I did a really cool thing last weekend.
I don’t usually sign up for workshops or gatherings or meet-ups or things like this. I get kind of anxious going by myself and I turn into the weird wallflowery person with a juice in their hands. The fact that Jane was with me was great. I was thinking we could at least hold the juices in our hands together and talk about knitting instead, if it didn’t work out.
Held in the lunch room at the Hootsuite offices in Vancouver, the workshop started out in a very casual way. Meredith, who I had assumed was the organizer, flashed us a bright smile, swung the door open and in we went, out of the rainy weather and into a toasty room that totally looked like Yogi Bear’s house but with beer taps.
There were no forced name-tags, no registration bars to scan, or any type of weird, “What are you doing here?” sort of situations. Thank God. People just walked in and set up shop. Just the way I liked my gatherings. I fucking hate small talk. I hate when people ask me what’s up or how my weekend went. Anyway, let’s not get into that.
I know Ben had been ready to punch me in the mouth for the way I’d been going about this, but there had just been this inexplicable force of resistance on my part to get things going.
The cool thing was that for me, it all kind of came together on this day. It was like Ben actually came up out of nowhere and physically punched me in the mouth. (He didn’t.)
It was around the time Angelina was sharing her experiences about being a lady-programmer that it hit me.
She spoke about how she had turned down her first opportunity to lead a lecture about it because she instinctively felt like she wasn’t good enough.
I kind of sat there, holding a wonderful curried chicken wrap in my hands (instead of a juice), and let that story sink in. It definitely resonated with me. It wasn’t about being humble or not knowing what to do, really, but essentially, I came to realize that I couldn’t get started mainly because I felt exactly the same way.
When I work with Ben, it just always looked like magic to me. I would mention something that was broken, and I’d try to fix it, but would ultimately end up spinning my wheels. But when Ben would deal with it, it almost always usually gets fixed in a day. One time he fixed a bug in the time it took me to get a glass of water.
Of course B-ballz would be gracious about it, and he has taken great (great) pains to teach and mentor me. And I am definitely not saying that he is the reason I was so dumb about it, but I guess it’s just difficult to not be intimidated in this kind of situation.
What changed for me during this workshop was the context of my own experience. I honestly thought that I was going into a workshop with zero knowledge, just like everyone else.
But as soon as Angelina started talking through the slides and discussing basic things like variables and while loops, I found myself looking around and seeing that… erm, I kind of know this shit, too.
The code presented to us was of course a hundred times simpler than what I would see in our Butterpool apps, but as Angelina walked us through it, I found the basic patterns and principles behind it.
It was like looking at a really big complicated robot machine powered by a Flux-Capacitor that writes out your grocery lists automatically for you and realizing that you can achieve the same results by using a pencil and paper.
The workshop had me building from the bottom up.
Are you following me?
And so as the day went on, I found myself talking through things with Jane. The quick exercises proved very useful to both of us because on one end Jane was getting a great intro from Angelina, and on the other, I was gaining an opportunity to test myself in talking it out with her.
It felt like I was putting polyfill into these odd cracks and crevices in my brain, and smoothing it out with a spackle knife. It was empowering.
I guess I just didn’t realize how much I knew until a bigger and more complete picture was laid out before me.
It’s like that story about a bunch of blind guys touching an elephant and talking about trees and horns and shit. I was one of the blind guys, and I think I just had my hand in the elephant’s balls the whole time thinking it was a jaguar’s mouth, afraid that it would bite me if I moved.
Just like my past weirdness about people trusting my skills, I think I had another set of issues about my own confidence in them.
Mainly because I’ve come across web development from a self-taught angle, rather than “having gone to school for it”, I think I just got used to thinking that I was a little bit less talented than those with actual formal training, or people who have been coding websites since they were nine years old. It’s also quite a big thing to be working in a vacuum for so long, and not really knowing your place within an industry.
With design shit, I feel fine. I recognize my peers and colleagues, and I know what they’re up to because I grew out of the same seeds of community. I may not necessarily know who the director of Burnkit is, and I may make a total ass out of myself in front of him and his ladyfriend during a birthday BBQ in a park. But I like to think that I can hold my own with fellow designers.
When it comes to web development, though, it’s completely different for me. I don’t have the same connections or the same experiences with people who I should consider my peers. Because I have no fucking clue who they are.
But now, armed with this knowledge and a new perspective, I’m pretty keen on changing that.
It goes back to my wallflowery personality, for sure. But if anything, I’m just glad that I was able to attend something like Ladies Learning Code. I feel like I got way more out of it that I expected. Jane even suggested that I try and be one of the mentors for the next event. We’ll see if I can gather up the courage for that…