Remember that feeling you get on the first day of school? Or the empty pit that forms in your stomach each time you have to speak publicly? It’s crazy that no matter how many times you do something, the fear never really goes away. As I near the finish line of this program at OSU I have a similar feeling. Each time I crack open a new programming assignment I get the same knot in my stomach. Whether it’s fear of the unknown, fear of struggling to learn, fear of letting down my teammates, or worse – letting down myself. These are all pressures I internalize because at the end of the day, I want to impress myself and others in order to feel accepted. Feel smart. Feel some sense of accomplishment.
The dreaded learning curve
In software engineering you can be both a beginner and an expert simultaneously. Weird, right? It’s as if our confidence is always at war with itself; internally tearing us apart. I feel that way in a lot of group assignments and this Capstone project is no different. Our team decided to use a HTML + Bootstrap frontend with Django backend and Heroku database. When I hear words like PostgreSQL for the first time it’s extremely intimidating…even though I have a lot of experience with MySQL! I start to feel like I’ll be the weakest link because I’m not hip to the lingo and I don’t have massive amounts of experience with this tech stack.
But I suppose that’s the world of software engineering. Part of succeeding in this role relies on the ability to dive into the unknown. To identify our weaknesses and work on them. To approach work with the mindset of, “I don’t know what that is but I’m excited to learn.” Technology advances at such a rapid pace it’s impossible for any one person to be an expert at everything. So if I wouldn’t shame Bill Gates for not already knowing something, why do I shame myself?
Knowledge -> Comprehension -> Application
Going back to my first point about having a knot in my throat whenever I’m faced with something new. The truth is, I crumble under the weight of my own expectations. Nobody on my team is expecting me to be an expert. In fact, one teammate sent us materials on how to get started with Django knowing it’s new territory for the rest of us. Help is always out there if we’re willing to ask for it and accept it.
Ultimately, what I have to do is give myself permission to fail. Because I will no doubt get it wrong several times. Yet through the tears, the anxiety, and the discomfort that naturally comes with learning, I’ll come out of this course proud of my work and happy to have a new skill.