The best way to push yourself is work without a safety net.
I work on the same set of projects every day. I answer people’s questions, divide up all the project work, and chip away at the to-do list one by one. For the most part, I do my own thing and am responsible for communicating our needs to various vendors and helping team members with tricky situations.
But I’m not the one charge. When someone asks me a question I’m not familiar enough with to give a definite answer on or some part of a database starts acting wonky I take it to the project lead and work with him to resolve the issue.
Sure, in watching him solve the problem I usually learn a thing or two and am able to explain the solution afterward. But he’s a safety net. As long as he’s there solving the tough problems I’m not pushing myself to learn something new.
For the last two weeks the project lead has been on vacation and suddenly I’ve found myself in charge. At first, everything went smoothly. A few minor questions, some basic queries were requested. Small potatoes; nothing I couldn’t handle.
And then something happened. Our vendor reported that somehow 15,000 records were floating around in our database with no base. It’s delaying workflow. I have to figure it out.
On any other occasion, an escalation as serious as this would have immediately been passed to the lead, but he’s not here. The safety net was happily lounging around on vacation and this was my problem to fix.
A dozen YouTube videos and an entire pot of coffee later I had a solution in place. While restoring the lost data wasn’t possible I was able to successfully build a series of queries to identify what was lost, pull it into a separate location and cross-reference the structure against other versions of the tool.
Once there was a solution I went a step deeper and identified where in the scripting the error originated from and created a patch to keep it from happening again.
It probably took me three times as long to fix it as it would have the lead, but that doesn’t matter.
I was in a sink or swim situation, and I swam.