These 5 tech myths need to die in a giant fire
“Everyone is a designer”, Full Stack Developers, and more…
Tech is kind of amazing, as an industry. There are so many different disciplines, so many different types of companies, and so many different types of people.
Because I love tech, I obviously have to rant about it.
I want to discuss some tech myths, unpack them, and point out some ways we can — as techies and companies — rectify them.
Even though I’m attempting a more measured approach, you still need to buckle up, buttercups. It’s always a bumpy ride when I cut my teeth on some fake news and spit out the truth.
Tech Myth #1: Everyone Is a Designer
No, everyone is absolutely not a designer, sorry Daniel Burka.
I know your insanely popular article is extremely dated at this point, but I’ve been meaning to write a response to it for well over a year and I’m just finally getting around to it.
I’ve read this whole article frontways and backways, and sideways and longways, more times than I care to admit. But this particular quote always sticks in my craw:
You can act offended if you want, but the reality is that other people are making design decisions with or without you. Embrace them . They don’t make your job less valuable. They don’t make your job title less meaningful.
When companies and decision makers are emboldened to think they can make magically functional (lie) design decisions without any background in the field at all, they absolutely devalue the work of designers. Absolutely.
I think perhaps that people who say things like this have simply forgotten the days when they’ve sat across from a client who demanded 42 different CTAs on one landing page, or perhaps wanted to use their MS Paint pixel vomit as the basis for a logo.
I think perhaps that people who say things like this are in the unique position to be the actual pain in the ass decision makers.
Therefore they no longer get the immense displeasure of working with individuals on products that will inevitably fail because of poor design / UX / marketing decisions.
Don’t get it twisted: Marketing should absolutely talk to Design, and Sales and Marketing should one million percent work together as a team to meet company KPIs. Product Development needs to talk to literally everybody.
But the problem here is this: What non-designers have to say isn’t always, or even often, relevant or even remotely helpful.
It’s actually my job to help companies to make content for humans, to market to humans, to design for humans, and to persuade people with emotive UI copy for — you guessed it — humans.
Humans that are not like Founder Chadwick and Brenda from Accounting.
Humans that are using the thing Chadwick is trying to build, and Brenda is doing the money-numbers-math for.
If you’ve spent any amount of time in Tech Startup Narnia, you’ll realize that there’s actually a disproportionate amount of decision makers who make company decisions based on their feelings and not on actual data, customer feedback, color theory, or readability (to name a few key points).
I don’t work for those types people — thank God — but they exist. You’d be lying if you said otherwise.
If we flip the myth that “everyone is a designer” and apply it to “everyone is a Founder” or “everyone is a Salesperson” we realize just how much of a flat-out lie this concept is.
How do we combat the “everyone is a designer” myth?
We get teams working together to build the best product humanly possible for users, which is what Daniel Burka says in his closing paragraph.
Of course he says this in the same breath as lamenting that designers should be extending the metaphorical olive branch.
As if we haven’t been trying to do this for years.
I need only point you in the direction of this link to let you know the problem is not very likely our fault, as designers.
Decision makers must, in turn, stop treating designers as disposable and actually value what it is we create.
But that’s not really going to happen if people keep parroting the myth that “everyone is a designer”.
It’ll happen when decision makers realize that the things they are employing people to do are actually complicated.
And just because you made a flyer that one time in Canva, that doesn’t mean you know how UI Design works or why I’m making a button blue and not magenta. Sorry.
Tech Myth #2: The Full Stack Developer Role Gives You A Competitive Edge
I know you think that you’re a full stack developer because you fiddled around in CSS / HTML one time, but it’s patently untrue.
I also know that companies have used this myth to saddle you with a fuckton of work that is rachet-levels of craziness.
Believe me, I know. Because for one terrible year at a Startup, I could’ve been somehow considered a Full Stack everything. And lord knows I absolutely sucked — and still suck — at back-end development.
Before you start crying at me or throw a temper tantrum: Look.
I’m trying to help you here.
If you love building website crap from the ground up, if you love being a “full stack developer” — please, go on with your bad self and do you, boo boo.
