A while ago I’ve posted my thoughts about the implications of work experience demands; to put it briefly, work experience does not guarantee qualification, as this experience follows the business agenda of the company where you work, which may be repetitive, random, and probably insufficient. At the same time, home experience, which can happen in a systematic manner, away from such influence, is rarely considered. In any case, it is hard to measure a kind of knowledge that often changes fast. The lack of such measures leads the industry to sometimes adopt esoteric means to assess qualification.
While we cannot change the industry, we can change ourselves, and by change I mean making sure we are actually qualified for the job we do, instead of resting on our laurels of experience. You may be hired for the experience you have, but you want to deliver all the knowledge you have acquired, even if you never had the chance to use it in any of the companies you worked on. How do we gain experience without working on a specific project? Education, of course! The training of pianists offers a very convenient analogy on this matter.
As a pianist myself, I would never be able to imagine how would I ever be able to perform without training. I would not be able to do sight-reading either: most of what I play has a reasonable complexity and requires a thoughtful interpretation. But programming and playing piano are very different when it comes to performance: while piano players are able to train hours, weeks or months for a few hours of performance, programmers are expected to learn on the job – hence the over-appreciation of experience. To make things just a little more difficult, the only time programmers have to fully concentrate on their training is their free time (no wonder you have to love what you do to stay on this business).
I do love what I do. I do love to study what I use at work to perform more than I train, but there’s a problem: I’m not willing to lead a monomaniac lifestyle, I do not want to use all my scarce free time to train for work. I need to rest and take care of my health to keep doing what I love to do. The inevitable corollary: my training must be very efficient. Do I find very efficient training available? Definitely not. Most of the technical books seem to expect a very passive kind of reader: I never find lists of exercises in many of the famous books from O’Reilly or Manning. Lists of exercises should be the rule, not the exception. It still amazes me how authors without teaching skills are allowed to publish technical books in a field where professionals are so devoid of training. We are left in the cold to learn erratically. We are supposed to train like monomaniacs. We are supposed to err on the job.