The “Reflect As You Work” pattern reminded me right away of the agile software development practice “inspect and adapt.” This practice is mentioned later in the writing as a more formal and specific version of this pattern, whereas an apprentice reflecting as they work involves self-analysis which encompasses all the projects they’ve worked on. The writers recommend periodically asking yourself whether your practices are up to date or becoming obsolete. They ask you to reflect on both the positives and the negatives about your current work, recognize how things got that way, and think about how the negatives could be improved. As one way of helping to apply this pattern, they suggest creating personal practices maps. Unfortunately the source they give for examples of this is gone, so I’m not sure what this ought to look like. I can take note of any changes in my approach as time goes on, however.

This pattern is all about maximizing the amount of useful information you get from your experiences, and utilizing it will make the difference between being an experienced developer and a skilled one; you can have lots of experiences without extracting much meaningful knowledge out of them. Therefore, the writers emphasize that your goal should be to become skilled, not experienced. I found the highlighting of this difference interesting, and it seems intuitively right that it’s possible to become experienced without gaining skill.

One of the authors is used as an example of the power of noticing and reflecting. He explained to his new teammates the pair programming technique the team used which hadn’t really been discussed, and which had simply emerged from their experiences. Once he’d noticed that this was a specific programming practice that should have a name, he blogged about it, and that quickly led him to writing columns for a prominent Software QA website. For me this connected to and reinforced broader lessons I’d already been taught about the importance of observation and noticing; the person who discovered the smallpox vaccine didn’t invent anything, just noticed that people who’d had cowpox didn’t get smallpox.

The author’s experience is also an example of another application of this pattern, which is to observe and reflect on the practices of other developers and adapt your own accordingly.

It’s already my natural inclination to reflect on what I do, so it should be no problem to incorporate this practice into my future profession.