But you’re most likely not getting paid to be both a front end dev and a back end dev.
The national average salary for a Senior Front End Developer is $119,487 in United States.
The average salary for a Senior Back End Developer is $131,881 per year in the United States.
The national average salary for a Senior Full Stack Web Developer is $116,529 in United States.
If we do the mathy-maths, we can legit see that you’re not getting an extra $119,487 on top of your senior back end developer salary.
In fact, we can see that you’re making less than your counterparts who focus on one core skill.
The myth here is that you can be equally competent in both fields: I believe this is a flat-out lie. You will inevitably have one skill more suited to your talents.
The other myth here is that having both skills squarely in your wheelhouse will make you more valuable.
Fact: It fucking won’t. Companies are taking advantage of you.
How do we combat the “full stack developer” myth?
Stop. Just stop. Don’t give out all the goodies. Stop pandering to “bad actor” companies. Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop. Stop.
I cannot even understand why someone would take on two difficult professions — by choice — and act like it’s a good thing.
I’ve been trying to run away from my “jack of all trades” capacities and specialize for the entire past year. It feels impossible.
If you’re at the start of your journey, keep your dual capacities in your back pocket, and try like your fucking life depends on it to specialize — please, for the love of God.
Stop. Letting. Companies. Take. Advantage. Of. You.
Tech Myth #3: LinkedIn Influencers / Gurus Are People Who Know What They’re Doing
You are not a LinkedIn Guru if you call yourself a LinkedIn Guru.
You are not a LinkedIn Guru if you purport to be able to exponentially drive conversions for personal LinkedIn accounts (not company pages).
Miss me with that narcissistic shit right now.
Why do I say this with such exactitude? Because you can’t name yourself an Influencer — you must be named as such.
I also say this because it’s patently false to claim you even have the data on driving conversions on LinkedIn for non-company accounts outside of Google UTM link tracking, or URL shorteners like Bitly and Rebrandly.
Because LinkedIn downed their outside dev capacities in 2015, and there are no actual analytics dashboards for non-company pages.
Fact: There is no RESTful API for personal accounts.
What does this mean? It means that those of you who promise x% ROE / ROI for people who want to be “”Thought Leaders”” are mostly full of crap.
If you click this, this is the screen you actually get:
I share anecdotes, screenshots, and cite testimonials, because that’s the best I can do.
Actually, that’s the best anyone who employs a service to help people reach more users on LinkedIn through content marketing and “Influencer” programs can do.
The capacity for hyper-granular data just isn’t there.
Please stop lying about this.
How do we combat the “LinkedIn Influencer” myth?
Not all of this myth is indeed mythological. Some people on the platform rightly deserve to wield the title, but it’s far less than those who self-prescribe the moniker.
The only way to step around this is to become educated on the fact that most of the data surrounding LinkedIn Influencer ROE / ROI is soft data. As in, not easily quantifiable but functionally estimable.
Another way to sidestep the snake-oil salesmen is to talk to the Influencer / consultant you are looking to work with, and really dig into their expertise.
One final way to avoid this pitfall is to look for people who have company-page-specific data, because that is indeed quantifiable.
I am telling you all this as someone who bills clients for LinkedIn Influencer services, and I am telling you that most people who say they can bring your personal brand exposure are flat-out lying to you.
The best I can do is consult for you, and employ my tactics. It’d be a lie to say anything else.
Tech Myth #4: Women aren’t as good at programming, because something something ovaries.
I hope this cel from Akira drives the point home about how pissed this makes me. Fun fact: me being angry doesn’t invalidate my stance. Rhetoric better, techbros.
Remember that completely wonkadiddle Google Manifesto scribbled up by butthurt ex-Googler James Damore? Yeah, his understanding of Evolutionary Science, Biology, History, and well — life — is super suspect.
Yet I see this parroted often on Medium, Reddit, Facebook, Quora, LinkedIn, Twitter, to this very day.
You know, any place on the internet where bros congregate and have very professional opinions about everything, especially if they have no idea what they’re talking about!
Wew! Big Mood!
