Everything Is Just a Tool

Everything Is Just a Tool

Everything Is Just a Tool. He told me that everything in the tool room was nothing more than a tool, an idea I carried with me throughout my career.

People have a tendency to come back to those things that they’re comfortable with. This is never more evident than in the realm of computer science, especially in web development. Everyone is an evangelist for some…thing they love using — for everything. There’s nothing wrong with that. Being excited about what we’re doing and the tools we’re using to do it is important in keeping ourselves interested and motivated in our work. This evangelism, however can stifle our growth as developers, and hold us short of our peak effectiveness.

As an avionics technician of 20 years for the US Air Force, I’ve spent a lot of time around all kinds of tools. Hand tools, power tools, ground and servicing equipment, test and calibration equipment and so on. It can seem daunting to someone on the outside the sheer breadth of tools I had at my disposal. If that wasn’t enough, many of those tools could be used for more than their intended purposes, with a lot of functional overlap. I was told by an early supervisor that it wasn’t as important to know how to use every one of them as it was knowing how to figure out which one to use. We had volumes of technical manuals to show us how something worked. He told me that everything in the tool room was nothing more than a tool, an idea I carried with me throughout my career.

In 2020, I’ve had the opportunity to move on from the Air Force and turn my long time side hustle (web development) in to my new career, and I’m finding that ethos works just as well in web development as it ever did on the flightline. I see and answer a lot of questions from newer developers like “which should I learn, React or Angular?” It sometimes takes more willpower than I have to stop myself from simply replying “yes”. As an industry, we do have a tendency to lock ourselves into one library, one language, one technology or another, focusing our efforts on learning just that one thing and working with it until it’s time to level up. And why wouldn’t we? After all, that’s how the jobs we want to land are posted.

web-development computer-science data-science

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