“Experience” – my first memorable encounter with this word was when i landed in my first job as an engineer.It is still fresh after so many years and i am constantly reminded about this encounter, as i meet “fresh” joiners in my team every year.
As a student I always believed that i knew and that i had all it takes to become a good engineer. In the 18 years of my student life, i do not recall any instance where my teachers told me that I had to learn from experience, they only insisted that i apply all that i learn. However, just after a month after my graduation, when i attended my first day of the orientation session, as a trainee engineer, there was a paradigm shift. I (and my fellow trainee engineers) were told that we had to “learn” and gain “experience”. Most of us found it difficult to accept the concept of learning again – as we were selected on the basis of our academic performance, which proved that we were learned enough and we had come here to apply what we had learnt. However, very soon, there was a wake up call for me,when I was made responsible for delivering the first independent project of my life. It was the time when I realized the importance of those first words that were told during the orientation day “learn” and “gain experience”. I realized the value of the advice that i had received from my seniors – “to learn”. It was the time when the “rubber met the road”. It was my first encounter with the practical situation in which i had to apply what i had learnt and i found it difficult. I made a few mistakes but somehow managed to complete the project with some help from my seniors and received some appreciation from them, for giving my best shot. But now when i look back at that project – i feel that i could have done it a lot better, if i were to do that now, as i am bit more experienced as compared to what i was 20 years back.
I like to use the following analogy of photography when explaining the importance of experience to someone inexperienced (and sometimes myself). Imagine that you have purchased a digital SLR camera and you had no experience of using such a camera before and you only used the point and shoot cameras. You finished reading the camera manual in and out but does that mean that you can take great pictures ? I bet your first few shots would be blurred, overexposed or underexposed. It is through constant practice and by consistently applying what you have learnt in the camera manual, that you will master the photography skill.
Life gives us many opportunities to practice what we learn and to gain experience. I have been faced with numerous situations, challenges and events in work and personal life, which has given me the knowledge to deal with them to my advantage. In some instances it has also left an lasting impression on me. You need to be patient enough to gain experience as it cannot be acquired overnight. Fast track experience is only superficial and will not help you in gaining in depth knowledge. More on this topic later…….