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Make your own path

Aug 19, 2021
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At the beginning of your career, following your own path can be more important than you think, especially if you tend to reflect on other people's experiences.

We are humans, we are all different. And you are the one that knows you the most, so you are capable of making your own decisions.

Being successful is subjective and can have multiple meanings, depending on the person.

Looking for guidance and advice is part of the game, but shaping them into decisions will always be on you.

But why and how did we get there? why are we even discussing these topics?

I will try to describe the reasons and some personal learnings.

Taking your first steps

First things first, let's talk about this emerging topic, that you might find familiar, called imposter syndrome. I don't think this is new, we are just experiencing people opening up way more than before.

This is about the perception that you don’t belong, feeling like you don't measure up. Where looking at others makes you feel less valuable and that you will never know enough.

I am not even close to being a doctor, and whether you consider this a real syndrome or not, in my experience it is a feeling that comes and goes depending on the environment or context that surrounds you.

I somehow relate this feeling to the lack of confidence, when you expose yourself out there making comparisons with everyone around you. And I believe, at a low level, it is somehow expected to feel this way at the beginning of your career when making the first steps.

Personally, I see this connected to social media as well as it is a method that devs use to promote their content, and for sure not all of them share their struggles openly which can make the readers feel weaker or less knowledgeable.

But we have to understand creating content as part of their job, and not because people are going that way we have to follow them along. And the same can be said about having a portfolio, a blog.

Side note: big shout out to all content creators! sometimes dedicating their spare time to make content accessible to different communities.

I guess we are all aware of this, but the IT world can be quite demanding if you don’t take care of yourself. Occasionally inviting devs to take programming as a hobby in order to keep it up with the market trends.

I now tend to care less about people judging me, without even having a clue about who am I. Only judging based on my online presence, or the way I invest my free time.

It is also something that comes with aging, or at least it did for me.

Most probably, we have to accept the fact that we can't know it all, at least getting to know that was a game-changer for me, gave me peace of mind and motivation to continue following MY OWN PATH and nobody else's road.

But just because it is my way, doesn't mean that I don't listen or look for advice, guidance, and support.

You gotta enjoy the discovery and the rediscovery of new things, the more you know about the field the easier it gets to get close to what you enjoy, and it is also about finding your own challenges.

Time will never be the measure that defines your seniority, we all have our own phases and ways of learning.

For instance, at the time I was finishing my bachelor's degree I started to work as a JD Edwards consultant, and due to my interest in user interfaces, I transitioned to Frontend development, and now moving towards a management position because I am somehow discovering other areas of interest.

The point that I am trying to make here is that, just because it helped me to get there, doesn't mean it is the one and only way to become a frontend developer.

It is because of that reason that I don't tend to like articles that far from being a storytelling or sharing experiences, try to convince you (impose) what based on their knowledge is the best way to organize yourself, the path that you must follow, the methodology that you must use, the tools you must install, etc etc.

Worth mentioning how important it is to be careful when sharing opinions. Despite the advice, it's essential that you keep it personal, and don't convert it into a statement.

"I personally prefer A over B" comparing to "B is better than A".

Have you spotted the difference? No matter how trivial it sounds, to someone who is looking for support these details matter.

I can always share my learnings, but that’s my own experience, I suggest you create your own.

The same goes when looking for a new job, you might get thousands of reviews about companies, but in the end, it all boils down to what makes YOU feel good.

Society always pushes you to go the extra mile, which I don’t fully agree and its side effects could be worse than the initial objective, stressing you out pushing you to the limit.

That shouldn't be a way to look for promotions!

If you reading this and starting on this lovely field, be careful. Always take the advice from whom they are coming from.

Social media has a crucial role in this story, the stereotypes affect us so that I see junior developers struggling a lot, which is exactly one of the main reasons why I joined some devs communities, to help them lose that fear and demystify the software world as much as I can.

And to close up this topic, the other day I ran through this tweet that can help us analyze the imposter syndrome from another angle.

Learn to say no, and let something go

I always envy those who are able to say no to something so peacefully. Never understood why it was so hard for me to do so without feeling guilty.

At some point in my career learning to decline things or to say no, became something crucial. Not only because I wasn't spending time on things that I didn't feel motivated to do, but because I was fully focusing on things that did.

About saying no, a Product Manager at my current job once taught me:

It is not important to what we say no, but to what we say yes.