This response to a Quora question by Susan Sadedin (Ph.D.(Evolutionary biology); BA(Psych); BSc (Hons; Zoology)) does a better job explaining why the Google Manifesto’s stances are complete horseshit than I ever could.
I’m not going to one-for-one rehash her entire dismantling of the concept that women aren’t in STEM / worse at programming for blah blah nonsense reasons, but here’s a quote:
There’s zero evidence that suggests women should make worse programmers.
And here’s a bit of data on how diverse companies do far better than ones that aren’t, well, diverse:
Inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time.
Teams that follow an inclusive process make decisions 2X faster with 1/2 the meetings.
Decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60% better results.
How do we combat the “women in tech / programming / STEM word vomit bias bullshit” myth?
Ask people to do research and actually read data and come to logical conclusions and not skew data to cover up their misogyny!
That’s a lot harder than it sounds, but you can start doing this right now by just saving this link and whipping it out whenever someone starts spewing bullshit.
If you’re one of the people that somehow thinks any of this thinly veiled misogynistic crap holds any merit at all, go read some more articles, studies, books, and watch some Youtube videos!
You know, by people who don’t pander to your anti-women, anti-minority, anti-people-not-like-you demographic!
Like ContraPoints — she’s wicked smart. Wew!
Tech Myth #5: Self-made Heroes
Did you know that Elon Musk’s brain-baby Tesla is actually funded by public sector gains and political support? No?
In 2010, the company reached a loan agreement with the Department of Energy worth $465 million.
Now you do!
Did you know that your favorite acrid hustler Gary Vaynerchuk actually had a very powerful building block to leap off of to build up his insanely successful career?
Vaynerchuk’s family ran a $3 million a year wine business. Gary Vee grabbed this traditional 20th century business and catapulted it into the 21st century, creating Wine Library and turning it into a $60 million biz.
Now you do!
Did you know that Kylie Jenner is not at all a self-made millionaire?
I struggled for a minute with finding something to do on my own,” Jenner says. With her mother’s guidance, she started making seven figures as a model, notching endorsement deals with British retailer Topshop and Sinful Colors nail polish, among others.
Now you do!
The myth of the self-made Übermensch is exactly that — a myth.
Everyone who reaches insane success has some kind of help along the way. That’s not to discredit Elon for being a genius, Gary for hustling like a motherfucker, or Kylie for taking the reigns and steering her career — certainly not.
But let’s actually call a spade a spade here: your heroes had and have more help than you’re giving them credit.
Many people go on to reach success thanks to internships, the hard work of their parents, their connections, their inherent privilege, and being in the right place at the right time.
By supporting this myth that our heroes somehow moved mountains without any of those factors aiding them, is bogus.
The fact of the matter is that some people start the game of life way further back than others.
And some of them start the game of life in a fucking attack helicopter halfway through the race, just plopped there by fate.
How do we combat the “self made heroes” myth?
We show people just how much work it takes to get to the top, and remain realistic and humble with the fact that we’ve been given certain advantages over others.
That’s the crux of it. Peddling the myth that you did it all by yourself with no help ever is “magical capitalist privilege hindsight” at its finest.
No one works solely in a vacuum or silo. The best way to get around this myth is to start talking hard work, truth, and express gratitude for what successes you’ve been given.
The sooner we dismantle this idea, the better.
I am personally sick of reading LinkedIn posts about Übermensch and how everyone can succeed because something something bootstraps.
By spreading these tech myths like the herpes of craft stores (glitter) we are complicit in the detrimental effects they create.
I hope I’ve given you some things to think about in terms of Tech Life, the industry as a whole, and what you can do to combat the actual “fake news” the tech industry seems hell-bent on proliferating.
If you want to disagree with me that’s fine and dandy, but like always, I expect sources and I expect you to actually argue your point with some level of finesse.
Now I’m going to turn it over to you, lovely readers:
What are some other harmful tech myths you see swimming around the Internets, and how do we fight against them?
You can also join her on Discord like the giant nerd you are — windows95toasteroven#3745
Special thanks to Renato P. dos Santos for his continued support.