Have you ever watched an Apple Keynote? Whenever Apple introduces a new product, they show off statistics to prove its value and performance.
When they show numbers, what do they compare against? They examine the new product’s performance against one of their old ones, the latest iPhone, against its predecessor, the M1 Macbook Pro, against an Intel-based Macbook Pro.
They are not competing with other manufacturers. They are competing against themselves. Of course, they keep a close eye on the competition, but the benchmark is better than last year’s product.
What does that have to do with your software development career? You’re not in the product business. You want to write software.
No matter what you do professionally, have you ever compared yourself to that other colleague? Have you ever thought:
- Others are always doing better.
- They get paid more.
- They get to work on more exciting projects.
- They get to demo to the executives.
Does that sound familiar? It’s understandable because other colleagues might be doing better from your perspective and get more face time with the executives.
But here’s the deal: By comparing your current progress against their status, it’s comparing apples with oranges.
Apples vs. Oranges
Let’s take a closer look at that colleague who is doing better. Did they start to learn software development at the exact same time as you did?
Do they have the same academical background?
Did they learn the same technologies in the same order?
You already see, there are so many different variables at play. And it’s unlikely they are the same for both of you.
Your colleague might have started learning earlier, did or didn’t go to university. They’ll likely have a very different background than you have.
You are starting your Software Development career right now, while they are already two years in. You are building the foundation right now; they are developing advanced skills.
When you try to compare your progress with theirs, it’s unlikely you’ll win.
You are early in the process
Whenever you see Alice demoing the latest features to the executives, you’re thinking, “I’d like to do that too.” And there’s a fair chance you’ll be able to – eventually. If you ask Alice how she managed to get into this position, she’ll explain the steps she had to take.
It turns out you can do it, too. You are just early in the process.
However, when Alice is on such a different track, how can you determine for yourself if you’re making progress? Given that comparing Alice’s and your progress is difficult because too many differences, take yourself as the benchmark. When you compete against yourself, it’s the only thing you can adequately measure because you control all variables.
For instance: Currently, you are struggling with how to use version control. It’s a mystery how
git add and
git commit work together.
A few days later, it all starts to make sense, and you’ll see the improvement compared to today. That’s something you can measure. That’s an event that builds self-confidence.
Alice might have learned version control in a day while it took you two weeks. But maybe they knew about similar concepts before. Perhaps they didn’t fully understand it but told everybody? Again, Apples and Oranges.
Keep a journal and write down today’s struggles, why it’s hard. Start to establish documenting as a daily practice. Whenever you understood something, document it as a win, such as “Today, I learned what
git add &
git commit actually does.”
Instead of focusing on others and your lack of skills, build confidence by measuring your daily learning progress.