that your school or college does not prepare you for, but are incredibly important to succeed here. More often than not, you will end up paying a huge cost if you try to learn them on your own.
If you are someone new here and feel lost, I want you to know that it is normal to feel so. Seven years in, I still don’t feel like I know my way around here (I probably know it better than when I started off, but I still have a long way to go) and I’m sure I will feel this way another seven years down the line as well. It is not you — it is ‘by design’, and you are not alone. I see you and want you to know that many others like me who are finding our way through this maze alongside you, are there for you. Feel free to reach out to me and I will help you out the best I can :)
At the end of the day, all of us are here for the same reason: to play a good game and enjoy it all the same. I promise to play my part to keep the game well oiled to run smoothly enough to help us all make a better impact — Paying it forward.