Sweep the Floor

For this weeks blog post I will be discussing the pattern known as “Sweep the Floor”. Sweeping the Floor is about you starting from the bottom and then getting into the more complex tasks. This being you contributing to simpler tasks, learning from these and becoming more skilled then graduating into larger more complex tasks. Imagine you are an new apprentice on a project, unsure where you stand compared to others on the team and they are unsure about you as well. You want to earn your place on this team, contributing where you can, gaining their trust and growing in the craft essentially. To do this you could simply volunteer for something simple that is necessary to complete. This is a good starting way to contribute to a foreign team and to the teams success early on by showing you can do high quality jobs even for simple matters. Skimping on quality here could lead to trouble later on when it turns out later that this part is actually very important. Some various examples of these tasks include maintaining the build system, production support, responding to maintenance requests, bug fixing, code review, setting up a project wiki and so forth. Basically you would be focusing on the edges of the system where less risk lies rather than the heart of the project where the stress and complexity would be. But this of course could prove tougher to swallow if you have spent a lot of time and money in a computer science degree. The moment leading up to your career in theory has been doing all of the said above tasks almost just without pay. Another negative aspect of this would be you ending up as the teams gopher, condemned to do menial tasks no else wants to do. You may find yourself intimidated by doing anything other than sweeping the floor, feeling only comfortable doing this. There is also danger in that you may not be able to develop appreciation for bigger projects due to the smaller menial tasks you are accustomed to. In short finding the tasks nobody wants to do or complains about and creatively resolving these problems in ways that exceed peoples expectations will allow you to slowly soar above, something that most including myself can get behind.

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