When looking for conversation a common question that people ask is “What do you do?”. I have two answers. If I’m talking with other developers, I tell them I am a software consultant and then quickly qualify what kind of development I generally do: backend, mac, iOS, and frontend (because you have to). When the person is non-technical, I leave out the qualifying statements.
More and more I’m coming to the opinion that these qualifying statements are a hindrance more than they are helpful.
I was chatting with a friend recently. He’s newer to software development in general and he mostly does frontend work. He’s told me in the past that he wants to build a site using Ruby and Rails. Then one day he came to me and asked me about Python.
Curious as why the sudden change of heart, I asked him why he was asking about Python.
He responded, “I’ve been infatuated with rails for a while but don’t have the guts to actually dive into making something. Not sure why I’m so afraid!”
This was a curious response. What chatted a bit more when the root of the problem surfaced.
“I think that’s where I’m getting terrified since I consider myself a front end developer”
We all look for tribes to join and my friend was no different. He labeled himself and began building his identify as a frontend developer. Embracing this label made the gumption to start learning new techniques and technologies outside of the label almost insurmountable.
I was only a Mac developer until the iPhone. And I was only a Mac/iPhone developer until I needed systems to power these applications.
People like to be surrounded by people that are like themselves. This makes us eager to find a way to label ourselves so we too, can fit in. This is true on both a personal and professional level and is why bankers like other bankers, programmers hang out with other programmers, and married people tend to hang out with other married people.
What we don’t realize is the unsaid danger of believing our own bullshit: these labels can easily engrain themselves as part of your identity and unless you regularly cull the labels you give yourself, they will limit you.
Apply these labels to yourself when they’re to your advantage and when you begin feeling constrained by them, let them go.
As for me, I’m James, and I like to solve problems. Often this involves software.