Zero to Hero Part 1: Dreaming of Mastery

It is the 16th of January, 2023 as I write this, and I feel pretty upset. I work in a company with around 250 other UI software engineers. I lack confidence, but I am confident in one thing: If those engineers made a ranking of all the engineers, I'd be near the bottom.

when I'm quite sure I'm correct, I am not believed, because my track record isn't good enough

You reading this are probably very smart, or at least enjoy the activities of a person who feels smart. You probably enjoy the feeling of people coming to you for advice, and seeing their faces light up as you solve their problems. Or perhaps not. By contrast, feeling like a useless idiot is crushing. The worst part - when I'm quite sure I'm correct, I am not believed, because my track record isn't good enough. On more than one occasion I've wanted to quit and disappear into the mountains. If you're one of my friends trying to console me - this isn't impostor syndrome - the illogical feeling of being stupid when in fact one is great. My track record for months shows my incompetence, and I don't want to stay this way.

Something about feeling like a complete loser is filling me with an enormous urge to climb to the top.

Why write this?

Littlefinger, Game of Thrones

"Many who try to climb it fail, and never get to try again — the fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb, but they refuse. They cling to the realm, or the gods, or love ... illusions. Only the ladder is real, the climb is all there is."

Sharing stories of how dumb you are is a risk. it isn't all that common for people to help - it is more common for people to look, feel superior, and enjoy their now elevated sense of superiority. Or worse - people can take these stories as evidence to kick you down or reject you. My correct input can be disregarded because I'm at the bottom. This creates a vicious feedback loop, a pit that is hard to climb out of. Posting this story is a risk for me. I risk alienating the help I crucially need. I risk rejections that I would not have gotten otherwise. Yet, it is necessary. If I can't be honest about my current situation, I can't hope to improve, and I must.

Measuring the unmeasurable

Software engineering, like many skills, lacks commonly agreed metrics. What is valuable to one engineer might seem toxic to another. Are people skills important? Code conciseness? Documentation? Tests? Even if engineering agrees on what is valuable, so much of engineering still doesn't have agreed metrics. Contrast this with becoming top percentile, where the skill is highly measurable, usually in the form of a single scoreboard that is known to all participants.

When the skill is so hard to measure, it's common to see vague advice, a lack of objectivity, perhaps a defense mechanism stemming from a sense of shame. I think I can do better, hence this publicly viewable post. I can feel myself being at "the bottom" in a number of ways I can define and measure:

Plan, then execute

My most precious resource is time. With other engineers already so far ahead, I can't afford to dilly dally. Thus, my greatest enemy is time-wasting.

My plan of attack for now is:

It is the 25th of January as I publish this note. I don't know if this plan will work - I've never been a master of anything. But at the very least, maybe for a moment, I can maybe be someone's hero. I look forward to becoming my future self, and writing about it in zero-to-hero-part-2.