The practice software development is very complex. There are interchangeable technologies and tools at all levels of development. Books are being outdated shortly after they are published as newer versions of software outdate the old ones.
With all this change, it’s not very likely that we are going to show up at a new job with the all of the desired expertise. Not only do we need to know the technology, we also need to know the product, the environment and the people we work with. So what do we do as developers when we show up at a job and get left with a new cubicle, a new computer and no help?
How can we come up to speed fast without bugging the team? Answer: You probably can’t.
You are going to have to do what you can to learn and that’s probably going to take time. You can try to read the outdated documentation and try to reverse engineer the code but that will only take you so far. You will probably still have to bug people and they will probably be busy or they would not have hired you.
Now consider this. What if you had shown up at a job that was filled with a room of people who were working side-by-side on the same features? That’s what you find on teams that practice pair programming. Two people work on the same code together at a comfortable workstation with two screens and two keyboards. All you would have to do is show up and you would start learning what you need to know immediately. You would actually be productive immediately as well.
That intimidating thing called pair programming, that you may have avoided when you tried to find a job, is now something that you desperately wish you had. If only someone would work with you to show you how it all works, you might have a fighting chance at being productive.
It doesn’t make any sense to for us to expect that we will be productive working alone in a business in which most of the things we need to do are unique to an organization. So, what should you do? Well, if you are already at a job that doesn’t practice pair programming, you might try to see if someone would be willing to start pair programming with you. Try to set up a workstation with two keyboards and screens. You could try using some sort of screen sharing, but going to a conference room with an extra screen and a keyboard would probably be better anyway.
Hopefully you can get pair programming started right where you are. If you can’t, at least you know what to look for if you ever need to find a new team.