Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

Keeping up with your Kolleagues

I first learnt about Imposter Syndrome at a Women Who Code conference before I started at General Assembly. It wasn’t until I started at General Assembly, learning and working along side other technologists, that I begun to feel that perhaps I wasn’t smart enough for this. Luckily since I have started with DV, my colleagues are all super supportive so I have had to worry less about not being good enough, and more about learning to be better, with their support. That said, there are of course moments where my colleagues are discussing something I haven’t got the first clue about, or I literally don’t know where to start in a coding task. These are my tips for keeping up:

Ask Questions

Be it to them, or Google, or the wider tech community.. My colleagues are actual geniuses, they often casually discuss topics I don’t have the first clue about. Sometimes it’s like they are speaking in another language! But I am very lucky that they are super supportive and very keen to encourage and help and actually I have found that the majority of the tech community is eager to support. I have already learnt so much from the community because I have learnt to question what I don’t understand, as opposed to letting it fly over my head for another day when I still wont understand..

The team works faster if everyone understands, so asking questions to fill in the gaps in your knowledge is in everyone’s best interest. A great example of this presented itself at an Engineering meeting the other day when one of my colleague was talking about “PR” which, given my Marketing background, I understood as “Press Release”. Another colleague, who had been a professional athlete, thought it meant “Personal Record”. In fact, in this context it means “Pull Request”, an important part of saving and reviewing your code. Lucky I asked or goodness knows how long I would have been thinking about the Media impact of our code! Also, because I asked, everyone who hadn’t understood, learnt.

And if you are worried about being the one with all the questions and subsequently holding up progress, you have many options. I Google a LOT. And even then I often find that what I don’t understand is pretty complex to understand by myself. I try to teach myself the bits I do sort of understand and ask my colleagues what I don’t. I have found it is much easier to ask questions if you go in with some knowledge. People are also much willing to help if you show you have put the effort in and aren’t just asking because you cant be bothered to find out for yourself. I try to work out my questions as specifically as I can before I ask.

And if you have no-one to ask, luckily for you the internet is big and the community is generally really helpful. Stack Overflow is a great go-to for specific code questions, and there are many forums and blog sites available to search your broader tech topics. Have a Google and find your favourites.

Continue to learn

You need to be active in your learning. I like to learn by reading and have found blogs really useful. I have learnt that it is best to learn what you are interested in first, so I follow what is going on in the business side of tech through news sites such as TechCrunch and even BBC News. I have alerts set up to email me and notify my iPhone of interesting new stories. I also subscribe to a number of newsletters who write about new technologies and best practices. My favourites are JavaScript Weekly, CSS Tricks and Sidebar. I don’t always read them all but they are great for picking out interesting stories when you have some time.

I also love video seminars, be it on Youtube, or I have also been doing a few Udemy courses of late. I pick the topics that I know I will be using in my work, or else ones that have come up a lot lately that I don’t quite understand.

I attend as many Meetups as I can. They are such an easy way to learn new things. You literally sit in front of passionate and inspiring people, and come out smarter! I love the variety of talks that are on offer. I have learnt about Blockchain, APIs, Software Development and Music, and JS animation, to name but a few. You are exposed to parts of tech you might not yet know about or else you can always pick up new tips on topics more familiar to you. They are great for giving you diversity of knowledge which will be useful to your team and your own career.

Practise

Luckily I am a bit addicted to coding. It’s still a treat to me to build things in my own time and I hope that feeling never goes away! I try to vary my side projects so I can learn as much as possible. I am currently working on a Would You Rather game so I can learn more about how Redux works. I am also keen to understand back end languages better, so I am working on creating a blog site in Ruby on Rails. Practising what you know and pushing yourself to build in the areas and techs that you don’t feel so comfortable in is the best way to learn.

There is also exercism which is a great way to practise a specific tech and you get advice from the community as to how you can improve. Hackathons are also great as you can go and code alongside some really talented people. They are generally so willing to help and support and as you go on in your career, the hope is that you will also be able to support the next generation of developers in the same way.

I hope this breaks down the fear you may have of super smart people. The industry is filled with geniuses, but if you follow these steps, you can get there too! Does anyone else have any other ways that helps them keep up with the industry and their peers?