In this industry, and especially in American in general, we place great value on being a self-made person. Beating the odds, overcoming adversity, and coming out on top. I fear that such an attitude is extremely toxic for one key reason: there’s no such thing as being self-made.
This industry has a very grave problem in which we delude ourselves into thinking that our achievements and accolades are due solely to our own work. While it’s critically important to work hard and learn, I feel that most miss the point. Behind the story of every towering success, every captain of industry, are people who helped get them there.
Every Legend has a Story
No one starts out a legend, that’s for after the story has already been written. They become legend over time with the help of friends and colleagues. Steve Jobs had Wozniak, yet we rarely hear mention of him. Bill Gates had Allan, and again the crickets chirp. Why are we so wrapped up in heralding one person instead of the entire group?
What this has led to are a collection of people who believe they owe nothing to the worlds that raised them. They come to believe in the terrifying notion that people not in their position are not as hard working or not as dedicated. That may be the case in some matters, but often times it’s far from the truth.
Pay it Forward
I strongly believe that we in the industry have an obligation to pay it forward. All the time people have spent investing in us should be given back to the community, whether that be mentoring, connecting, or even helping to pay someones way. Remember it wasn’t long ago that you may well have been in their same position, dazed and confused.
There have been several people in my life that have contributed to me getting to where I am today, and I thank them for investing so much time and effort. I wouldn’t be here if not for them. From the patience of my High School tech teacher, to the hard-nosed Unix professor in College, and to the man who taught me everything I knew starting out when no one else in the area could understand what I was talking about.
If you know such people in your life, open a new tab and thank them. Remember what they’ve done for you, and realize that there are yet more people coming up that could use you in much the same way.
No one starts out a grizzled veteran or proficient programmer, and it’s time we realize this.
The current trend is not sustainable. We look for Seniority when we fail to invest in bringing people to that level. Colleges pump out fresh new programmers to meet a need that we refuse to fill, instead defaulting to creating artificial scarcity. If you’re in DevOps in San Francisco with a Senior level, take a look at your inbox if you don’t believe it. It’s not unusual for me to see 10+ messages a day at a Mid level.
Juniors with 3+ years!?
We set expectations for Junior positions to 3+ years experience, and fail to mention anything of Entry Level. It’s no wonder there can be such a panic on graduation. Meanwhile, there are some extremely clever people flying below the radar because your HR department is hard-nosed on time based experience. By foregoing this, you’re missing out on an extremely passionate demographic of people.
That means being willing to hire a few Juniors instead of insisting on Senior levels. That means being willing to take on College Students to show them the industry, and what to expect.
Stacking the Odds
So what if graduates don’t have your entire stack mastered? Can they learn? Are they willing? Honestly, you should also be asking yourself if you had even half the skills at that stage of life. The answer is most likely no, so why expect it from someone just entering?
By listing so much on a requirement, you may well be scaring off some truly brilliant people with a greater than average amount of modesty, a trait this industry sorely needs more of.
A Final Thought
To put this article as succinctly as possible: Invest in the future, or by the time you get there it won’t be worth anything.