I used to get a new job every year. I’d go in as the only front-end developer, complete the main Front-End Thing they hired me to do, and discover that no more front-end work beyond that had been prioritized as needing to happen any time on the continuum of years any of us were likely to still be alive. I would get bored and quit.Mostly this was a nice system. Flipping jobs usually got me a raise without me having to go in and ask for one, and it provided me variety in my work. The downside, though, was knowing I’d lose all my credibility and have to survive a month or two of just jaw-dropping condescension at a new job, once every single year, forever.I recently read a great piece of writing titled “Silent Technical Privilege”. It kind of blew my mind. For most of my career, I thought everyone was automatically treated like they didn’t know anything by their colleagues on a new team. I thought it was normal to be hired into a senior position and then put in a significant amount of time and effort proving yourself to people a couple years out of school. Apparently it’s not.Even when I believed developer condescension was unbiased and equitable I was opposed to it. Corroboration of my suspicion that it might be something certain demographics experience more than others removes what little tolerance I had for it.I’ve been thinking a lot about why people — underrepresented people especially — leave this field even after building successful careers, and it turns out that how they’re treated is a nontrivial factor. It defies our expectations about careers and sunk costs that people leave after establishing seniority, but what if it’s the natural result of years and years of their colleagues treating them like they’re stupid? What if ten-plus years of the implication that they’re incompetent inevitably causes some people to believe it, or to simply get fed up with having their competence tested?It would be overly optimistic to think women or any other demographic are the only targets of condescension among developers (reading comments anywhere on Hacker News will back that up), but it’s obviously pretty useless and nasty behavior, especially among colleagues. So I wanted my first thought of the year to be a small, simple idea: Treat your colleagues as though they know everything you do. Wait for them to ask questions if they have them, and if they do, don’t punish them by reverting to a position of condescension. Don’t be the reason someone dreads coming to work, or the reason someone leaves.
16 Jan 2014