How Becoming a Developer is Like Becoming a Jedi
How Becoming a Developer is Like Becoming a Jedi
I mentioned on the “About That Life” page that being a developer is like becoming a Jedi. Now, if you don’t know or understand what a Jedi is at this point in life, you may want to stop reading here. This won’t make much sense to you. However, if you are on your Jedi path, keep reading.
For those of us who are perilously drawn into the Star Wars orbit, we seem to really love it’s narrative, symbols, and of course, the light saber battles. We find ourselves quoting Yoda and Obie-Wan Kenobi. “Do or do not, there is no try…” we say to ourselves as we are tackling a challenging project or encouraging our fellow workers. “I have the high ground…” we say to our peers and colleagues when we have bested them in a debate. As a developer, there are some parallels, in my opinion, between the Jedi path and the “Dev” (developer) path.
Now, assuming you know and are focused on what area of the “Dev” spectrum you land, you can assess what it will take to reach Jedi Master Status or beyond. If not, you may be what we would call a Youngling.
When you are on your way to becoming a Jedi Master, you start off as a Youngling. In the Star Wars Universe, a Youngling is a “Force Sensitive” child who begins to train and learn the ways of the Jedi. You have an interest in computers or a knack for finding your way around a computer. You start experimenting with coding and servers. You may go codeacademy.com or code.org to start your path. If you were around in the “Myspace” era before the Sith Lord, Darth Facebook, you may have experimented with HTML code building page themes. You may have had a wordpress.com/">WordPress Blog or a drag and drop site then took things to the next level. You are/were in the Youngling stage. You took the initiative to start on this awesome path of constant challenge, change, and adventure.
When I was a kid, I LOVED to write and I also loved things that gave me the ability to create. I fell in love with Star Wars and Star Trek. Yes, the adventure and action was awesome but I thought it was really incredible that the people on the bridge of those space ships were just so cool pushing all those buttons and putting big things up on screens and stuff. I thought, “Hmmmmm, somebody had to have invented all that stuff. I wondered who. That was probably a spark that ignited my passion for tech.
I also remember being in Mr. Sims fifth grade class at Calvary Christian Academy and learning the basics of programming on a Commodore 64 Computer . Remember B.A.S.I.C. (Beginners All-Purpose Symbolic Instructional Code.)? Regardless how you discovered or became sensitive to “The Force” in the tech realm, something inside of you said you were destined for greatness and that coding would be your Light Saber and tech would be The Force.
“Training to become a Jedi is not an easy challenge, and even if you succeed, it’s a hard life.“―Qui-Gon Jinn
First, being a true developer requires training. TONS of training. Whether self-training or formal training, there is a lot of time, sacrifice, trial, and error you will encounter along this Jedi path. You will spend hours, days, even years in your training. And guess what….? IT NEVER ENDS! You will never stop training. You will always be in a constant state of learning. In the dev world, things change faster than a Tech N9ne and Twista battle! Growing too attached to one method or way of doing things is the path to the darkside. To stay relevant and employable, you will have to keep up with the current trends and developments in the dev world. Otherwise, your dev career will be short lived.
You will be constantly training and testing yourself in dev environments as well as production environments. You will experience the thrill of victory as well as the agony of defeat. You’ll learn to be resourceful, to think outside the box. If you’re smart, you learn from past mistakes and other peoples mistakes. You’ll mine sites for documentation and troubleshooting steps. But with every accidental database delete, syntax error, 500 Error, 404 Error, you’ll become wiser and more confident. You’ll elevate your skill to the point that someone sees you and decides to Obie-Wan you. You, my friend, have just become a Padawan.
A Padawan is a student/apprentice ,normally in their adolescence. In the Star Wars Universe, a Padawan is chosen by a Jedi Knight or a Jedi Master to train once they are out of the Youngling stage. In my personal experience, if you show humility, tenacity, and potential, there are many Jedi Master level developers who will benevolently give of their time and skill set to help to nurture and mentor you as their Padawan. But, You gotta be proactive.
If you are going to school to learn coding and server side play etc…, there may be an instructor or other skilled individual that may take you under their wing. Possibly a fellow schoolmate or colleague who is near the end of their course who can assist you in your journey. If you are going the self taught route (which includes a very high number of web developers), there are many ways to connect with a Jedi master/mentor. There are tech meetups in your city that you can attend. Depending on what you’re dev’ing in, there may not be many individuals present which will give you some time to speak 1 on 1 with a skilled developer. You can use that opportunity to convince him or her to take you on as a Padawan.
If the meetups aren’t your thing or if they’re not available in your area, there are other alternatives. For example, it seems like devs love to hang out at coffee shops! Hit the coffee shop scene. You can sometimes tell who is a dev by the stickers on their laptop! Laptop stickers to a dev are like tattoos to a gang member. (I’ll talk more about this in another post) We see your laptop in the coffee shop or library reppin’ your stickers, we know what your lightsaber of choice is, whether you are Jedi or Sith, what you dev in etc… It’s actually pretty cool.
