With KubeCon North America around the corner, I’m reminded of the great opportunity for learning and self-improvement presented by attending the world’s premier cloud native event. Attending KubeCon is like having a completely new hard drive wired into your brain – it’s a mecca for learning. Although now in its eith year, KubeCon still remains an attraction for many first-time attendees, students, and people looking to dive deeper into cloud native. According to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s transparency report from KubeCon NA 2022, 61% of attendees were first-time attendees. While I’ve always made a point of offering advice to our newer cloud native citizens on how to approach learning at KubeCon, I’ve never documented my thoughts on how to approach learning within the cloud native ecosphere. In this article, I’m going to break down a few simple mantras and rules that you can use to adopt a mindset and a culture of judgement-free learning in order to get outside of your own head, grow as human being, and get the most of your cloud native experiences – even if you aren’t attending KubeCon. This article pertains to learning cloud native technologies but contains universal truths that are applicable to learning in general.
Because your own strength is unequal to the task, do not assume that it is beyond the powers of man; but if anything is within the powers and province of man, believe that it is within your own compass also. - Marcus Aurelius
If another human being has learned something, you are equally capable of doing so. Statistically speaking, most of us are of average intelligence, and with certain extremely rare exceptions, nobody is born with the capability for knowing more-or-less than others. The only reason someone has gotten experienced in a specific area is likely because they’ve spent a lot of time with it. For instance, if someone has been attending KubeCon for multiple years, they’re likely going to be more experienced in the cloud native space than a person who is a newcomer. There’s no fancy degree, course, or magic pill, that makes someone eminently more qualified to understand a concept over another person. My first tip to anyone looking to learn and expand their horizons as a human being, is to always remember that you are capable of learning anything that the next person is capable of learning. By keeping this lesson first-and-foremost in your mind when approaching cloud native learning, you can build the confidence to start developing and asking questions, no matter your background.
If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas. – George Bernard Shaw
Often, I see newcomers to tech conferences or companies who may be afraid or embarrassed to ask questions for fear of asking something that they think is elementary, “stupid” or obvious, and then getting judged for it. Firstly, the vast majority of people at KubeCon, or in the cloud native community in general, will be flattered that you found them to be a reliable source of knowledge and will gladly answer your question to the best of their abilities. Chances are whomever you are asking that elementary or “stupid” question to, has had has the same question at one point themselves. They may have had the question a long time ago - or it may have been more recently, but chances are they had the same question that you do. And maybe they even figured it out themselves because they were too embarrassed to ask, too!
Understand that there is no human who knows everything or has the answers to every problem – they might act like they do, but they don’t; they’re a human just like you. Not knowing something is not a representation of yourself or how smart you are. Chances are that you also know something the other person doesn’t. Asking a question is simply asking for an exchange of knowledge about a particular topic. That said, if someone judges you for asking any question, it's really not your problem; go find someone else who will answer your question without judgement. I promise - it’s not you.
It’s not that you can’t understand a concept, it’s that you haven’t found someone who can explain it in a way that makes sense to you
Effective teaching may be the hardest job there is. – William Glasser
Being able to effectively convey ideas to another human is a brutally difficult job. Teaching not only involves having cardinal knowledge of the topic itself, but being able to relay that knowledge in a way that resonates with the individual receiving the knowledge. People learn in a variety of different ways. Some people learn better from pictures and diagrams, some people learn by being hands-on, and yet others learn from verbal communication. For example, if someone asked me to explain Kubernetes, I might say that Kubernetes is like a road. On that road, there are cars that we call “containers” and passengers inside those cars that we call “applications”. That explanation makes sense to me, but to someone else, it might lead to more confusion because they might be looking for more contextual details. That doesn’t make either of us wrong, or not smart, it makes us human – and although all humans are fundamentally the same, we are also slightly different. In that way, you can think of a teacher-student relationship as two pieces of pipe, where both pieces must precisely fit together in order to start the flow of inflation. Some people may have pipes made of steel; others of PVC; some with larger diameters; and some with smaller diameters. You can understand anything you put your mind to, you just have to find the right fit to help you understand. My third and last tip for learning and self-improvement is that humans learn differently, and you need to find someone who can explain things to you in a way that fits your learning style.
The mind can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. It is the only one that can hold you back in life. By remembering these three mantras, hopefully you can unblock your own mind to make your KubeCon North America experience more fruitful. Even if you aren’t attending KubeCon and instead learning from a distance, you can start your leaning by joining CNCF slack and OutShift by Cisco slack .