On Authority, experience, and doubts

I’ve managed to cooerce my way into talking at a local Javascript conference next month and I am struggling to write up my talk. It’s only 10 minutes which means I have to find a way to summarise a lot of content into a short amount of time. But oddly enough, that’s not my biggest problem.

My talk is titled “Important attributes every developer should have” and every time I write something, I end up thinking “but what gives me the authority to say this?” I keep thinking “who am I to have an opinion about this?”. There are far better educated people out there than me. I think of people like Scott Hanselman who has encouraged thousands of developers internationally, or local guys like Mark Pearl, or Kevin Trethewey, who have encyclopaedic knowledge and experience to back up their opinions.

I keep thinking things like:

  • “but you don’t have your masters”,
  • “but you don’t read a lot of development books”
  • “but you don’t have a history of speaking at conferences”
  • “but you have no qualifications to back your thoughts about ‘soft skills’”
  • “who are you to talk about attitudes when you have no psychology degree?”
  • “how can you say things when you don’t have studies to back them up?”

I tend to be someone who over analyzes everything, and I want to back up everything I say with hard facts and data. I’ve seen people go horribly off the rails when spouting forth “non-scientific beliefs”, so I want to be 1000% sure (yes, there is more than 100% certainty – maths can’t always be right… 😉 ).

What I do have is a bit of experience… I’ve been teaching people to code since I was in grade 6, did my first paid programming work when I was in grade 9/10, and have been programming since I was about 7 years old. I’ve been professionally developing for the past 15 years, hiring people for the last 9 years, and leading teams for about 11 of my 15 years of work.

Yes, I might have some bad ideas. Yes, I might not be able to back up my opinions with science, data, or even just by sheer force of personality.

But I am going to choose to believe that by having an opinion, expressing it, and being prepared to engage with people, I will be able to learn more and encourage growth in more people than if I say nothing.

I might be wrong, but hopefully I will always be open to correction and teaching… and that my thoughts born out of personal experience will resonate with others in similar situations and we will learn and grow by talking together more than we would by staying silent.

One reply on “On Authority, experience, and doubts”

No one can ever be 100% correct, but we all have lessons learnt from our experiences. I think as long as you portray your side as “your experience” and not as gospel truth, no one would have anything bad to say.

I’m really looking forward to your talk

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