Questioning "The Man"

Kim Arnett  on July 31, 2017

Once upon a time, there was a junior developer, Alex, who was fresh out of college. Alex's new team was full of people with multiple years of exper... [Read Full]
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I remember a few distinct instances early on in my dev career where I mentioned what technology I was working in and somebody scoffed at me, telling me I was in a fad space. The thing is, in each of those instances, the people who said that were working in massively declining spaces and were extremely ignorant. At the time I sensed this, so I didn't let it get to me, but in hindsight I see it even clearer.

There's nothing wrong with being in those "declining" fields, because tech has really long tails, but only total ignoramuses dump their insecurities about the decline on newbies like I was. People with a bit more self-awareness and compassion give those default "You're an X developer, that is such a fad!"

It's perfectly fine to think a technology is a fad, but there are constructive ways to express this. The people who unilaterally dismiss trends are massively over-simplifying the discussion and being buttheads in the process.


I love this. You make really important points. One habit that I've learned from having two older brothers, is to be religious about listening and absorbing others' opinions, but always take everything with a grain of salt. In other words, question everything because every other human is only going to have a small sample size of experience to pull from. This point was reinforced by Dale Carnegie in one of my favorite books "How to Win Friends and Influence People", in which he offered the following quote:

"If there is any secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from that person's angle, as well as your own." - Henry Ford

EXACTLY. Perfectly worded.

That book is on my reading list :) And bonus points for the Henry Ford quote - as a fellow Michigander & someone who shares his birth day! (There's some useful knowledge my brains held onto, ha!)


Whoa! You are too lucky. I wouldn't mind even a tenth of his brain, not to mention his birthday.

I cannot stress enough how important that book is for anyone in any job. It will help you to think of things that you already know, but have never really thought about (if that makes any sense).

I would buy the whole world that book if they'd read it. I digress, great article Kim! Glad I got to read it.


Regarding "Alex's" realization, here is an excellent talk by Dan North. Particularly the section on the "phases" of being a developer (called Dreyfus Squared). I would say that it could apply to any field really.

Essentially, we all more or less follow rules at first because they are the only guide posts we can see without the backdrop of experience. Somebody said use a pattern so I used it, even though it wasn't a fit. Experience brings with it a certain "compiled"-as-in-code knowledge -- or intuition if you will -- about the best patterns to use in a given situation.

That's why you can't really fret those mistakes. You and I will make them but it is a necessary part of learning and advancing a skill.


Sure thing, I guess I'm really just encouraging junior devs to question things more and figure out if there's a reason (x) is being implemented this way, or if it's because lots always been that way. I know it would have helped me out a lot sooner to poke my head up every once in a while. 😊

But completely true, our experiences only make us better 👍🏻


Oh absolutely. When I typed my reply, I think I skipped the step linking what I said with my agreement of your post. :) Definitely question the cargo cult. If you don't know why "this is the way we do things", question it and try something different. Even if there was a valid reason for using some awkward pattern/process, it obviously wasn't documented and that gives you a chance to rediscover it and propagate that knowledge. But best case, there was no valid reason and coding life improves. :)


Great post! Fresh eyes and perspectives should be appreciated, not shut down by senior devs. The trend I see with junior devs is not speaking up out of fear of sounding dumb. But a simple "why" question is such a powerful thing.

The tech field is constantly changing, and you won't last long without a healthy curiosity of new technologies. One of my blog entries talks about my strategy for attempting to keep an eye on current trends. See tip 4:

Keep writing! Really enjoy your posts! 😊


Exactly! I know that was me, I didn't want to be painted for a fraud, but instead did myself no favors because I really didn't understand why I was building things a certain way.

And thank you!!


As a more experienced developer on my team, I have recently started to ask new hires and interns what struggles they encountered, what they dislike about the current system and team and what they wish things could be. This gives them a voice and an opportunity to question why we do things. For us, who have been here longer, we gain new insight into things that we probably take for granted. Thank you for a wonderful post Kim.


As you increase your knowledge, you learn where the "fads" will actually settle. (Not that you can't be surprised, and you should definitely make sure your assumptions pan out.) I ran into this recently when I was writing up a blurb about a site I'd just converted to Vue. Sure, it worked great for that application, but I could think of several areas where a SPA isn't the right fit.

You hit on the biggest tech issue most people don't consciously realize - we work in an ever-changing field, and there's never really a point where you've "got it" and can stop learning. I started my career as a COBOL programmer - and, yes, 3 days ago, pushed my first Vue app into production. The only way you can coast is downhill. :)



There's a lot of mainframe developers that are currently out of a job because they refused to look ahead. (I'm not trying to be a jerk here, it's easy to do..especially when you love something, to become so engrossed in it that you didn't realize everyone has moved on.)

Maybe things changed in the last five years but this affirmation sounds very unlikely to me. As far as I know, mainframe developers are quite rare and in high demand, having stable and well-paid positions. In fact, one of the reasons to move out of mainframes is the labor cost!

Sectors such as government, banking and telco have a large infrastructure still based on these machines. Anyway, these platforms did not stagnate — see this new IBM machines for example). Nor are there an exclusive choice: in practice, these systems tend to interact with newer technologies. My bank Android app, for example, consumes data that come from mainframes through many gateways. Or see this amazing story of integrating some old systems with new tech.

It may be curious to us, but yes, this market is very much alive.


I’m not saying they don’t exist, I’m saying jobs are harder to come by with IaaS now. Many people lost their jobs because of it.

None the less, this is irrelevant to the point of the article. I was using it as an example of what can happen if you aren’t looking ahead every now and then. These jobs used to be everywhere, but the sheer volume is decreasing.


The fads don't really disapepar, they just kind of keep evolving into something new. You need to be willing to keep changing technologies when you try something new. Not necessarily on one project, but each time you switch projects you need to upgrade you fad.


"upgrade your fad".. Man I really missed the mark on a great article title :D

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