waving cross

Wow I have no interest in writing about "hard skills" and you don't have to have any either

December 29th, 2017
Listening to: "Strange Child"--Jasmin Kaset

I started this blog, in part, for lots of really self-centered reasons I'm 100% comfortable admitting: I like to chronicle my life, always have, no matter how meaningless it is to most people; I wanted to showcase that I'm Good at Things for potential conf organizers, companies, clients; I wanted to do Careerist Things with this blog, even though I think I made it very clear a few weeks ago that Careerist Things kill tech souls.

The most self-centered reason of all: I have been badly suffering writer's block since I began professionally programming. I haven't written a song in six months, nor a poem in years. Prose? You're looking at it. It's sad.

The trouble with keeping a Professional Blog is that Professional People are going to read it. "Hmm... how can I use this platform to make it sound like I'm really excellent at what I do, yet still have a personality left under the thousands & thousands of commits I've made this year?" Apparently, it's by blogging about "hard skills".

So, the "hard vs. soft skills" debate reaches across industries, across nations, and weaves itself into the very fabric with which professional programming is sewn. A lot of where I'm coming from is personal: I'm not--you'll soon notice a theme--interesting in defending my abilities as a programmer, just because I don't love it. I don't defy all the gender stereotypes and blog about "hard skills".

You want to know "hard"? I can find you thousands & thousands of blog posts about PHP by other PHP developers. I can't find a lot of other developers who are interested in holding our industry, and the people in it, accountable for perpetuating regional inequality. That's hard.

I want everyone reading this right now to know these things: it's not your job to feel inadequate because you don't want to show your ass and talk about your "hard skills" 24/7. I want to give a special shout-out to everyone reading this who Isn't A Man. Interpret what that means how you wish. It's especially not your job.

Here's why:

As we went over last week, not being Absolutely Stoked to be a computer with human skin, does not make you less of a programmer. You are not entitled to work off-the-clock for anyone, including strangers who think that not writing blogs about hard skills or contributing to open-source every time you're off the clock, makes you less of a programmer. Especially for such people. Double especially if they can't see your science-based contributions behind your weird, glaring gender.

The thing of it is, when programming took flight post-WWII, it was considered Women's Work. Grace Hopper compared it to planning dinners, in what might be the most awkward, condescending moment. Our switchboard foremothers who might remember what life was like when programming was considered a "soft skill," most of them are either very old or dead now, and we're the only ones left to make sense of this 80s & beyond era: when personal computers were marketed to boys, and so programming became a boys club. Programming used to be "women's work" and, because of it, it wasn't taken seriously.

So why are we forcing ourselves to prove themselves in order to defy gender stereotypes, instead of forcing others to overcome believing them?

If you are coming up against a recruiter, interviewer, or colleague who cannot see past their preconceived, gendered notions of work, then no amount of "hard" work will shatter that. Ironically, it is the "soft" work we do that will. This is why these dichotomies are made: spend more time scrambling to build the very skills we know we have, and devalue the work being done to make our industry a better place, and the industry remains divided & conquered.

Do you enjoy living your code? Go for it. Contribute to open-source constantly. Blog tech & hard skills. Go for it. But do it because you want to, not because you feel like you have to prove yourself in an industry that wants to discredit you.

You don't owe it to anyone but yourself.


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