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Own your story

mercier_remi profile image Rémi Mercier Originally published at remimercier.com ・4 min read

This post is really important for me. It's been on my mind for some time. It's a story about big changes in your life, how you can get lost in the process and finding your way back. Hope you'll like it! 👏


When you put yourself out there - writing a book, shipping a product, making changes in your life -, you get attention. Some of it is enjoyable. Some of it, not so much. Whatever feedback you're getting, it's not easy to keep your head straight.

During the last 15 years, I've worked as a stained-glass maker, an illustrator, a gallerist, a marketer, etc. Needless to say, I've met some incredible people but also had my share of lousy coworkers (and sometimes, being a lousy one myself). So when I started looking for my first job as a developer, I knew I'd be super picky about the team.

I wanted to join a team of people where I could feel vulnerable from time to time, ask stupid questions and open crappy pull requests without being whiplashed by toxic jerks.

During these past four months, I've spoken with twenty companies (give or take). I wanted to get a better understanding of the job market as a developer so I did not shy away from meeting with both likable and unlikeable people. When showing my work, I got a lot of feedback. It made me realize how little I knew, how newbie I was.

Even though I'm comfortable with my increasing ignorance, I eventually became dizzy by the gap between my knowledge and my interlocutors'. Each interview brought its share of technical stuff I didn't know. I had already decided I would keep a list of such things to dig through later. But soon, the list became so long it got me disheartened. Worse, the more I worked my way through these unrelated items, the more my days felt tedious. It was like being at school again. What had been fun with an overarching product tying everything together, soon lost its appeal.

I also got a lot of shit for being a bootcamper. A few comments I heard during interviews:

  • "I thought you'd be able to write this piece of code in 5 minutes top" (it took me 45 minutes 🤷‍♂️).
  • "How come you're not able to explain how this algorithm works".
  • "So you don't know what an Eigenclass is".

I even got lectured for 45 minutes by a lead developer on how bootcampers lack proper CS-knowledge and on how to become a Real Developer™ (tl;dr: read Hackernews).

All these interviews spent being judged and the backlash I experienced eventually brought back fear into my life. Fear of comparison. Fear of not being able to work as a dev. Fear of being a complete fraud. I changed completely in just a couple of months. From bold, I became fearful. And I didn't want to start my dev career like that.

When I started looking for a job, I did interviews wearing the thinnest of social mask. I wore torn jeans, talked about burning out, didn't have a resume, and said 'fuck' a LOT (but I still got to move onto technical tests). Yet, after a few interviews, I realized this behavior was freaking people out so I tried a more conventional approach.

I updated my resume and crammed it with every line of code I could lay my hands on. Problem was, the impostor syndrome had already kicked in. Ever heard of the frog that wanted to be as big as an ox? 👋

What I was saying:

Developped a lead generation infrastructure generating $600,000 ARR. Integrated several marketing CRMs using their APIs: mapped database design to ensure data integrity. Coded opendatainception.io using an open source AngularJS widgets library and external APIs.

IRL:

Generated leads with Hubspot and passed data to Salesforce through the built-in integration. Actually coded opendatainception.io using an open source AngularJS widgets library that's super eay to use and external APIs. Also bored to death by menial tasks, office politics, and too many meetings.

I wanted so much to look like a Real Developer™ that I unconsciously stretched the truth and got smacked for it. Remember those nasty comments I talked about? After reading my resume, people had high expectations because my resume led them to believe I was more experienced. Their disappointment was kinda legitimate.

After taking some time off from job seeking, I talked with Nicolas Zermati about my experience. Nicolas helped me realize I was just pretending to be someone else. I was shutting off my own specificities. So I tried to reconnect with why I'd decided to learn web development in the first place. Getting back to my own story and how I ended up coding Harry, Strike It, and some pretty geeky things felt good.

I love to build stuff. I started my professional life making stained-glass. I build wooden furniture on my balcony whenever I can. I draw. After a few years in marketing, I grew bored with being left out of the product building. That's why I wanted to go back to shipping things.

I also got into tech through the small door: managing communities, designing infographics, customizing Wordpress themes, learning about DB design, coding Javascript shitty programs, etc... I don't hold a CS degree (nor will I ever do). I'll be one of these developers who pushes the "standard rails mess" and don't know how to write a bubble sort on a whiteboard. I'll also be one of these developers who enjoy:

  • building stuff that people use,
  • sharing with others the little they know,
  • and working towards more inclusive and supportive workplaces.

This is my story. Find yours, own it and find companies/clients/people who appreciate it.

Discussion

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Rémi Mercier Author

but what if you actually are that someone else, but still inexperienced to sell that

Ah, good point!

I guess I simply didn't want to become some of the people I was meeting. Those with prestigious CS degrees, monstrous egos and very little regard for the feelings of others. Those who made me feel the worst tbh.

I've also met some wonderful people in the process. People who went out of there way to help me grow technically, personally, etc... People taking a lot of time to show me awesome things in Ruby and Rails. These people, I definitely want to emulate and be that "someone else". 😄