Sweep the Floor

I will hopefully be starting my software development career soon, and with that I will be joining a new team. Dave Hoover’s and Adewale Oshineye’s Apprenticeship Patterns: Guidance for the Aspiring Software Craftsman’s pattern “Sweep the Floor” suggests “volunteer[ing] for simple, unglamorous, yet necessary, tasks” to contribute to the team. I will be one of the least experienced members in the team, so I’ll need to be proactive working on the more tedious work. Doing these tasks is more than just gaining trust from the team but also showing respect for the more experienced members. The experienced members should be focused on the work that requires their experience and not bogged down by simple chores.

“Examples of these tasks include maintaining the build system, production support, responding to maintenance requests, bug fixing, code review, eliminating technical debt, setting up the project wiki, updating documentation, acting as a sounding board for other people’s ideas, and so on.”

While it may not be fun work, these tasks are still important, and the team will be grateful for the effort. To practice this pattern, “Sweep the Floor” suggests finding the tasks that the team has been putting off and do them. The pattern however warns of the potentiality of being perceived as incapable of more vital work. This can be averted by working on more complicated issues or personal projects alongside the simple chores.

When reading through the list of example tasks, I could see the tasks that often held up work during our LFP sprints with code review being the biggest culprit. I can see how completing these tasks would be good to focus on when joining a new team. Not only will the team benefit from these tasks being done but completing these tasks will also give valuable insight into the project. With code reviewing, the opportunity to study the unfamiliar parts of a project is presented. Work on the documentation was also often put off or forgotten.

I think this pattern makes sense having the inexperienced members handling the simpler tasks. These tasks are chores to the experienced members of the team but are learning experiences for the inexperienced.

The pattern includes an experience of a developer working in a formal software apprenticeship. The important part of the story is when the apprentice watches Uncle Bob Martin, a master craftsman, take out the trash. The apprentice’s mentor then scolds the apprentice for allowing the job to go undone and having a master craftsman take care of it.

“It is not the job of the master craftsman to take out the garbage.”

This pattern has made clear what I will need to focus on when entering a new team as an inexperienced developer. I will need to find the simple, more tedious jobs and work on them while furthering my learning. “Sweep[ing] the Floor” will help with my integration into a team by familiarizing myself with the code base and team practices. I will also build trust with the other members of the team. Once I gain enough experience and trust, I can then start to work with more complex, interesting work.

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