Dear Chao: The First 100 Days
A compassion letter to self on the 100th day of finishing coding bootcamp.
Congratulations on hitting an important milestone in your developer life! While you’re still adjusting to the to the challenges this new title gives, you deserve a huge pat-on-the-back for what you’ve been able to accomplish in the last nine months.
Life is funny. If you got the chance to ask the 19 year-old Chao when she first came to Canada, she would tell you that she thought a person would have your life “figured out” a long time ago. I think I’m understanding now: they say you should / will have your life figured out by the age of 24, but here I am, five years later, considered a junior. When you embarked on this journey of transitioning into a developer, you weren’t sure if this is completely for you.
The challenge of adjusting into this “new and junior” role is a lot more than you expected. Remember the time you went to Collison? Conferences and trade shows like that were your bread and better. You never felt shy at those occasions. Yet after talking to the first few exhibitors, you felt out of place. You had nothing to contribute. Everyone seems to look for an angel to come around to support their business, and what you are offering just seems not enough.
However, you were able to embrace the curiosity that the beginner mindset gives you. You were there to learn, ask questions and network. Your vision of what technology can do widened so much. You’re excited that if you put your mind to learn, the power of what you can do with it is unstoppable. You’re very lucky that you feel like you are part of the future.
It’s equally important to know that you never left one industry to join another. The four years you spent in events moulded you into who you are today: you are trained to have an eye for detail and make things future-proof. You strive to work collaboratively across teams. You are a firm believer of optimal user experience and will not shut up until every single user is thought about in the experience. It is crucial to note that “not all experience is created equal”. Not being a developer doesn’t mean you have no experience at all. The soft skills that took you years to develop transfer.
And, damn, you are lucky. Every day, you are sitting among one of the most talented minds. As they say, “you can only be as good as the people around you”. Don’t ever forget to keep the curiosity, try to be helpful and kind, don’t ever give up on getting better, and most importantly, maintain the willingness to look stupid. You are at absolutely where you want to be and you are doing absolutely enough.
Speaking of talents, YOU ARE AN AWARD-WINNING DEVELOPER NOW! That’s huge, Chao! I know you’re struggling with the idea of that as the site was designed by someone else and the work showcased on there were not done by you. But you coded almost that entire site. You transferred the design beautifully and created the most fitting canvas to display the incredible work of others.
Keep in mind the process of this project though. The site people see is the fourth version of that and the second version you did. Isn’t it wonderful that even though the first couple versions were not physically getting seen, those versions built a solid foundation of what people see now. They also gave you so many opportunities to learn and grow. It’s totally okay to not have the perfect version the first time. Like, they always say, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Codes are like people. They have their own characters and styles. People are not codes. Inclusivity is such a hot word right now. What about being inclusive to people’s coding styles? Don’t get me wrong. Wiring good, future-proof, team-friendly code is crucial. But a good code to one might not be the same to another. Fundamentally, our personalities shine through in our work, and that is the basis of good team collaboration.
I want to end this letter by saying great job, Chao. No matter where you end up, don’t forget where you come from and never stop helping others.
This post is a self-compassion letter. Learn more about the philosophy and the idea behind this practice with “Dear Me: Learning to Write Letters of Self-compassion” by Dr. Jam Caleda.
The various mindsets mentioned in the post are inspired by 9 Mindful Practices by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn.
The idea of “sitting with talents” is inspired by Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon.
If I can only pick one article I read last month, it would be 7 absolute truths I unlearned as a junior developer by Monica Lent.