Concrete Skills

I have no professional developer experience yet, and that can make starting a career difficult. To make up for the lack of experience, I will need to procure and maintain some concrete skills. Concrete skills demonstrate the ability to utilize knowledge. The apprentice pattern “Concrete Skills” from Apprenticeship Patterns: Guidance for the Aspiring Software Craftsman, by Dave Hoover and Adewale Oshineye, addresses the usefulness of concrete skills when seeking a career.

“If we hire you today, what can you do on Monday morning that will benefit us?”

This question from the pattern makes clear what a concrete skill is. Businesses are not looking for someone with just knowledge, they are looking for someone who can do the job. It is important to practice some concrete skills with current technologies and frameworks so I can hit the ground running when I start a job. The pattern lists several examples of skills to explore: basic web design, JavaScript, open source frameworks, build files, and a language’s standard libraries.

The pattern suggests collecting CVs, Curriculum Vitae, for respected developers to find out what kind of skills to practice. The CVs will contain the concrete skills of those developers. With this knowledge, I would only need to choose which skills that would be immediately useful for my desired career path. The pattern then suggests creating toy implementations of the chosen skills for practice, which then can be used as examples in interviews.

 “Concrete Skills” advises going through one’s own CV and find all the discrete skills. These skills are the only information many hiring managers will look at, according to “Concrete Skills.” This makes having demonstrable skills a necessity when looking for a job.

The pattern, “Concrete Skills,” seems like common sense, but I think it is an important point that needs to be stated. It is easy to lose yourself in the studying of development techniques and forget to polish the skills you already possess. The lesson this pattern is trying to teach is summed up nicely by a quote from Pete McBreen’s Software Craftmanship: The New Imperative:

“Having knowledge is not the same as having the skill and practical ability to apply that knowledge to create software applications. This is where craftsmanship comes in.”

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