If you spot someone who may be a dev, approach them, in a non-creepy way, and ask if they have a moment to answer a few questions. Devs LOVE to talk about their work! We don’t usually have many people to nerd out with so if they’re not engrossed in meeting a deadline for a nit picky client or resolving an error made by a client who is lying about what happened as they comb the error logs, they’ll usually speak with you. In the way of a sidebar, devs are notorious for not being people people and having server side personalities. This is not necessarily true. There are many devs who are amazing people! Not all of them will be like me *inserts smile emoji*. But if you open a conversation with them and show humility and a desire to learn, very few devs will turn you away.
At one point, I was a fledgling tier 1 representative at a very large tech and web hosting company, I wasn’t very skilled but I had tenacity. I was determined to learn. There was a supervisor in the company who saw my drive and my tenacity and was kind enough to Obie-Wan me. I was so appreciative for his mentoring and his expertise that when he left the company, I followed him to his next opportunity. Over the years, I became more skilled but I never forgot his teaching. To this day, I still reach out to him and ask him for his counsel and expertise. And outside of being my Obie-Wan, he’s also a great friend who I highly respect and appreciate. And guess what: I still refer to him as “Obie-Wan” to this day.
After working with my Obie-Wan and being battle tested on quite a few missions, he officially gave me the title of Jedi Knight!
“The Force is with you, young Skywalker. But you are not a Jedi yet…”
This stage, in my opinion, is probably the most exciting! You are so driven and focused at this stage. You are trying new things, taking on new clients and doing really advanced things with your skills. You are even calling your Obie-Wan less and less as you are tackling challenges and rising above problems. You may even take on a Padawan of your own to train in the ways of Jedi so he or she won’t experience the rigors you did as a youngling.
As a Jedi Knight level developer, You know what you bring to the table. You realize you don’t know everything and there is an oubliette of information out there you may never learn, but you are confident in the force you possess in your stack. Regardless of how much your skill is growing, something inside of you tells you there is more out there. There is greater beyond your skill set. Even though you are doing well, something just won’t let you be satisfied. You just have to do bigger and better things.
From there, you start becoming more innovative. You start working on bigger or more ambitious projects. If you are working for an agency, you may have thoughts of starting on your own. You may become a contributor to StackOverflow or github.com (looks like that may change to gitlab.com). Maybe you have a desire to teach more or manage larger scale projects. You, my Friend, may be a on your way to becoming a Jedi Master.
A Jedi Master is one who has ascended to the highest obtainable rank of the Jedi. They show exceptional devotion and skill in combat as well as the force and they are mostly renown for their wisdom.
Jedi Master level devs are those outliers who have a great balance of front end and/or back end skills, are creative, wise, and helpful. And the best part of it all is, they make it look very easy!
In the Star Wars universe, the primary way Jedi Masters get that rank is by how many new Jedi they train. In the dev world, Jedi Masters aren’t only the devs who create the sites featured on aWWWards.com and create layouts and demo content for WordPress themes but they are also the developers that organize meetups to show you new possibilities and delve into more advanced things you can do with your tech lightsaber and the force. They create YouTube and Vimeo videos to give you good hacks and step by step demonstrations, they write tech blogs that help and give us great options, they write documentation and help with troubleshooting steps, they resolve trouble tickets. They are the last line of defense, even for Jedi Knight level devs. We seek their Yoda-esque wisdom via documentation, StackOverflow and Github (there are other resources besides those 2 but they are just a few of my resources). They are that invisible force that keeps the internet and all it’s components running smoothly. When when devs run into issues and can’t figure things out, it’s these guys and gals who really bail us out.
I had the privilege of being in Word Camp Atlanta 2018. In Word Camp, we have what is known as the “Happiness Bar.” That is where “Younglings” who have issues with their WordPress Websites come and sit with an experienced developer for help resolving issues with their WordPress site, doing optimization, design advice, etc…FREE OF CHARGE! *Side note, WordPress has one of the most (if not thee most) awesome communities in all of tech. The developers and users of WordPress are some of the kindest, most humble, and most benevolent in the industry.* I witnessed many Younglings and Padawans fill the Happiness Bar with every imaginable issue from the simplest changes in settings to the most complex server side errors and custom configurations. There were even a great deal of SEO and optimization related questions.
In addition to working with some of these awesome individuals myself, I saw Master Level devs with years and years of expertise help these individuals out in spectacular fashion! Some of the developers were owners of their own agencies, seminar presenters, company executives and other types of tech gurus who could have EASILY charged anyone 150 to 300 bucks an hour for their time but they gave their time and expertise so generously. It was one of those restore-your-faith-in-humanity type of moments that really made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside in a not weird non-Kumbaya sort of way.
In my opinion, that is the epitome of being a Jedi Master Level Dev. It’s helping others by using your vast knowledge to make others better while continuing to grow. It’s knowing that no matter how much we know, there is always so much more to learn and so many new ways to do things. A true master knows that the more he or she teaches others, the more they improve life and innovation around them. The people they teach will grow and improve the dev sphere in which we all abide, hence adding their personal ripple effect to the dev universe. They guard the future, not by their prowess in cyber security, but by them spending their time to teach others and continually reinvent how we see the world through tech.
The dev sphere is not one to be mastered. One can only master one’s self within the dev sphere. Ones self mastery will have an indelible impact on anything around them.