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You all might be interested in a very illuminating conversation I has with
one of our lead programmers this morning about the value/devaluation of
learning on the job.
As a programmer, he's a bit of an outlaw because he never attended a
university or college. He learned by working as an apprentice for "master
programmers" at a variety of businesses. These master programmers
graciously took the time to pass on their knowledge to him. Within five
years he became so highly skilled as a programmer that he is now recognized
as a "senior" programmer, and is himself passing on his knowledge to
This is, of course, the apprentice / journeyman / master system of hands-on
training that has been (and is still) used by every culture in the world to
pass on specialized skills or knowledge to those people who are willing to
However, in modern industrial times this practice has fallen out of favour.
I don't know why, but for some reason we have devalued "on the job"
learning. People who learn on the job put in as many years learning their
craft as us numbskulls who get a degree, but I'd vote that they're more
valuable as employees because they've learned their skills in the context of
solving a real-world problem.
Of course, your "on the job" education is going to directly reflect how much
effort your master(s) put into teaching you.
I'm definitely learning a lot from my co-worker, because he understands the
value of mentorship. Hopefully I'll be able to do the same thing for
another technical writer (or programmer) someday.