When teams choose Git for version control, people often think of that as a one-time event, but Git adoption generally progresses through distinct stages.
Just Getting Started
When first switching to Git, there’s a strong tendency to want to learn the bare minimum, such that you can get back to the “real work.” This is understandable, and in the early days, you want to walk before you run, but a first mental shift to make is you need to realize that how you interact with Git is part of your professionalism in your craft. How you track what work you’re doing, and why you’re doing it, is just as important as the work itself.
The smaller and more informative your commits, the more understandable the history will be, and that will benefit both your future self and your team. This is essential because clear commit messages make it easier for your team to understand the changes made and facilitate code reviews.
The next mental shift to make is from solo work to open collaboration. The many years you spent in school trained you to think you’re supposed to work all on your own, that reaching out for help is a sign of inferiority, and that you only turn something in when it’s complete. In the working world, such a paradigm is inefficient at best. You need to get comfortable working out in the open, no matter how awkward it is at first.
Start work in an issue and fill out the description with a vague idea of what’s needed. Then invite your teammates to chime in and hash out the details with you in the comments. When you have a solid idea of what work is required, create a draft pull request right away. Commit and push early and often, to take advantage of continuous integration, and use the diff to focus discussions with your collaborators. You want to rely on and learn from the expertise on your team, both to improve the quality of your contribution, and accelerate your improvement in your craft.
Additionally, open collaboration fosters a culture of knowledge sharing, allowing team members to learn from each other’s experiences and collectively solve problems more efficiently.
The final stage is when you transition from being proficient to guru status. Most teams don’t make this transition; rather, you’re lucky if you have a few of these folks nearby. However, if you do pursue further Git mastery (and you should), you’ll improve life for both yourself and your teammates. Potential benefits include:
- Being able to organize your work into a series of atomic commits that tell a coherent story, which helps developers make sense of the code and enables automated versioning of your software.
- Being familiar with Git’s underlying object model, making you completely comfortable with more complex operations so you can help people out of a jam and so your team can utilize sophisticated workflows.
- Understanding the fundamental difference between distributed vs centralized version control so you and your team can stay productive when your Git server goes down.
No matter where you are in your journey, Git has a lot to offer. Embrace the adventure and continually enhance your Git skills. Becoming a Git expert can significantly boost your effectiveness as a developer and contribute to a more productive and collaborative team environment.