I’ve been thinking a lot about code lately; how I write it, how I learn to write it. I want to teach, to help women find positive voices and positive movements into the world of technology. I want safe spaces to exist, outside the toxic and sexist atmosphere of tech at large.
But in order to teach, you have to understand what you know.
“But I don’t know anything!”
The first difficulty in technology is the ease by which we can undervalue what we know. As soon as we learn it, we easily forget the huge struggle it took to learn it. It’s obvious now, right?
By corollary, it must be obvious to others, and thus we have nothing to teach.
This is an unfortunate yet extremely visible fallacy; I fall prey to it, as do a great many women in technology. It forms part of the difficulty of Impostor syndrome. What we know is obvious, after all.
I know many people who think I’m a competent and capable developer; that I know my shit and that I care about what I’m doing.
But I don’t see that. I end up believing that other people must see what I see, live in that obviousness.
I forgot what I learned, and the effort of will it took to learn it.
What have I Shown You?
Instead of asking ourselves what we know, the tactic I’ve recently started using more is to ask others what they think I know, things I’ve shown them how to do.
By gathering this feedback, I’m starting to determine what I’ve forgotten about learning to tech; memories of the difficulty get triggered. Hearing that others don’t find things obvious is stunning.
I get to see the tricks that I know, the patterns and philosophies that I use reflected in the works that I have learned from, from works that others have learned from me.
The amorphous and vague becomes explicit, defined. My passion of programming can be forged into transferrable knowledge, lessons from the chains of my own learning.
When I can see that structure, I can share it.
Avoiding Jagged Rocks Country
The downside is that it’s extremely easy to say “No I don’t” when someone tells us what we can do, though; very easy to reject the feedback, or twist it into a weapon against ourselves.
Fighting that aspect of the Impostor Narrative is extremely difficult; the first response is always to deny, reject and argue.
When we learn to listen is when we forge new bonds to our peers, those who respect our abilities. We’ve given them tools; they want to share their tools with us. We’ve given them knowledge, real knowledge. When I listen, I fight my demons of not good enough, of going to be found out.
I shared something. Design, or philosophy. Passions for how to interact with software. The love of computational logic. They learned, and it wasn’t about me any longer. It was about us, the group, learning and growing together.
How could I be an impostor? How could I be anything but Aurynn, Competent?