Thursday, October 9, 2014

Books - your next best mentor

For a long time I was of the opinion I have read a lot of books back in school and college days and I wouldn't probably ever have to read that much going forward, from thereon. With the advent of online tutorials(videos, blogs etc.,), sometimes, there used to be a feeling within me that one can learn faster through videos and similar media then why should I even consider reading books that much?. I thought reading books might be more time consuming compared to these alternate resources at my disposal. That's kinda true but doesn't really apply always. Below is an experience that I went through which may tell you why..

Recently, I had applied for a job to a company where their first round of interview was actually a coding assignment. The way this works is, you're given a problem statement and you have to solve it within two days(ideally this is taken up by a candidate during a weekend). After submitting the solution to the problem I had requested them for some feedback. The interviewer was kind enough to share the same and highlighted a couple of important pointers after reviewing the submitted code. Overall, out of all the points shared in the form of feedback by the interviewer, I was able to clearly comprehend only some of them.

Out of the points I couldn't really understand very clearly was that my logic to the solution was procedural. I did know what procedural programming is but I couldn't really get a succinct understanding of how I was writing procedural code using an object oriented language like Ruby as part of my solution. This might seem very technical, if you're a non techie who is reading this but the basic point that I'm trying to drive home here is I was for a while lost as to how can I improve further on the quality of my code or solutions that I'd submit going forward without guidance from a physical mentor.

As a work around, I took to reading this book by Sandi Metz called POODR. I had heard enough through people's reviews/recommendations about this book before I decided to give it a shot. It not only helped me better understand what I was missing with respect to my solution but also really opened my mind to looking at developing solutions differently at least from what I had learnt thus far.

This overall experience made me reflect that sometimes, when you don't have an actual physical mentor to guide you, you can with no second thoughts rely on books. After all, people who've written books also would have their experiences and them sharing it in the form of a collection of many articles is for us learn from their experiences and broaden our ways of thinking by looking at things from another's perspective.

One more thing when I look back from this experience, I realized I was actually reading some books even as part of my professional career, not that religiously but definitely I was picking up some important lessons that I could apply in my job here and there. It was just that I didn't realize the true value of those books back then.

From now on, I'm going to make it a point to read more books regularly as they can really help me not only when I need guidance but also to open my mind to new ways of thinking, sometimes making me think - "Hey!, why didn't I think about that :)". Just one thing, just make sure you choose your books wisely. So what book are you going to read next ?:).

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