#anonymous-dev-confessions: Putting humour in humility
In February of this year, I created a new Slack channel. While we already have about 2,000 other channels, this one felt like a fun yet important addition. After a book club conversation on Adam Grant’s Think Again, the ever wise Kristen Spencer noted that it would be nice if we could find ways to, “Inject more humility in the way we speak about what it means to be a senior.”
We spit-balled a few different ideas — should we host a panel conversation? A form to collect experiences or questions? A thread that focused on “a time I broke production…?” And after a quick question in the engineering channel, we landed on simply creating a Slack channel.
I created the channel and included an anonymous bot that allows folks to submit some of their past mistakes or learnings as a developer without any identification. I tested the bot with one of my own classic blunders.
And from there — it took off.
In a short time after sharing the creation of this channel, we had some of our most senior engineers happily sharing their gaffes — without the bot. In fact, a large majority of the posts continue to be shared without anonymity. We even had our very own CTO share a mistake from his past.
Though it isn’t a super active channel, every now and again someone will post a story that brings a smile to my day. I’ve seen folks share woes in other channels only to be tagged #anonymous-dev-confessions in the thread to re-share.
How does this help?
Sometimes the most senior developers on the team appear as magicians. They are so been-there-done-that, which for new developers on the team can often be intimidating. It’s helpful to help our whole team to realize that these senior developers were very much once (and often still are) in similar shoes. Imposter syndrome is very real.
To highlight and bring forward these experiences, we wanted to demonstrate that everyone makes errors, everyone is always learning and there is value in our mistakes. When I first posed the question to the engineering team, Rodrigo Saling captured the sentiment behind it best:
I will always vote yes for:
things that show that I am not the only one failing at “doing stuff”;
things that show the process of “doing stuff”.
Furthermore, to show and demonstrate errors is one thing, but to be accepted without judgment by your peers is another. Scanning through the channel, not only are most of the posts done by the person and not the bot, but the emoji reactions are filled with hearts and joy. Folks have genuinely appreciated and enjoyed hearing from each other.
To post non-anonymously in a channel meant to be anonymous really highlights the supportive and collaborative engineering culture that League has fostered. We are all able to see the mistakes for what they are — a mistake. And the best part is that our blunders make for a story that we can share a laugh about and maybe help someone feel a little less like an imposter at the end of the day.