Recently I moved to San Francisco. My wonderfully talented girlfriend got a job at Apple and since my company was flexible enough to allow me to work remotely, we picked up and flew off to beautiful San Francisco from Houston. Being a developer, this was not only an exciting step for our relationship in moving and experiencing a brand new city together, it was an exciting step for me personally, as my career was sure to benefit just be virtue of being in the presence of the tech environment within the Bay Area.
Now on to my story!
Earlier this week my boss messaged me a link and said "hey you should try and go to this meetup." I checked out the link and it was to a meetup at GitHub to discuss how companies can help sustain open-source software.
When I opened it up I thought "WOW my first meetup and its going to be at GitHub!? sign me up!!!". I've only contributed once to open source so far in my one year and seven months of being a developer. The main reason being that I doubt my own skills as a developer when compared to the other folks I imagined attending, and to be honest that was just plain intimidating. The one contribution I did make was a documentation correction for this repo. Nevertheless I was excited to get out of the house and start plugging myself into the tech community here.
The day of the meetup I show up to GitHub headquarters a half hour early. I'm an anxious person and I've made a career out of being painfully early to all professional events and functions.
Upon arrival, I was immediately blown away and overwhelmed with what I walked into. GitHub HQ might be the coolest building I have ever entered to date. The interior is like an industrial loft - high ceilings, exposed wood, beams, half walls with tube lights and just all over amazing-ness. See for yourself here (no affiliation - I just wanted to provide you the visual aid).
Once the excitement of the interior wore off, I was suddenly filled with dread and thoughts of "I do not belong here", "I will never be good enough", and "there is no way I could pass an interview and be able to work in a place like this." Even though I told myself this kind of knee-jerk intimidation was very normal, it was hard to shake all the same. I graduated college with a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration and an overall 2.5 GPA. After great effort and no small amount of money I joined a coding boot camp (at a time when they are a dime a dozen) and somehow landed a job as a C# developer afterward. Most days I feel like I 'Object Dot' intellisense through my work day.
At the meetup itself, there was a conference area set up with chairs in a circle (inner monologue: "oh god we are going to have to introduce our selves and say a fun fact"). I made my way to the chairs, took a seat, and surprise... we have to introduce ourselves and say why we were attending the meetup. As introductions went around, I found myself in a circle with the heads of open source for Twitter, Indeed, and Airbnb, as well as a GitHub product manager and a few other devs from all of the aforementioned tech giants. The meetup began, and lots of great ideas about how companies can better support open source products and how they can encourage their own employees to contribute started flowing. The next two hours were full of lively discussion from all attendees on the ethics, challenges, and next steps for each company in how better to promote collaboration on open-source projects.
All too soon, the meeting was over and everyone was standing up to spend the last hour to networking chit-chat while making use of GitHub's self-service open bar. Being the shy person I am, I was already calling my Lyft and heading to the door. But as I waited, I made eye contact with the head of open source at Indeed as he was walking to the bar, and we give each other a nod. He got himself a drink and started walking back to the group when he suddenly turned around and came up to me, extending his hand. "Hey man, thanks for coming out. What was your name again?" I introduced myself and thanked him for his insights during the meetup. He was incredibly warm and friendly and replied "well thanks for coming out man, I hope to see you at one of these again."
That moment of acknowledgement and warmth helped so much. It didn't solve my problem nor magic away the self-doubt - but it helped. It let me know that I was welcomed here as I was. One of the most important things said at the meetup I believe was this: open source isn't about the code. It's about the communities that develop around the code, and the people that enjoy them. (Reminds me of a certain site I know of.)
This post isn't a how-to on solving your insecurity or impostor syndrome in a dev role - if anything, it's a stream of consciousness from a new dev trying to let others know that there is someone out there who might feel the same as they do. I'll continue to learn and become a better developer and maybe one day I'll be my own head of open source, sharing my experiences and thoughts with another nervous and new developer.
Written by Damien Breaux - I write code, pretend to blog, and watch too much YouTube
Damien Breaux © 2021