In this post I contemplate the idea of the learning continuum, and think about the fact that we’re all learning together, which is a good thing.
On a run last week I listened to an episode of Scott Hanselman’s “Hanselminutes”: Functional Programming, F#, and Cloud Containers with Lena Hall. There was so much content in there that interests me, from functional programming with F# itself, to its application to serverless and the Kubernetes context. The wonderful thing is that pretty much all that is relevant to some degree or other in our enterprise software future.
But the one thing that struck me as I followed the trails through Clayton Vale on my way in to Manchester was that there’s something that’s unsaid but clearly present in the developer communities at large and it was clear during the interview between Scott and Lena. That something is what I’m going to call a “learning continuum”, and its relevance is even stronger this week as we prepare ourselves for one of the two major learning events of the year in the SAP calendar – SAPPHIRENOW (the other of course being SAP TechEd).
I have a “Learning Continuum” Trello board where I keep track of what to read next
The learning continuum
The pace of chance in computing is ever increasing. One consequence of this is, as I’ve said often enough, that to remain relevant as a developer, a key skill you need is the ability to learn, and you need to put that skill into practice often.
Listening to Simon Kemp and Jakob Marius Kjær talk to Craig Cmehil in the most recent episode of SAP Coffee Corner Radio I heard some definitions of community. I’d suggest that there’s an extra definition that’s relevant here, adding a layer of meaning, and that is the fact that we’re all learning. At different paces, certainly in different subject areas, and to different degrees and depths, but we’re all learning, and learning together.
That’s why the concepts of blog posts and Q&A fit so well into the mechanics of the online presence of a community – because they’re obvious outlets for learning and sharing. There’s the idea, attributed to Albert Einstein, and also built into a process associated with Richard Feynman, that the best way to learn about something is to try to explain it, or teach it, to others. For me, at least, writing posts about certain technical subjects certainly helps me better understand those subjects.
The concept of shared learning has existed since the dawn of the first SAP communities in the form of the two mailing lists that Bryan Thorp and I ran back in the mid 1990’s. People learning, and learning openly, helping each other out on their individual but ultimately shared journeys.
Those shared journeys represent different pathways through the learning continuum. The learning continuum is ever present, and even more relevant today as we embark on perhaps one of the biggest sea changes in the SAP technical landscape.
Integrity through transparency
One thing that resounded during the Hanselminutes episode was the unspoken idea that both Scott and Lena were learning, and in no way did they think that the learning journey was something to hide or be ashamed of. Scott was learning from Lena, and Lena herself, the expert being interviewed, talked about her learning journey too. Lena described how some aspects of her journey into functional programming “broke her mind”, and Scott recounted a similar angle relating to the Dvorak keyboard. The point is that neither of them felt there was anything wrong with starting out as a beginner in a subject, and that is a wonderful thing.
This is something that is perhaps obvious to some, but not so obvious to others. When a new subject comes along, there are very few experts – we’re almost all beginners. That’s just the natural order of things, and is a constant in the learning continuum.
The continuum expansion
Take, for example, the recent blog post by Yuval Anafi: “Develop SAP Cloud Platform Business Applications with SAP Web IDE“. It was only last week when I came across the Getting Started tutorial, to which the post refers, and which is part of a new documentation set on the SAP Cloud Platform application programming model. What struck me the most was not the amazing work that the SAP Web IDE team has put into the heavy-lifting magic relating to build & deploy services on the SAP Cloud Platform (although that deserves some contemplation and is definitely worthy of another post sometime), but the fact that the subject of the post, and the tutorial, helps a great deal to crystallise the part of the continuum that lies just in front of us.
Cornerstone at southwest corner of city auditorium in Hartington, Nebraska (from Wikimedia Commons)
In a previous post in this Monday morning thoughts series (on milestones) I suggested that Core Data Services (CDS) was worthy of being considered a major milestone. Mixing stone metaphors slightly, I would suggest that it is also a cornerstone in what we build, and how we build, in the next generation of SAP solutions. And the ideas & concrete artifacts that explode outwards from the CDS core itself – annotations for the frontend, and databases and services for the backend – are suddenly squarely present in the learning continuum for us.
Learn together, grow together
In our Manchester chapter of the Mikkeller Running Club we have an unofficial tagline which is “run together, drink together“. That suits us well and fits what we’re about (a running club that’s based in a brewery, with members who all enjoy good beer). I think there’s a similar idea that we can use for our collective journey along the next stage of the learning continuum, and that is “learn together, grow together”.
With many of the subjects at hand, there are hardly any of us that are experts. But that shouldn’t stop us sharing our journeys of discovery, the highs of success (I got it to work!), the lows of frustration (why doesn’t this do what I want?) resulting in a rich collective layering of knowledge and experience that in turn will attract and help others.
I for one have gone through that tutorial three or four times, and expect to continue that repetition, because the seam I’m mining is so rich, and I’m such a beginner. I know I’m about to embark on the next stage of my self-education, and am looking forward to it very much.
What areas of the learning continuum are you contemplating tackling, and what are you hoping to level up on?
This post was brought to you while cooling down from a very hot and humid dawn run around the streets of Vineland in Orlando, Florida, and some pretty average tasting coffee from the hotel breakfast area.