This is a topic I’ve struggled with quite a bit.
Let’s backtrack a bit.
I went to networking event last night, organized by Women Who Code [Portland]. The last time I was at a Women Who Code event, I became so inspired and so fired up about the tech industry that a few months later, I had landed my very own job in it.
Fast forward to two years later. A similar event on a similar kind of night, and I’m struggling to ignite that same mission-centric, life-purpose-fulfilling fire.
Is it because I’ve become desensitized to the “disruptive” mission statements that are so commonplace in the tech industry these days? Have I heard one too many proclamations of “making the world a better place” through innovative product design? Have I just become hardened about the workplace with age, and with more varied work experience? Or does this mean that I’m not meant to be coding?
As hard as I try not to, I always compare myself to my boyfriend, who is a fervent, hyper-competent, self-taught full stack developer. He lives, breathes, and eats code (lol). He reads up on different programming paradigms in his free time for funsies. He lives on the programming sub-reddit, and actively participates in that community. When he talks about the ultimate magic and beauty of the development community, about the importance of making tools and systems and building software that can help thousands upon millions of people, his eyes light up in a way that’s reserved solely for this facet of his life. It’s adorable, endearing, and inspiring to witness someone speak so passionately about the very essence of what they do on a day-to-day basis.
And it’s also extremely intimidating.
We live in an age where, for many, the purported end goal of one’s career should be to “find your passion, and do it for a living.” You’ll never work a day in your life, they say.
Now, I believe there are a lot of positive consequences that arise because of this theory. I think it’s caused many in my generation to refuse to be complacent with their work situations, and believe it has livened up the job market as a result. Gone are the days of working at the same company for 30 years, hoping you’ll get that promotion soon (unless that’s what makes you happy!!). It is very much a privilege that we even have the option of selecting our careers (in many cases) based on “passion.” But I also think it can be debilitating if it becomes your sole credo.
Because, for instance, take my case…well, if this isn’t what fires me up to my very core, then I shouldn’t pursue it, should I? Am I perhaps missing the chance to discover my true passion elsewhere? If I don’t eat sleep breathe coding with every fiber of my being like I see in the example sleeping next to me, does that mean that I shouldn’t participate?
Personally in this moment in time, I find myself in a position where I can transition from customer service to a bona fied junior-ass data engineer within my own company! It’s an opportunity of a lifetime–I would be changing career paths to something more lucrative and more mentally engaging than what I currently do, and I would be learning an invaluable and hugely marketable skill that can launch my career in many different directions…(right?). I’m definitely excited about it.
Still, much to my chagrin, it’s something that I couldn’t get my significant other to get too excited over. Now, to be fair, he was trying to act as a mirror for my own desires and aspirations, and he could sense that data and scripting were not what “lit my eyes up”. He found his “passion”, and he wants nothing less than that same career fulfillment for his lady. And, he’s right–data is sure as hell not what gets me jumping out of bed in the morning.
But if I don’t even know what makes me feel alive, then what am I supposed to do?Should I pass up a learning opportunity like this, if it might deter me from ultimately finding the “right” career?
Well, you bet your ass I’m not passing this up.
Anyway–back to last night. All of those insecurities and doubts had a resurgence, on Women Who Code night, of all nights! This was supposed to be the event that motivates the shit out of me, much like it did 2 years ago! Why am I feeling so blasé about it?
Well, ok, that’s not entirely correct. I know that a lot of the panelists’ roles were backend heavy, and were perhaps more traditional CS careers. From what I understand, the tech industry is so much more varied these days, so even if I don’t choose to be a full-on developer (or even if I do!), I’m sure that I can find a place within it. Yes, even as a not-so-passionate-about-programming-languages-but-still-competent-and-interested-in-other-related-things. Tech is inevitably the future, and everything from software to fashion to food will have a place in it for those who speak the language.
The panel ended with a strong message of encouragement to advocate for yourself, and, in classic Nike-worshiping Portland fashion, to “Just Do It.” So, even if I didn’t find my life’s mission last night, I did leave with a profound sense of motivation to keep trying, and a resounding, “fuck it, let’s see where this goes.”
Even if I don’t get giddy when thinking of algorithms or want to talk for hours about functional programming.
Even if I don’t stay up late into the night reading about the intricacies of different programming paradigms.
Even if all I end up learning is how to make a rinky-dink website a-la early 2000s.
Fuck it. Let’s see where this goes.