NSManagedObject & Expectations
Recently, we at the iOS cohort were lucky enough to have a Googler come in after class to help us review Swift before our big midterm next week. The next day, a few of us were discussing the Q&A after the talk when the reviewer went over his trajectory from a high school student taking AP Computer Science classes to college (which he hadn’t mentioned was an Ivy but a few of us knew from his LinkedIn profile) where he built apps for the then new iPhone, to working at a startup, to starting his own company, to Google.
“Man,” one student said, their voice filled with awe, “…things just worked out for that guy.”
This line brings me back to two particular moments during the entrepreneurship and Industry Readiness talk at Google we attended last month with two entrepreneurs: one white guy and one white woman immigrant—both of whom had started and run their own companies. As I recall, both of the entrepreneurs talked about the importance of family and mentioned how family could be a huge support during the trials of starting your own business. I looked at my boyfriend in time to register his surprise at these sentiments and see him share a knowing look with me. Neither of us come from families we can rely on wholly or in part, and I know I questioned the possibility of people with our background taking on the risks of starting a business without the social or financial safety blanket of a stable family.
I also made a face at the answers to the last question of the Q&A about whether the entrepreneur’s companies had any diversity initiatives. The short answer was "no" (with one excuse of “we’re too small to take on diversity right now”, which is when I made a face) and the long answer was “it’s a pipeline issue” which I’ve read is a standard tech industry excuse that ignores the complex realities of diversity hiring and retention in tech.
In those two moments, despite being incredibly thankful for the talk and the knowledge the entrepreneurs were able to share with us, I wished there was at least one person on stage who had a background more similar to mine and that of the other people I’d met at C4Q.
All three of these memories came to mind tonight after the “Student Council” meeting with the other elected officials (President, Social Chair, and Historian) from across the cohorts. During the meeting the subject of attendance came up and our elected cohort officials discussed the problem of attendance/absenteeism and lateness with our class. It was difficult for me to admit that we had a significant number of people who are quite behind in the coursework and, if our understanding of the significance of the mid-term grades is correct, who are at risk of being asked to leave the program if it’s determined they will be unable to catch up by the end. I tend to want to take the optimist’s point of view to a fault, especially when it comes to the idea of people leaving the program. We’ve only had three people leave officially and all for outside, non-performance related reasons so far. If we start losing people for performance reasons, it’s going to be hard on so many levels. I identify with all of the cohort and if they go I feel like I stand on shakier ground, too.
Nothing reinforces impostor syndrome like seeing other people you identify with not "make it." And it’s hard if not impossible to distinguish between who lacked commitment or “grit” and who had overwhelming outside factors to contend with at this time. I guess much of my impostor syndrome revolves around the fear of being seen as flakey or flighty—the opposite of “gritty”—so I’m extremely reluctant to attach that label to others. I’d much rather see it as a timing issue. All of us submitted to the same rigorous testing and interview process to get in, so I believe we all retain the potential that C4Q saw in us, no matter how we performed over these past few months. On the other hand, I know talent isn’t enough to make a career either. It’s a tight line to walk. Striking the balance between holding yourself to high standards plus dreaming yourself into high (but not crushing!) expectations but also keeping a weather eye on the realities of your limitations and boundaries is the work of a lifetime.
On a more personal note, during a check-in meeting with my Project Manager, we discussed the necessity of me studying older, more basic projects to make sure I had a very firm grasp of the fundamentals before tackling more complex projects (I was working on a side project that used multiple API calls). Biting off more than I can chew has been a consistent problem for me during this experience. I think in non-STEM fields it’s good to tackle something a little more complex than you can handle and, with some luck and talent, you can usually squeak by. But tech is different, as I’m learning again and again. Everything builds on itself and fundamentals are non-optional. There’s also the pressure to be working on The New Hotness instead of admitting you’re not 100% confident of something basic and so are reviewing The Old Coldness.
So: fundamentals. I guess if I want to see more successful people that remind me of me, I need to start with myself.