Communicating technically: insecurity, [self]kindness & beginner’s mind

It’s come to my attention that I need to work on technical communication. It’s hard because it feels weird to talk about a subject when it can seem like I know very little.

I don’t mean that derogatorily as much as I mean to say that web development encompasses such breadth and depth, it feels hard to capture it with accuracy and integrity.

I know it’s a skill set I’m insecure with. I shy away from all kinds of technical conversation because it’s clearly easier to not engage and expose your knowledge gaps. Don’t make me be vulnerable—ahhhh!

My hesitance reminds me of going to philosophy club meetings in undergrad. I’d had one intro class when I started going, just a course on a Paris study abroad where we read Plato and a handful of contemporary French philosophers. I didn’t get uncomfortable until I started noticing how many obscurities and quotes and references would pour out of the mouths of other attendees. Žižek? Alan Badi-WHO?

Even the following semester, as I took a course in existentialism, I still found it really difficult to engage. Even when it came to the material, I felt unqualified to interpret the words of Heidegger, Sartre, and the rest. So often, when it came time to socialize about it, I would either divert the subject, listen tentatively, or make jokes.

It doesn’t help that there are quite a few highfalutin members in all of these circles. It’s harder to be vulnerable when you know your tender ignorance will be poked and picked at.

But honestly, that attitude isn’t helpful and should be disregarded. Beginner’s mind is a pretty important concept here—as developers and as humans, we’re constantly learning at all stages. It also helps to find a nonjudgmental community where we feel safe and respected all while growing our knowledge.

For me, it will also be immersing myself in difficult subject matter and challenging projects, and communicating about it despite confusion and uncertainty. It will be about speaking up to get help and clarity because no one can do it by themselves.

Mindful Reprogramming

Yesterday, I posted a tweet about only checking social media once a day, with a metaphor of “it’s like checking the mail.” That tweet got more attention than I expected with likes and expressions of concern, confusion, and support.

I borrowed that metaphor from my boyfriend, but here, let’s build on it. You probably get a lot of mail, right? It’s ads, it’s marketing, it’s fluffy content, for the most part. Maybe it’s the occasional letter or card from a friend—cool!

It’s so tempting to check social media constantly because there might be a *new* thing the next time you look. I know I get caught up in the dopamine rush of newness (!) and get myself spinning on a social media-checking loop. But really, ask yourself: what is that new thing’s worth to you? Is it a letter from a friend, speaking straight to you, or is it a piece of junk mail, addressed to you, the consumer?

For what it’s worth, I checked social media five times today. I spilled a few drops of coffee on my Macbook, so I left it inverted on a table all day. Needing to use the Internet for a couple things on my phone, I quickly got distracted.

As far as I know, no human has the willpower to restrain themselves from the checking loop—or if they do, they’re very worn down and pissed at the end of the day. So, I have Simple Blocker installed on my browser and an app called ClearLock installed on my Android phone. They both help a lot and save me from decision fatigue.

The aim here is really about mindfulness, not about robotically meeting a pre-established quota. And as we know, sharply depriving ourselves leads to frustration and unhappiness. So, maybe I’m not checking “once” but just less overall.

However, the more mindfully I browse the Internet and choose my activities, in general, the happier I am. I like to feel like I’m making conscious choices rather than hypnotically following the patterns that being constantly connected has programmed into my neurons.

The real point here

Hi! I’m Mallory & I’m a Ruby/Rails developer.

So, I bought this domain in late 2014. It started out as a single page blog using Jekyll. I wrote a couple posts for it over the next year—about learning to use Jekyll and then one about fetching donuts, hinting at my reasons for a career change. Recently, I wrote another intro post that I’ve pulled because my inspiration to write my proposed series faded.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of how I want the content to be; how I want my voice to come out. Moving forward, this space will be a place where I share my journey to become a professional developer, provide encouragement, give actionable advice & enthuse over more technical topics.

Here is my first piece of encouragement: We’re all in this together!

Yes, I cross-stitched this for you in Adobe Illustrator.

I’m looking at posting once a week from now & hopefully more.

Looking forward to writing!