Searching For Aha Moments

10 March 2013

Some minor prodding recently from former colleague and all round awesome software developer Mehdi Khalili on twitter inspired me to start blogging. I’ve read much enlightening tech writing over the years so this one will allow me to share some stories as well. By way of introduction, I’m a SQL guy, but I haven’t always been.

I can clearly remember all the way back to when I first saw how strange this S-Q-L language looked and how it was nothing like the procedural languages I’d been introduced to previously. There were no loops, no ifs, a collection of funny uppercase words that caused data to appear (or not, depending on whether your query was broken!).

It just felt wrong.

Fast forward to 2013 and I’m using SQL Server & TSQL professionally nearly every day, along with PowerShell, C#, HTML, Javascript and (as infrequently as possible) VBScript. How did I get here? I’d have to put it down to being motivated to search for ‘Aha’ moments.

They’re the points at which learning starts to click into place and an appreciation forms for where a particular tool or technique fits in with the rest of the software development toolbelt. Mastery of whatever it is can be still far away, but in those moments the horizon of what’s achievable stretches just a little further. SQL looked weird because I’d never seen anything like it before, but at some point I just ‘got it’ and now it’s almost second nature.

Quite often the eyes of people outside IT tend to glaze over when we try to explain what it is that occupies the majority of a software professional’s working life. Could it be that we’re able to succinctly explain the boring parts but fail to properly convey just how great all those little moments of satisfaction are?

Mehdi’s suggestion was to check out Jekyll, a static site generator written in the Ruby language. I have a feeling I’ll be getting to know Ruby much more closely - something I’m looking forward to since I’ve enjoyed using Python in the past. Over the past few days setting up this site I’ve hit more than a few gotchas but also one or two aha moments. Those moments always seem to be just enough to keep it interesting until the next ones come along.

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