Curve

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I’m a few months in and it’s accurate to say that I’m enjoying my new role at work, doing great things with the VIP team at WordPress.com. I feel like I’m able to contribute to big projects by taking some grunt work and communicating with our clients clearly and often as we partner with them to do Big Things. I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job with my responsibilities, and am happy with the things I’m able to accomplish.

But I get frustrated an a near-daily basis, and that frustration is all with myself.

There are some neat things I can do now that I haven’t been able to do in the past. I’m using my knowledge of WordPress templating now more than I have in a long time. I’m learning more of the ins and outs of WordPress.com, which is really interesting. And I’ve gone from not even knowing what wp-cli is to using it on a daily basis and being comfortable with doing so. I can get things done.

One goal I’ve had with shifting to doing this job has been to try to use the (admittedly quite weak) PHP development skills I have to assist with other tasks. This has been great in theory and in practice I have been able to learn little things here and there.

But it’s the sheer amount of things I don’t know that has me intimidated and quite frankly annoyed with myself. I can’t read Javascript and hardly know what it can do or does in a specific context. I don’t even know what cross-site scripting is, let alone how to prevent it or other security problems. Best practices like sanitization and escaping and where to apply or which methods to apply where elude me.

I don’t even understand how to use git yet. (svn and I are cool.)

Debugging is sometimes a total and complete mystery—just finding a place to get started is on ordeal and I feel like it takes me way too long to catch on to some things.

The problem feels like one of sheer scale. Where do I start? What do I do? Maybe I’m too old to learn new things at this point; I don’t know. I get bored taking classes, because they are too far from actual practice, and I get frustrated with just diving in because I feel there are too many things to learn at once.

I’m not really sure why I’m writing this out. Is this a common thing to feel when approaching this kind of thing? Is there anything out there you’ve used in the past or things you have done that help with overcoming the intimidation factor?

I’m hoping that in a year or ever a few months, I can look back on this and laugh at it.

5 thoughts on “Curve

  1. I feel this way right now learning JS. I took all three Code School courses and can do semi-neat things like make a rock/paper/scissors game, but it’s hard to translate that into “Ok, I’ll do something actually useful now.”

  2. What you need is a mentor! Somebody who can listen to your stated objectives — say, getting better at understanding JS and how it interacts with the DOM — and can pick a project to work with you on to build your skills while working towards a tangible goal. i.e. “Let’s solve this WP bug that involves JS.”

    I suck at teaching myself stuff. I have mastered learning from others. You’ve always been more self-sufficient than I have, but your frustrations sound awful familiar to mine, and I think buddying up to an expert on an task-by-task basis (one person for JS, one for PHP, etc) would really help by removing the “I don’t know where to start” and “I have to learn it all before I can understand any of it” roadblocks that you’re hitting.

  3. You definitely aren’t the only one that has had feelings like this. For myself, I find that the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. That can be disheartening, intimidating, and downright frustrating at times. But it’s also a hell of a motivator.

    I know for myself, taking a step back and looking at the things that I do know and have learned is helpful. You said it yourself; you went from not knowing what wp-cli is, to using it every day. And you’ve only been working with VIP for a relatively short timeframe. You will continue to learn, and before you know it, things that once intimidated and frustrated you will become second nature.

    You will never know everything. But that’s okay. It’s the “wanting to learn more” part that is important.

  4. Matt

    Having a mentor is a great idea. Also pair programming is one of the best ways to learn and better understand languages, frameworks, and development tools.

  5. I felt like this when I first started my trial, and I feel this way again now that I’m working in a different area of support. It is really hard to figure out where to start — I start to focus on one thing, and then I get all distracted and worried that I should be learning more about something else first. If you figure out the secret, let me know! ;)

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