When you hear the word “impressive” used as a descriptor for someone in the tech industry, what is the bar that you set for that? What immediately comes to mind? Using this word is an incredibly subjective thing when it pertains to a person — especially in our influential industry. Let’s dive into what “impressive” means for us.
Most of us immediately think of the titans. The famous people in tech, the ones who created entire computer languages, space rockets and the original source code for social media networks. We would say they are impressive in their careers, right? Well… I would say they are well known and rather wealthy at this point. Sure, it is something to aim for — but the reality is, they are an anomaly in our industry. While impressive might be one of the adjectives used to describe them, there are many additional ones that could be used.
As I was examining some of the other female speakers in tech at upcoming conferences, I was struck with their impressive nature. In one case, I came across a woman from Poland (who also knows how to take a killer photograph) that is a world-class cyber security expert, Microsoft MVP, runs her own company, and creates security educational material online while constantly learning and churning out more every year. Not to mention was once the highest rated keynote speakers at MS Ignite and continues her speaking tour de force to this day.
This woman impresses me.
From my perspective as a female in tech, yes, but mostly as a PERSON in tech. When I was recently interviewed for a podcast, the hosts paid me the great compliment of stating that they were very impressed with me in this industry. Incredibly flattering, but it gave me pause. Why is that exactly? I have no degree, no certification, don’t run my own company and still have not gotten around to becoming a technical author. What about me is actually worthy of the word “impressive”?
The trick is: This word is not a very good indication of the person’s value in technology. It can vary wildly. Putting this another way:
A young child who can build something outside of their expected age group and averaged skill set is considered… wait for it… impressive.
That made me feel better, if you use this example. I was expected to be at a specific level and rose above that somehow in the eyes of my interviewers. Since I am obsessed with identifying performance patterns in order to replicate them, I have started a personal quest to identify aspects of a developer that makes them impressive in general, to anyone.
This is where I am going to start studying the qualities of the titans, savants, and prodigies to define the algorithm that lifts them up. Outside of self-help books and TED talks, continuous replication of excellence should be something we look at as programmers - and in our own, unique way. I’ll need lots of input for this study, and always welcome outside commentary if you’d care to join me.
To answer the question posed in the title, look at the bar and compare it to where you are objectively. I bet you would find something you could bring to the table that impresses others, and they would tell you so. If not, now is an excellent time to ask yourself: