Stop Lying About the Technologies You Know
The truth really will set you free.
A good friend and mentor of mine half-jokes that everyone in tech in Columbus starts out at either JPMorgan Chase or Nationwide Insurance. I started out as a contractor at Nationwide, much like he did. I have lost count of how many jobs I have had in my life, but I remember the process of getting into that one. I was staying at my grandma’s out in Colorado in the year-long unemployment period many have right out of college. I had evaded the constant doubting and nagging of “why aren’t you getting your Ph.D. in neuroscience”? But after a computational neuroscience class in college where I did “baby’s first C” in Matlab (as my professor called it), it was all over. I wanted to code. Or as I later learned, just use advanced technology beyond Microsoft Office and Excel (Not all IT is coding after all). I learned about everything I could get my hands on. But that was the problem. I would see a common job posting for one set of technologies one day and try to learn that set. Then see another post; another set of technologies. I feel stupid now about it now…. But at the time I constantly read online and was told by recruiters that employers just wanted you to start somewhere and “have a zeal to learn.”
This was both true and not true, in the worst way. I did eventually get a talk with a smiley-faced recruiter who told me what I wanted to hear. Then that lead to an interview with a smiley-faced manager. They were impressed that I could rattle off a (poorly) memorized definition of Docker.
So I got a job because I kind of knew what Docker was.
This lead me to being a “cloud platform engineer” where I was a glorified documentation writer. That part was OK (hell, still am in some ways). But that lead to a teary phone call where the same smiley-faced recruiter basically gaslit me for an hour. Same smiley-faced manager from before didn’t like how I wasn’t achieving enough fast enough… After team’s toxic high performer was allowed to personally decide who got what tasks.
I am not here to tell you excuses about why I am not making six figures by 24 years old. I am here to convince you to also stop believing the excuses the IT industry tells you to use and then punishes you for. Let’s forgive ourselves for the time we wasted blaming everyone else, but let’s also be honest with ourselves. Then, will real work be done to bring down the toxic positive “Great Choosers” to their knees. “Great Choosers” will be the phrase I use throughout to describe anyone who thinks they understand and control your success. Hiring managers, tech leads, toxic high performers, your a****** “btw I use arch” friends on Discord you really need to ditch.
I really could use any technology to illustrate my point. I will talk about Docker then. Not just because I am a massive fan girl who finds every chance to geek out about it (ask my exasperated friends). It is also a very trendy technology that I see sprayed all over job posts and resumes. So /r/unpopularopinion time —
You don’t know Docker.
Take it off your resume.
Or at least put it at the bottom of the list.
I don’t care you ran a node app in a container once or twice by following that shitty Medium tutorial. I don’t care you can pull images and run containers by copying and pasting the
docker run from the DockerHub page. Bragging that you know Docker because you can do that is like saying you know how to cook because you can follow the basic instructions on a frozen dinner to not set it ablaze in the microwave.
It seems rather harsh to berate you, gentle reader, for doing what you simply need to do to get your foot in the door.
The problem is that we are wounding up with resumes from beginners and experts alike that look very similar.
Ah, I still hear the whimpers of the want-to-be junior developers: “Oh, I have to get a job to get a job” yadda yadda. I tried that excuse too. Maybe if you look like what the “Great Choosers” expect a coder to look like, you can slide with this for awhile. I couldn’t. Or, as the meritocratic madlads would probably scream at me: WOULDN’T. But it doesn’t really matter. Really.
Really really. Because after a few more experiences like the Nationwide experience, I had to find some new rules. Here is one I found:
Don’t make any excuses, but don’t take any shit.
Don’t worry, I probably lost a few interviews for straight up admitting how I got the Nationwide job. Recruiters weren’t crazy about the “I started learning XYZ” on my resume. So be it. I am not going to dunk on recruiters (yet; that is another article). But you have to think about their individual business models. They are paid to get you in the door, not so much to keep you from getting kicked back out. There may be various incentives I am not aware of to keep you there, but they usually work on short-term thinking. That doesn’t mean they are all out to swindle you — but that does not make for great career-coaching.
But I argue, it’s not their job.
Their job is to find qualified applicants, not fabricate them (that doesn’t keep some of the less savory ones from trying anyway). It is your job to figure out what you want out of your career. Then you tell them and they see how it lines up with their clients. The problem I have found, is that it is often backwards. But as much as I want to blame the smiley-faced recruiter for swindling me (this one did), it is not her fault. Yes, she was wrong for misrepresenting the job to me and misrepresenting me to the job. I do hope she no longer works in recruiting. But I should have made a bigger point in the interview to say “I don’t know jack about Docker, but I want to learn”. Then when they tried to tell me that “I just don’t want it enough”, I should have told them that is not theirs to decide.
Don’t make any excuses, but don’t take any shit.
So I have hopefully now convinced you to stop lying on your resume and at networking events, or you have stopped reading this. But what now? Well, now you can enjoy the freedom of not knowing to start learning. Because you see, you have to admit you don’t know something to start learning that something. This also sounds condescending, but I am not throwing anything on you I didn’t have to at myself at one point. Once I admitted to myself I was a lot worse at coding than I originally thought, I started looking for meet-ups and resources that were more beginner-friendly. And then actually started learning. I started steering away from know-it-alls who weren’t interested in helping me and I wasn’t interested in impressing anymore. I steered towards the people passionate for learning like I was. But what about the getting the job part? That got better too, actually. I naturally got shifted towards the people who respected humility and zeal to learn. It is what I credit with being able to be a freelancer while the aforementioned know-it-alls can only talk about it on Discord while at their crappy 9–5’s they hate.
Just remember, you got into tech because you loved to learn and wanted to find solutions to problems. My mentors who have gotten me into tech are still beginners themselves at some of the new technologies. With my curiosity and zeal to learn, I even taught them some Docker (eventually).
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