And that, honestly, is going to be inside my head forever. Because it was an easy way to convince my mind that I was doing it for good.

There are times when it is necessary to leave something behind, learn to say no, and be "selfish", as in focus on your own goals.

Don't be the friend that says yes to everything, I am now part of a dev community, and although sometimes I find it hard to say no, it is necessary for me to say no, so I can focus on the things I am already committed to.

Being a people pleaser can really go against you, preventing you to have some free time to focus on your own goals, plus the fact you just can't make everybody happy.

If saying no means you are taking some time off, do it! Your free time matters! holidays and breaks are necessary, don't ever underestimate the need for them.

Funny enough, a few years back, I used to watch every tv show till the very end even if I didn't like them, but with time I learn to stop doing that and prioritize my free time to do things that I enjoy. And the fact that I was stopping means that I was saying no to something. As silly as it sounds it felt like I was investing my time (most important currency) in a better way.

And I believe we can link that to work opportunities, there are times that it is difficult to leave a place where you feel comfortable and take the courage to try something new. To say no to an opportunity that everybody is expecting you to take.

I am not referring only to positions and roles, but also technical decisions you take.

As a frontend developer, the best example I can give is about dropping support to old browsers. Let's imagine that the percentage of users using those browsers is quite low, and as we know supporting that is quite complex and time-consuming.

And just by dropping it, you are not only saying no to that low percentage of your users but improving the experience of the rest, as you are dedicating the time and focus towards what the majority of the users are using.

Pick your own battles

Moreover, there might be cases where you feel that you have contributed too much to something, and it is hard to put that aside and start chasing new challenges from scratch.

Decisions! But the point here is to avoid the feeling of “I should have left this place before” or “I think that I stayed there for more than I should have”. Having regrets sucks!

"I have no time for that", only means your prioritization work in a different way and you are just putting things on top of what you are considering more beneficial or important, pick your own battles!

Career roadmaps and developers' paths, that sometimes companies use to measure success are not more than a baseline, but they should always be taken with a grain of salt. Fair enough, It is not more than THEIR way and most probably shaped to what the company needs.

Mind the burnouts

The first clarification is that burnouts are not a badge of honor, if this ever happens to you, it only means that something is burning inside, that needs to be cool down, and it can evolve to other physical impacts as well.

There are signs that can show you that you are getting demotivated before you get to the point of saying “I'm done”.

If most of the people at work are taking well-being programs, not matter if they are coming from the company itself, it might already be a red flag. Ideally, if the work environment is good, we won't have the need for that.

Don't get confused when a company just offers that as a resource. For instance, I had the chance to attend a webinar about managing uncertainties, but it was fully related to how the pandemic and the remote work were affecting us.

Are burnouts getting more common? is the awareness helping? or are we still afraid to share our feelings?

I tend to believe companies and places of work are starting to put the focus on these topics more often.

Feeling burnout is tough, I have felt this way previously, and trust me, it's bad! In my case it was related to the workload, back then I was taking up a lot of things outside my full-time job, saying yes to every invite to side projects until the point my mind was crushed.

I felt forced to take time off, and after some time I was feeling motivated to work again, and since that moment I have fortunately learned how to take care of myself.

But there's no need to get to that point! We must learn how to prevent this and listen to the warnings.

For me what is crucial to learn regarding this aspect is to prevent instead of being reactive when something happens.

Keep in mind this is purely personal, so things that affected me can mean nothing to you, and vice-versa.

My two favorites questions that I like to ask myself are how my work/life balance is, in the sense of do I still have time to do things that I like outside working hours without feeling stressed? and, the last one is about how do I feel on Sunday nights? am I motivated to start a new work week or am I already putting myself down because tomorrow I have to go to work?

Based on my experience other things that I can relate to feeling demotivated are, working on things that I don't feel proud of, toxicity at work, not an inclusive environment, working long hours, wearing multiple hats context switching all the time, bad managers, excessive competitive working culture, super hierarchical organizations, among others.

Most important, don't overthink it, don't be so hard on yourself. In most cases, the only person that might be thinking that you are under-performing is you.

We ALL have our personal challenges and we all like to put the spotlight on our shoulders.

In summary, I try not to look spoiled, life is hard for everybody. But if we keep hiding our feelings internally we will never be able to overcome our fears. So here I am, sharing my experiences still doubting and thinking what others might think about this.

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