Technology Maven

Posted on Jul 6, 2020

In my career I have found myself collecting things. I like to collect programming books, links about new databases and patterns, talks about functional programming. This collection has become somewhat obsessive in some cases and led to the disorganization I’ve described in other posts. When I was starting out I was told that this was not good, that you could run around your entire career chasing “shiny things”. This is true if you are chasing the newest JavaScript library or a cutting edge language, but I felt that maybe this didn’t apply to me. I collected books about LISP and functional programming which weren’t new. I watched talks about Java patterns and concurrency models. Was I chasing shiny things? Was this a waste of time?

This morning I was listening to The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (I’ve listened to all of his books since the beginning of the epidemic) and was triggered by a term he used to describe a person who collects knowledge, a maven. A maven is someone who collects knowledge and experience. Gladwell describes this collection as an active process not a passive one. One can collect knowledge through age and experience but mavens will seek it out by reading reviews, articles, correspondences. This person isn’t an expert. This person is someone who you talk to if you are asking what kind of car to drive or shoes to wear. Not only will they give you an answer but they’ll explain why it applies to your particular situation.

The same can be said about programming and technology. All to often we are told to focus on one technology or become entrenched in a particular language. But often people won’t take the time to try something new. What are it’s trade offs, values, use cases? How mature is it? What kind of support is there? What is the community like?

I’m not a programming maven, but I’d like to be. I feel like I have the interest and the motivation to do so. I have lists of articles to read and talks to listen too. Stacks of books to work through and patterns I want to understand. Will this make me an expert? No. Will this help me in my career? Maybe. Will this be fun? You bet.