Always a Student, Always Learning

Lessons from the martial arts world

There's this saying that jiu-jitsu practitioners say now and then that "a black belt is just a white belt that never stopped learning". That rings very true with me and the way I approach life. I don't claim to be an expert in anything. I am a lifelong student and will try my best to continue learning things day by day.

But what does this all mean really? Am I constantly just learning new things and not polishing my expertise in something? Well, no. I mean to say that there will always be something to learn as long as you allow yourself to learn. Going along with this martial arts theme, there is also this phrase that gets said; and that is to "empty your cup". If you consider yourself to be an expert in anything, do you just sit back and stop learning about whatever field you are an expert in? No. Always look to innovate and always look to improve.

Teaching is also learning

So Katie Cunningham gave this wonderful closing for PyGotham this year. Hopefully the video of it will be up some time. It was truly wonderful. But my takeaways from it were more of a reinforcement of what I've already been trying to do: speak more and teach more. I'm quite the introvert so I tend to shy away from conversation. But, I challenge myself to speak to new people and speak more at conferences and meetups. For an introvert, this is extremely scary. But, not only do I try and speak more, I am trying to be a better teacher. Okay, so not your typical classroom teacher, but a teacher in the sense that I am knowledge transferring something to someone else. So for instance, obviously at work we want more cross-functional teams and more open collaboration, so any of my work should be easily picked up by any of my team mates. But in order for me to do so, I need to be a good teacher. Not a teacher that just says, "here's some code, RTFM now!".

I've noticed that I definitely have found myself seeking opportunities to improve my teaching skills. Whether it be a small chit chat with a colleague on what's new in the world of tech or just being a good role model for my kids, I am pushing for a very easy, relaxed conversation that everyone will enjoy with no fear, no pressure.

Phrasing matters! One thing that I've taken extra care in doing so, is the way I will converse with others. For instance, publicly shaming someone is never a good idea. "This piece of code is wrong" versus "Can you tell me how this piece of code works? I think something looks odd here" is a good example of the different language choices you can make to sound more amiable.

Student of life

Knowing that there will always be something new to learn is always reassuring for me. For that very reason is why I enjoy being an engineer; technology is always changing and I am there learning to keep up. But obviously, occupation isn't the only part of your life where you'll constantly learn; growing up is really just a continuous learning process. Constantly learn and tune those dials, you too, are a student of life, learning all sorts of new things daily.

By Adrian Cruz | Published July 31, 2016, 5:02 a.m. tags: engineering advice, pygotham