Apprentice Page Screenshot
March 1st, 2013

Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose in the Building of the Apprentice Page - Month 3 in the P’unk Apprenticeship

Joel Smith

 You may or may not have heard, but P’unk Ave published a new webpage this past month. It’s a page that fleshes out the specifics of our apprentice program. You can check it out at Interestingly, the process by which the page was built demonstrates some of the core values we use to assess our work here at P’unk Ave. Namely, I experienced autonomy, I worked towards mastery, and I certainly pursued purpose through creating our new webpage.

No one asked me to build this page. Rather, it was born out of a desire to solidify conversations we’ve been having internally. We talked a great deal about what we’d like the apprentice program to be, but we hadn’t really put pen to paper, so to speak. And so, by my own initiative and with a general license of autonomy, I set out to make the page, first as a skeleton of content and ultimately as a rough design draft. Many of my fellow P’unks checked in throughout the process, offering advice, checking my spelling errors, laboring over stylistic choices with me. But in the end, this was my project, and because I was given autonomy in the process, I was able to make it happen quickly and effectively.

Secondly, I began the entire process with a very precise goal of mastery in mind: I wanted to publish this new page using GitHub Pages. I’d read quite a bit about publishing on GitHub pages, and I really like the simplicity it seemed to offer for marrying version-control and deployment. One simple ‘git push’ and my website could be live. And while I thoroughly enjoy customizing CMS projects for clients, I have rarely needed the complexity (and bulk) of a whole CMS for the simple sites I build and use for myself. So, in the spirit of autonomy and with a precise goal of mastery, I built the new page on GitHub pages. We hit a few bumps along the way (mainly from my misdirecting our new subdomain), but we also learned some really cool things we can do with GitHub pages.

It seems almost self-evident how building a page like the new Apprentice page should connect with my particular sense of purpose. I am P’unk Ave’s first apprentice, and many of my successes and failures are shaping the future form of the program. That form is what we’re articulating on this new page, and so I found myself reflecting quite a bit on my experience and on how that related to the loose goals we created at the outset of the program. I found my way through that reflection, and I’d like to think I articulated a purpose, not only for the apprentice program as a whole, but for waking up each morning and coming into 1168 E. Passyunk Ave.

As neatly packaged as these three values might be, there are many other things we value--almost naturally--as an effective web development team. The first thing that comes to mind about building the page was the collaboration involved with editing and publishing the page with GitHub. When I pushed up my commits, my teammates were able to pull down the whole project and suggest edits to both content and design. Furthermore, the process was extremely agile, adapting and sometimes totally reshaping itself based on helpful suggestions and ideas, and using a version control environment like GitHub made this process not only easy but effective.

I like being able to reflect on my work and make gestures at how the practice of my craft may or may not relate to my values. In a context like P’unk Ave, it’s easy to engage in this kind of reflection because we make it a point to be self aware, to be continually reflecting on who we are and where we’re going. And I think that’s why our values are always staring us in the face: they’re an inevitable part of our common work and dialogue. And furthermore, it seems that while collaboration and agility are natural things we value as software developers, it’s through pursuing autonomy, mastery, and purpose that we have begun to define ourselves as a distinct brand of craftsmen. Instances like the building of the apprentice page remind me why I choose to work with people who have chosen such an intentional course.