Epictetus, Honesty, and the Front-End vs. Back-End Debate

To be clear, Our Code is a blog I created to help other women of color learn to code. Once in a while though, I will give you all a glimpse in my journey to becoming a programmer. Here’s what I’ve been grappling internally with:

I frequently read Epictetus for advice. His canon of philosophical writings guide me in checking my ego, building confidence, and making sound decisions.  This morning, I came across this quote from an English interpretation of The Art of Living:

“The life of wisdom, like anything else, demands its price. You may, in following it, be ridiculed and even end up with the worst of everything in all parts of your public life, including your career, your social standing, and your legal position in the courts.

Once you have given due consideration to all of the constituent details that compose the effort to live the higher life, venture forth with your utmost effort. Make the necessary sacrifices that are the price for the worthiest goals: freedom, even-mindedness, and tranquility. If, however, upon honestly appraising your mettle, you are not fit or ready, free yourself from delusion and tread a different, more realistic road.

If you try to be something you’re not or strive for something completely beyond your present capacities, you end up as a pathetic dabbler..”

What I concluded from this passage is that we must be honest with ourselves when assessing our knowledge, skills, and abilities.  I want to become a great programmer, but I started off convinced that web design was the quickest way to enter the tech industry as a practitioner.  After teaching myself HTLML5, CSS3, and JavaScript, I created a less than stellar portfolio of work.  In a rush to be decent, I learned the easiest design protocols and languages without actually developing original pieces that didn’t rely on code blocks or UI kits.

After 2 years, I realized that I just wasn’t that creative.  My lack of enthusiasm for grids, color schemes, fonts, and other graphic design knick-knacks left me frustrated when completing projects.  This weakness deterred me from taking web design seriously, becoming the sort of “dabbler” Epictetus warns against.  I had to take a step back and see if this was the route I wanted to take.

So, I started life-mapping by creating a series of lists.  I wrote down my strengths and weaknesses in one list, my interest in the another, and compared both to a list of current job trends and hiring practices in tech.  What I came to know about myself after the exercise could be summed up with 4 observations:

1.  I like writing code.  Though design is easy, I’m passionate about developing my skills in Java and C languages.

2.  I don’t care what a website looks like, nor who uses it, just as long as it functions correctly and performs efficiently.

3.  I love solving problems.  Studying algorithms and learning to write my own is one of the only reasons why I haven’t completely given up on my online classes.

4.  I enjoy trouble-shooting.  I don’t have to create the program in order to use it and come up with spiffy ways to make it better.  De-bugging and repair doesn’t bother me.

In conclusion, I’m definitely a back-end chick.  This realization also came with the heavy truth that I have a long way to go before I become a serious programmer in the more foundational languages.  More work for me…

One could argue that if I devoted more time to design technique, I could be great at it.  However, I’m glad that I’m being honest with myself in the respect where I rather not spend my time in that area.  I’m not good at design and no longer find pleasure in it, and that’s okay. I know enough in the future to communicate with contractors, who I will undoubtedly have to work closely with.

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