Why it’s good to fail: my day at You Got This!

Failures in learning can be looked at as great successes

In January I went to the annual You Got This! conference in Birmingham. It’s a one day conference for early-career developers to talk about the non-technical skills needed for a happy and healthy worklife.

I was there for the morning sessions and attended three talks:

  1. “It’s not your job to love your job” by Keziyah Lewis
  2. “Learning to invest in your future” by Matthew Gilliard
  3. “How to find your perfect mentor” by Amina Adewusi

I came back with many insightful thoughts for early-career developers. One was that we’re constantly learning. Any kind of skill you would like to learn can be achieved through practice. And when learning a new tool or new framework, repetition and consistency of practising is really important. I wanted to share some more thoughts about learning and why failure isn’t always something negative.

Failures are a part of learning

Failures in learning can be looked at as great successes. Our workplaces should be a safe space where it’s fine when things don’t work the first time. It’s a learning curve and sometimes you have to forget about making mistakes so you can enjoy the learning experience rather than just always achieving production-ready code first time.

We should try things, ship them, and learn from our successes and failures.

Social learning and networking

Going to conferences, meetups, pairing, and social learning can be really fun! Finding like-minded people and sharing your learning journey can be exciting, and you can build a support network and friendships.

Working in a community of people who are trying to learn helps make failure okay and sharing mistakes and lessons can help your peers.

Find your learning style

You should step out of your comfort zone and push yourself so you can then improve and grow your skillset and knowledge. Create goals so that you can learn, evaluate, create and analyse. Always have feedback loops.

Work on the fundamentals

Find and focus on the things that are fundamental for you. There are certain skills that come up again and again. You can practice things in isolation, for example, JavaScript, CSS, tools for debugging and so on.

Consider keeping a learning journal

Keeping a “Today I learned” journal is beneficial in many ways. For example, when reviewing the year’s worth of learning, it’ll create connections between things that weren’t obvious at the time and identify fundamentals that are critical in your experience. It also helps keep track of your project work and performance.

The conference helped me think about how to invest in yourself. It gave advice on how to write daily journals and a “brag sheet” for your professional reviews. When you look back on past work and your brag sheet, it’s totally normal to see it and think that you can do better now. This is a natural thing and shows that you’ve progressed and learnt a lot since the work was originally done.

I found You Got This! very useful. It was a great reminder to take yourself back to the basics, as well as developing through social learning, doing things like building up your confidence to be a speaker and making yourself known.