How Much Is Good Enough?

Steven Kneiser
4-minute read

Be honest:
are you a Real Developer™?

*deep inhale*

*deep exhale*

Really sit with that for a second:
are you there yet? good enough?

& not what others think of you
but what do you think of you?

Don’t worry if it doesn’t come naturally

It happens to everyone
on their learning journey
(which never ends by the way, until you say so)

But despite what others tell you,

It’s a confidence check,
not a competency check

It’s not a badge to be earned,
but an approach
a state of mind
a perspective

So what does it take to flip that switch?


#1 Recognize, Don’t Memorize

When you’re first learning to code,
everything is new & exciting

Maybe you just…

I chat with so many beginners who “made a few websites” but think:

“oh, I’m not good at HTML”

Okay, there’s definitely more to master, but it’s a low barrier-to-entry & I just want to shake some sense into them:

Just because you haven’t memorized [insert tool] doesn’t mean you “don’t know” it

Give it up:
proficiency isn’t all-or-nothing

Developers are masters of abstraction:
your work is less like molding clay
& more like stacking lego bricks

You can sit there calculating
& stress over rebuilding the wheel
or stand on the shoulders of giants

Value your ability to find answers
over your ability to recall them

#2 “Can Do” Attitude

Sorry, I know it sounds like its from a cheesy self-help seminar

Nobody Cares About Complexity
so don’t worry about impressing others

Defensiveness won’t serve you

To me, it’s not about your ability to summon an answer on command, nor your ability to dig your way to an answer using resources at hand: the chasm you must cross on your way to becoming a professional developer is largely a confidence in your abilities to figure it out.

If you’re committed,
If you’re in this for the long game
it absolutely can be just that simple

Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t about inefficiently pounding your head against a wall making no progress, when you can readily research prior work across the internet. There’s a delicate balance where–as soon as a problem is stalling you out–the right thing to do is ask for help! Sometimes the best way to figure something on out your own is to talk it through with someone else. Modern software is immensely collaborative, so you should lean into that!

The innocuous barrier to becoming a professional developer is largely a challenge of just not giving up on it altogether, much like becoming proficient in any spoken language. That’s it! Think about becoming a “real” developer the way you would think about your ability to maneuver around a foreign country with a great translation guide. Are you at least good enough to pull that off? That’s when you’re ready. Those “I’m good enough” mountains are always further in the distance until you actually reach them!

You don’t need to be cut from a different cloth, but you do need to be genuinely interested to make it through those occasional moments of teeth pulling. In other words, you’re welcome to call yourself Real developer as soon as you decide you aren’t going to give up on your abilities to figure it out.

Last note on the haters

If anyone gives you a hard time over my “softer” definition, then I’ll personally put my reputation on the line for you. Anyone giving you a hard time over this “real developer” non-sense is commenting less on how little you know, but desperately justifying how much they know. Their insecurity is entirely unjustified either because our field isn’t “professionalized” like most 20th century professions, so don’t take their concern personally: these are friction points as the world re-orients itself around knowledge work.

The world needs more developers & that includes you. Many don’t see it yet, but the very notion of what a “developer” is continues to diverge & diversify into an expanding web of motivations & professions. Even today, the common developers who can “keep up” between embedded systems engineering & web development is evaporating. How you “learn to code” no longer looks like it used to or even similar to how someone else might right alongside you today. Tomorrow’s developers won’t look like today’s developers:

& we’re better as a world for it
so I say thank you

Thank you for your contribution
& welcome to the future

You can start today

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