IBFS

Living in a Forest

by Isaac Sanders

When you live in a forest, you are surrounded by trees. Often, there are many types of trees, with different leaves, of differing age, and all with something unique to offer. If you were looking for firewood, you would first look in the forest. If you are looking for materials to build something, and had nothing but the forest, you might not want for more.

When you are in a community, you are surrounded by people. There are many types of people, with different perspectives, with valuable knowledge and wisdom, and all with something unique to offer. If you are looking for someone with experience with functional programming languages, you might first look to the community. If you are looking for a mentor to guide you, and had nothing but your community, you might not want for more.

As an apprentice, I am always learning. I am reading books and blog posts. I am watching and even giving talks. When I am looking for another opportunity to learn, I turn to my community for help. I have encountered so many people who are looking to help me learn, and I am indebted to them.

There are a couple types of people that will be staples in your journey. You will find them, and they will be the ones to drive you forward.

Mentors

Mentors are guides for you. When you are starting your journey, you will have goals in mind. A mentor, who knows the field, will be able to help you find your way to reaching your goals.

When finding a mentor, you have to consider a couple of things. You need to decide if a mentor who travels a lot or is remote will work for you. This would mean that you do not meet as often, but it widens the range of mentors. When you have decided what criteria you have for a mentor, you need to start looking for prospective mentors. Anyone can be a mentor, even your heroes.

Once you have found some prospective mentors, start asking. If you get turned down, appreciate the time the prospective mentor took to reply, and understand that they probably would not have been a good mentor for you. It could mean they travel a lot, and they feel like they would not have time for you. You just need to ask, and someone will say yes.

Both of you will need to work at setting expectations. Expectations will help you have a feeling of moving forward. If you feel like you are stuck, check your goals/objectives. If they are not formulated into things that you can “check off” a list, that may be the source of your frustration.

Do not be afraid to change expectations. Sometimes a goal or objective can be too big of a step, and it is better to take a smaller step first. Goals can also no longer be realistic. If you have a time constraint, and a goal falls outside of the time that it needed to be done in, accept that and move on.

Whenever you are looking for more, it is okay to look for another mentor. You can have more than one mentor. Personally, I have many, and each of them has helped me grow in different ways.

Kindred Spirits

Kindred Spirits are people that you will work with on a day to day basis. They are who will learn most of your technical skills from. They will be the people you pair with, and the people who you can ask questions of.

Kindred Spirits are those at your local User Groups, and those who you see working on Open Source. They are passionate, and they notice other passionate people. In my experience, Kindred Spirits will be your friends.

When you are looking for opportunities, look to your Kindred Spirits. They will know the places to work and the people to talk to. Part of being a Kindred Spirit is helping other Kindred Spirits.

It is the presence of Kindred Spirits in a community that make it better. When you have the opportunity to work with people who are also passionate learners, then you grow together.

Conclusion

There are a lot of people that are part of our community. As someone who is just joining the community, it can be overwhelming. Mentors will help you with overcoming this anxeity. In the community you will meet other Kindred Spirits, who will help keep moving forward.

After integrating into the community, you can begin to give back. Once you begin to give back to the community, you can appreciate the effort others have given for your success. You will to contribute to the growth of others. As time goes on, your contributions will become the inspiration for new learners. They will grow to make their own contributions. Our community is like a forest. We grow all the time, and we grow together.

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