Not So Self-Taught

Michael Ellis
Jul 24, 2016 · 2 min read
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The term “self-taught” is used too often by too many today. Just because you didn’t go to school for what they’re doing doesn’t mean you should be considered self-taught. That line of thinking completely discounts the work of others in your development.

I would like to see more people tout that they are “community-taught”. I’m not 100% sure where this term originated, but I first saw it used on Dominique Deguzman’s site and I love the acknowledgment that we’re not alone in this. That few of us are the solitary geniuses we love to celebrate.

In my mind, community-taught pays homage to those around us who have led the way. It thanks our mentors and co-workers who showed us a new way to do something or gave us the support to keep learning. It spreads the love around the industry for so many and begs for you to give back in return.

I believe that is what Dom is getting at as well. She’s obviously much more accomplished than I, and has every right to be proud, and could boast of every accomplishment. But she qualifies her entire bio with being “community-taught”. I think that’s awesome!

I used to really think I was self-taught and that I got where I am on my own. I conjured up a real sense of pride in my accomplishments. As I have grown and matured in my work, I can see how the influences of others has woven itself in and out of my experience. I can recognize that I would have never learned what I have or accomplished what I have without standing on the shoulders of others.

According to the 2016 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, nearly 70% of developers consider themselves at least partly self-taught. 13% believe they’re completely self-taught. I’d wager if those developers were a little more honest with themselves, they’d acknowledge others a little more.

It’s taken me some time to accept that saying I’m self-taught does not mean I’ve worked harder than anyone else. It doesn’t mean I’m more resourceful or smarter or better than anyone else. It was purely a term of pride, with a hint of arrogance, and I proudly will refer to myself as community-taught from now on.

Originally published at

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