For all long and successful years I'm working as a Software Developer, I want one thing: become a better programmer. As many of us, I'm trying to figure out, what is the most important skill I should learn to be successful. It's not about money, prestige, titles or companies. It's about a personal feeling to be on a top of the profession I have chosen many years ago. It's about a satisfaction, which comes from my personal self-esteem and self-confidence. Technology changes very quickly, projects start and end, people come and go, but my skills stay with me.
More than 20 years ago my parents and I immigrated to USA from former Soviet Union, and after I took some classes and evaluated my university diploma, I started a career as a computer professional. I joined a huge army of geeks and geeketts, who work long days to get things done on time and with the best possible quality. To say developers work hard, it just say nothing. We make the impossible possible every time, when we understand how important our service and products. Yes, we serve governments, businesses, universities, armies, and just people, who need to be served and want to be connected to a better, more open world. We're just human as rest of the world, and humanity comes with a price: self-fears and self-doubts.
"Can I do this?" - I ask myself every time, when I'm learning new technology, coding and testing a new procedure, proposing a new trick, fighting for my ideas, researching the best solution, and asking for help. Fearing and doubting, I also was shy to talk about it. Does it make me a better developer, can I talk about it publicly, may I be understood in a right way in male-dominated environment? All of these questions bother me for years of my work. Finally I found an article written by a real developer, who actully came to conclusion, that self-doubts makes him a better developer.
I could not imagine, he has the same feelings and enough brave to go publicly impressing many of doubting ones, that fears and doubts, which are most of the time hidden from our coworkers and bosses, are OK, and overcoming is just an important part of our work. Many people including most bosses think, we have to be perfect to work, to succeed, to be promoted and recognized, and, the most important, to build better software. Actually, it turns out, that people, who are not perfect and don't show their extremely positive build-up self-confidence, are the perfect workers, who reach a better results every time they try. Overcoming self-fears and self-doubts, they learn a better, even more efficient, ways to do a work. I wrote enough code, but even now I ask myself: "Is it good enough?" I always think, having my experience, it's an abnormal to ask this question almost all the time. It looks like, it's a VERY, VERY normal thing. Many years ago I noticed, that my doubts make me not just a better programmer; they help me not to repeat mistakes and learn technology deeper to bring my understanding on a different level. I cannot say that I'm not afraid of mistakes, crashes, and incomplete code, but I use just about every situation to turn my failures into personal professional victories over fears and doubts. Yes, I can fix it. To avoid criticism, many people just do nothing, say nothing and become nothing. One thing, they think they have, is a show-off self-confidence, which they display every time they notice a slight sign of weakness in eyes of others. It's not just about men, it's about many people, who don't believe in doubting ones.
I wish, I were such smart many years ago, when I started to learn computer technology, and Internet was in diapers. I just needed real mentors to be better and achieve more. I met a lot of people from different backgrounds, and almost all of them don't understand how to set reachable goals that I can accomplish, how to stop trying to make everyone else happy, and forgive myself. Being surrounded by very self-confident people or, better to say, people, who pretend to be confident all the time, sometimes I spend too much time on guilt and self-criticism. Yes, self-criticism is an important for a healthy self-conversation, but our work requires some moments of trying new things. To feel a purpose and accomplishment in a long-term success, we often must take baby-steps, which are accompanied by painful errors, failures, and crashes. Most of people would quit, but we don't. We're moving forward.
I'm sure, some people are ready to criticize me for my presentation of computer work as a hard and in some ways impossible thing. Yes, it's difficult, adventurous, and very satisfying, but not for everybody. You have to find your way in technology, and, I think, I'm enough lucky because I found something unique to build up a career for many years. Moreover, I'm learning from my mistakes, even fears and doubts. To tell the truth, I don't know any other way to become successful in my industry. Many people try to impress they are victorious, moneymaking, and highly employable developers, who learn any idea for 5 minutes and can work out any problem. I'm sure, it's a quite familiar scenario. Let me tell you, it's just the poor-written scenario for a cheap reality show, not a real life with unexpected downfalls, problems and glorious winnings. These developers try to conceal their own burning fiascos. They are not moving forward, they are taking us back. I always remember wisdom words by Bill Cosby: "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." Their indestructible self-confidence is a sign of failure and poor knowledge. Moreover, pleasing the bosses, they tend to forget about laws and rules of technology and stop us to find the best solution for the problem we face. The problem is not with us, the major headache with people, who live with masks on their faces. Unfortunately, the masks cost a lot for all of us: software and efficiency is failing, emotions are going down, and work can never be done.
I waited for a quite long time, probably because I could not find people with a similar reaction. Now, I did. I did not just wait; I was a quite nervous, because of an emotional pressure, even stress, from highly "self-confident" people: some of them were my bosses, some - pleasing immigrants. Trying to manage their high self-confidence, which is only based on position and paycheck, they garbage a real professionals. It became a major challenge for me, and I still cannot forget several moments in my career:
a) Three hours after first layoff in my career from a small company I received a call from Russian-speaking coworker with two, frankly speaking, sour statements. He asked: "Are you going to ask a boss to take you back?" I answered: "No." He continues: "Some American employees did not feel comfortable with you." Thank G-d, I understand very well his intention to bring my self-confidence and self-esteem down, that he likes to do often, and never let him do. My next career step was much better and interesting.
b) Many years ago I worked for relatively big company, where I was one woman-developer. Plus I had a woman-boss with absolutely special opinion, which took her to a high-management position: "We're not going to hire smart experienced developers, because they would not listen to us." Even now I ask myself: "How is it possible to promote such people, especially women?" Thank G-d again, I don't have to work with her anymore. I want to be smart.
c) America is a land of opportunities, and sometimes opportunity is given to a wrong person. Uneducated, jealous about my education and knowledge, narrow-minded woman became my boss. Her statement was sharp and commanding: "Where is respect?" I did not know, that I must respect a person just because of the title in democratic and free country such America. I prefer to keep my self-confidence up and work for another company. .
Nowadays many people talk about women in technology just because it became evident, that women can be a very good, even accomplished, diligent, and first-rate developers, who really take care of many problems in this industry. Bringing more women to technology, we have to start to take care of their self-confidence and self-esteem. I would like to take this issue to your attention, because it's hugely meaningful now, when many countries experience problem with education of a new workforce for hi-Tec. Typically, most of students need to keep their self-confidence and self-esteem on a certain level to go through courses and lessons, but for future hi-Tec employees it became a determining, even a front-end issue. Hi-Tec is an extremely moving industry, and we need people, who can overcome fears and doubts and develop into smart employees. Their self-confidence has to be built on a right interpretation of fears and doubts, which include teachings of calculated risk and success probability, advanced learning techniques, communication rules, psychological awareness, resume writing, interview questions related to criticism, mistake making, retraining, and senior mentoring. I'm not trying to impress you with my psychological knowledge; it's just a deep deriving from my personal experience. I strive to be the most unidealistic person and bring a real picture to those, who still think, that a simulated self-confidence is better, than a real feelings.
To finish, I ask myself: "How many people would read my essay? How many of them will change their approach to doubting ones? Am I helpful at least for some tribe members, who want to become better? Do I do a right thing exercising my right on freedom of speech?" I'm sure, some of you can continue a list of these questions. Questions remain and will remain just questions, if we are not going to do something realistically good to keep, bring more, raise and lead people with de facto perceptions. What can we do?