I’m not sure what I expected when I first got involved in software engineering. I was worried that I wouldn’t be smart enough to even get through the boot camp at Flatiron school, let alone hold down a day to day job and doing this for a living. There can be a tremendous amount of anxiety that comes with this work, from feelings of isolation to “imposter syndrome.”
So how do software developers handle this sort of pressure? How do you solve problems when you’re too deep in, when you can’t see the forest through the trees?
I’ve learned about the community that this work provides. The more I learn about this field, the more I realize how this is truly a team sport. No person is an island, and we collectively lean on each other in grand fashion. If you’ve not had a chance to visit StackOverflow, you’ll find an enormous community of people who have a lot of the same questions you do. No one is an expert on anything, but collectively we’re a genius. This career is the place where you can hone your Googling skills, find the answer with the most upvotes, and immediately implement into your code. You are not meant to beat your head against a desk for 30 minutes trying to find the solution. You are meant to spend a few minutes trying to find the solution, and using your Google skills to get you the rest of the way.
More specifically to Flatiron School, my cohort found very quickly that we needed each other more than we realized. Within the first week we had established a “struggle bus” slack channel, to post our most embarrassing and thought-provoking questions. We started to form friendships with each other, and finally got the gall to start asking those embarrassing and thought-provoking questions.
Then, somewhere along the line, we started being friends as well as colleagues. Somewhere along the line we started to pull down the walls of our seemingly “unique” experiences and sought after the truth of the common experience. We found that if we had a dumb question, invariably someone had the same dumb question. In our individuality, we were still able to find unity. I recall the first true lesson that I learned in this program is:
“The sooner you let yourself be vulnerable, the sooner you’ll learn.”
I didn’t quite knew what that meant until about halfway through Mod 1 of our camp. I can remember very specifically reaching out to my cohortmate, J. I had to bashfully ask him for help on some concepts I didn’t understand. J was unbelievably kind and generous, and helped me learn over lunch. When I didn’t feel ready for our first “code challenge” I reached out to I, and we ran a mock challenge together. After our time together, I had a firm grasp and understanding of the material at hand.
I’ve learned how much personality is at play in this profession. I’ve learned that employers would rather hire a positive-thinking good communicator who has things to learn as opposed to a one-man-show asshole. Coding is a team game from front to back.
I learned to be vulnerable a long time ago, and to stop being ashamed of it. Against the greater tide of toxic masculinity, I’ve cracked open my rib cage on more than a few occasion to oftentimes amazing and occasionally terrible result. But in the end, in this industry, that will serve me.
I’m the collaborator.
I’m the glue.
I’m the pep talk.
I’m in your shoes.
I’m the facilitator.
The chimney’s flue.
The growing stalk,
for you to chew.
The time will come,
to crack your chest,
and feel a little dumb,
and clean up your mess.
I have questions too,
while I climb this tree,
but one thing remains true,
that I is you, and you is me.