The Fear of Not Appearing Technical

Inspired by the greatest Sarah that I’ve met this year who has introduced me to #SarahConf…. this thread really hits home:

Sarah mentions the fear of being less technical, and it’s something I’ve felt as well.

Topics Early On

When I first started speaking, I focused on technical stuff:

  • Samba with SWAT (1999)
  • Squeak (1999)
  • IronPython on Linux
  • Data Types in SQL Server 2008
  • Silverlight
  • Python

And that was just in my first years speaking.  (And yes, I spoke in 1999 and 2008 was when I got started again.  Notice – they were technical talks.)  Looking at my files, it looks like I had one non-tech talk in that first year – on social media for geeks.

In 2009, that changed a bit as I did my social networking talk at Kalamazoo X, but I felt like things balanced out as I did IronPython on Linux at PyCon.  So a soft skills talk and a serious languages talk (one that I – to this day – look back and wonder how I survived without dying of stage fright and fear since the language team and father of the language were in my audience.  Holy nervousness!)… most of my talks though early on were more leaning on the tech side.

More Recently – Adding UX for Devs, Mentoring, and Leadership!

Adding UX to the mix, I worried that I would appear soft and non-technical.  Even though I care about the tech side, I also know that UX isn’t well-understood among devs.  I think coming from non-technical parents and having been in a customer-facing role, I have more luck understanding users and translating their needs to techies.  So UX is a natural affinity for me.

I’ve recently been speaking on mentoring, and in 2018, my servant leadership talk will be debuting at CodeMash!  While these are departures from technical content as well, these are still more skills that I feel solid in and that I also feel like others could learn a lot from me, my experiences, and my perspective.  This is part of why I talk!

But Wait… I’m Technical, Too!

The main reason why I decided to do talks on data science, R, and Python is to remind people that I’m technical too.  I’m not just a soft skills person, and I am terrified of being painted as weak in tech because I don’t speak as much on the technical side.  I’ve been interested in data all my life – if you hear me talk of mentoring, you hear my story of my internship right out of high school, which shows an early love of data and how much I light up with that guidance.  That curiosity and enthusiasm came out more in the past year and change, which inspired more talks.  So I inevitably add technical talks to my repetoire so that I can remind people – I’m still technical, too!

So yes… this fear of appearing less technical… it’s real.

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