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IT Snobbery

I have been a web developer/designer for about 20 years…since the dot-com boom (and bust!). Like a lot of IT folks, I was self-taught. This led to a career and advancement where I became the senior web developer for a billion dollar IT firm in Northern Cali. Why do I reveal some of my resume‘? Why would anyone care? Well…it proves the old adage about teaching a dog new tricks because even though I had scaled the proverbial IT career walls, I was an idiot in many respects. I found myself falling into the familiar traps many IT folks fall into…imposter syndrome, holier than though Nick Burns syndrome (which is still funny btw).

Take how I started this post…’web developer/designer’. When I began, designers and developers lived in two different worlds and the two shall not meet. Over the years, the snobbery that each group felt for the other has changed. No longer can a designer look at a developer and think, “Yeah…you create functionality, but no one is going to use it without my superior UI!” Nor can the developer say, “You designers do the pretty stuff, but it is just that…pretty with no substance!”

I have run into both attitudes and, truth be told, have found myself in those camps from time to time. Here is the rub…they are both right. A designer needs a developer and vice versa. In today’s modern world of web apps, one cannot be a good developer without having a solid grasp on design fundamentals. A designer cannot design proper interfaces without understanding development principles. This is why we have front end developers and the like.

For me, I am a full stack developer. It took me years to get to that point and my bent is towards the development side of the brain. This is why I tried hard to understand the design side and become a good designer. Am I a phenomenal designer? No. There are many people better than I, but having a solid understanding of design principles have made me a better developer and vice versa.

I find that I have had to overcome this snobbery in many IT areas. Take Content Management Systems. When they came out, I did not like them. The developer purist in me thought it was blasphemy to have a system do the work for you. Again, I was suffering from the dreaded ‘ID10T’ error. It dawned on me that I could utilize a CMS to handle the lower level tasks and I could concentrate on more abstraction. Light bulb moment…another opportunity for humility.

Even within the CMS world, this same concept of evaluating a tool without the IT snobbery has proved itself over and over. When I first began using CMS’, I did not like WordPress. Back then, it was a simple blogging engine. I wanted more. I have gone through several CMS’ over the years and am now using WordPress, which I would not have guessed many years ago. It has evolved to the point where I can use it to run things for me and allow me to think of bigger concepts. For example, I am working on utilizing WP to power a Progressive Web App (PWA).

So, what has these years of being confronted by my own snobbery taught me? Be careful what you snub today for tomorrow it may be your tool of choice. I have found this same concept apply to other areas of life as well. Let’s all learn to look at other ideas and concepts with humility and evaluating them on their merit like we would an IT product…although you might want to shy away from an ROI and TCO analysis when it comes to people. 😉

Happy Coding!

Clay Hess

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