Why does an IT person “know what others live by”?

    Among the developers regularly raises the question of non-core knowledge: is it worth it to spend time figuring out what you do not use every day? Sometimes in connection with higher education: “Is it really necessary to give theoretical foundations in such a volume, or would something more useful to produce be more useful?” Sometimes in connection with interviews: “Why do they want brilliant knowledge of algorithms, if a vacancy actually does Doesn't require? ”A

    good hundred posts have been written about this, but I decided to write one hundred and first. Why? I explain under the cut.

    Recently, I saw this question from another angle and again thought about it. Usually we in the JUG.ru Group organize conferences on topics like “Java development”, where you can see reports that are close to their immediate work. But this weekend we hold the St. Petersburg TechTrain festival about “all IT at once”: there you can not only see like-minded people, but also get acquainted with the situation in other parts of IT.

    The slogan of the festival is “find out how others live”. And then I wondered: who cares? You can learn what you live by yourself and what you get paid for. How can an iOS developer be helped with the knowledge of “what do front-end live”?

    As a result, I came to the conclusion that such questions are usually given an incomplete answer, and the full one consists of two parts - and decided to present it here.

    Part One, Pragmatic

    Mrs. Prostakova: And what would it serve in the first case?
    Starodum: In the first case, it would also fit to the fact that if it happened to go, so you know where you are going.
    Mrs. Prostakova: Ah, my father! Yes, cab drivers, then what? That is their business.

    DI Fonvizin “Undersight”

    It would seem that in the modern world the shortage of any information can be quickly filled. Especially about IT - it was already written about it on the Internet, from Stack Overflow to Habr. So, if you suddenly need some non-core knowledge from the "next sphere", you can open Google and find it. And why then without a specific goal to crawl in them, if you always have time to catch up when this goal arises? Dig your main direction better, there are always specific goals.

    So, not so. I want to compare this with the situation when you are moving to a new big city. You will learn the route to work willy-nilly well, but is there any practical use in 2018 of finding out other places in the city? After all, when you need some point, the smartphone instantly build the best route there. That is, again, when a specific goal arises, it is easy to achieve. It’s not necessary to keep the whole city in your head, you can stuff your head with something else.

    But although it is not necessary, situations inevitably arise where it is useful. When you make an appointment, knowing the city helps to immediately understand “which option is more convenient for me” (you will not say “wait, now I’ll figure it out in the application” during a phone call). Immediately approximately predict the time of any trip or the cost of a taxi, immediately know “where to go for some reason”, immediately understand “where it is convenient to drive along the way” - all this makes life easier. And in IT, the knowledge of “what is around” also simplifies life somewhat.

    More importantly, I think that's what. Yes, maps pave the route anywhere, and Google will find a lot - but for this you first need to tell them "what you need." And studying everything around without a specific purpose, you can find such useful places for yourself that you wouldn’t have known otherwise.

    It happened to me in the largest possible way. Three years ago I walked around the bedroom area, where, it would seem, there is nothing to catch at all, there are similar gray houses all around. And suddenly he came out to a residential complex, which stood out sharply on the surrounding background: for example, instead of identical small courtyards, as everywhere around, there was a spacious courtyard 400 meters long.

    Then I liked it there - and much later it ended with the fact that now I live there with pleasure. When I went out for a walk, I could not imagine that in the end she would come in handy this way.

    It seems to me that with IT it seems. In the industry, they often change their specialization, and when you learn “what others live”, it can help you find a new vocation. But if it doesn’t get to that, the practical benefit will still be: a general idea of ​​the industry helps to better navigate it. When working in a company, you inevitably encounter specialists of a different profile, and the more you understand their problems, the easier it is to build a dialogue with them.

    Part Two, idealistic

    Sherlock Holmes: Well, let's say the Earth revolves around the sun. But in my case it will not be useful to me!

    Dr. Watson: How terrible it would be to live in a world where there was no one to talk about poetry ... about painting ... about politics ... Where everyone knows only what he needs ... for business.

    And in addition to practical benefits, let's remember how initially we were in IT. With all the “profession of the future” and “high salary”, I think that very many people will have a similar starting point: “I simply discovered (a) that computers are very interesting to me”.

    Many IT-discussions are based on the principle "but it is really useful to know, or so, for the outlook." But I don’t really understand this opposition, in which “for horizons” is pronounced almost pejoratively: they say, people are busy doing something, and here there’s some kind of nonsense. In fact, many people are originally here for the reason that it’s not at all nonsense for them to learn something about IT. Even if this “something” is not tied to the current working situation. Interest arose even when there were no working situations.

    In IT, a lot of things revolve around the question “how to increase one’s productivity”. And it's not that this is a bad question (very good), but a cult arises around it, in which one spends time without increasing one's productivity and feels something wrong. And, in my opinion, this is already overkill. There is nothing wrong in saying directly: “Yes, I want to spend my time to listen to the IT-area that does not concern me directly, because it’s just interesting to me”.

    Here you just need to remember whose time you spend - yours, or also the employer. Actually, the main objection to this “interest in IT”, which I met, is: “the company pays employees to solve its tasks, and people spend working time on some interesting things personally for them that do not bring real value to the company ".

    taken from Twitter Kozuli

    This has its own truth, but these words are pronounced as if from them it follows "we must forget about the interesting." And, in my opinion, in fact one should “be able to distinguish between them”. And in cases where interest is at variance with the benefit for the company, sell it in your free time.

    Developing a city metaphor, learning something impractical is about how to go for a walk on a day off, not because it is “useful”, but because you live in a big city, where there is a lot of interesting things around. Because spending your whole life on the “home-work-home” route means scary to limit yourself. And when a person at the weekend recognizes the city with interest, few people will tell him “you are not productive, it would be better to work at this time”. But when he learns about IT with the same interest, it somehow arises there.


    Discussions about “non-core knowledge” often encompass one of the two described sides. They then try to accurately estimate the efficiency up to the third digit after the decimal point (“how many times a year did the book on algorithms come in handy?”), Then go to abstract spheres (“when you know the algorithms, you start looking at the whole world differently”). But benefit and interest are not mutually exclusive things, but complementary. These are two different scales, and both are important.

    And from here comes the first conclusion: when it comes to obtaining non-core knowledge, it is necessary to take into account both benefit and interest .

    First, can it somehow come in handy to me, even if it isn’t right tomorrow?

    And secondly, even if it could not bring any practical benefit, how humanly interested is it to find out about it?

    And the answer “do I need this” will appear on the basis of two answers together.

    And besides, in the Internet discussions about the acquisition of this or that knowledge, they are always trying to derive some kind of universal answer for everyone. "No, Java-developers do not need to get certified, they only learn unnecessary things for the sake of meaningless paper." “Yes, all IT pros need to read“ The Mythical Man-Month, ”this is a great book.”

    But if you take into account the interest in the topic, then you cannot get away from the simple thing: different people are interested in different things. One person will experience certification as “a blunt understanding of useless facts,” and another - as “finally filled in the gaps, in fact, it was always interesting, but in everyday work it was not up to that.”

    And then it turns outsecond conclusion: when it comes to obtaining non-core knowledge, there can be no universal answer .

    Understand the history of IT? Do you read the Mythical Man-Month? Do “learn what others live by” ? Whether to open on Habré posts about the "alien" area? No matter how many copies on the Internet may break on questions like these, there can be no right answer “from the outside”. All this can only be answered by yourself.

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