“I know nothing.”
“I am an impostor.”
Have you ever had these thoughts? Have you wondered why? Would you like to reduce the frequency of those thoughts in yourself, your colleagues and people who are yet to even consider joining your profession?
Have you ever heard people say anything like this:
“Can you believe, I just interviewed this dev, and they didn’t even know what a Z was?”
Over my 18-year software career, I have heard this kind of thing countless times. It is said derisively, scornfully, impatiently. And every time those words are said, we lose both existing and potential members of our profession. We lose them because they feel stupid; because they believe they can’t keep up; because they’re terrified that people are saying the same about them. Or we don’t lose them, but they increase the amount of jargon they use, to prove how clever they are. Their colleagues struggle to understand them, but they pretend they understand, to avoid looking stupid… and so on.
If somebody already feels like they don’t “fit in”, then this kind of pressure and insecurity can be the final shove that persuades them to leave the profession or not try and join in the first place. Under-represented groups are particularly impacted by this intellectual elitism. Indeed ALL software professionals are impacted.
This is a passionate talk. It’s a topic I feel strongly about. It’s a topic with strong personal resonance. I want to help you build strong, capable, diverse, multi-functional teams that can happily embrace any challenge. To do this, we need to nurture our teams by building confidence and eradicating insecurity. This is a talk full of practical examples and suggestions of how you can keep en eye out for insecurities in your colleagues, and do everything you can to avoid them being deepened.
We know that everybody has knowledge gaps. There are thousands of different paths through software development, touching thousands of different combinations of technologies and skills. On a day-to-day level we have to specialise on one task at a time. The skills we don’t need right now are necessarily forgotten, or delegated to someone else. And that’s fine.
Let’s stop making people feel stupid. Instead of judging people for their ignorance, let’s help them to feel excited about all the new things they’ll discover. Instead of saying “For God’s sake, you don’t know that?” let’s say “Fantastic! Lucky you. You get to learn something. What can I do to help?”