I work with the Nerd Avengers
So, I feel like Ant-Man in this scene:
A scene from Captain America: Civil War (2016) where Ant-Man meets the rest of the Avengers in a parking garage at an airport. The scene starts with Captain America asking "How about our other recruit?" Hawkeye responds while opening a van door with "He's raring to go. Had to put a little coffee in him, but..." The van door slams open and wakes up Ant-Man with a jolt. Hawkeye continues, "...he should be good." Ant-Man stumbles out of the van with tired eyes and asks "What timezone is this?" Hawkeye pushes Ant-Man towards the group of Avengers and says "C'mon. Come on." Ant-Man is in disbelief as he sees Captain America in person for the first time. Ant-Man says "Captain America" while shaking his hand. Captain America responds "Mr. Lang". Ant-Man says "It's an honor," looks down at his hand and says "I'm shaking your hand too long. Wow, this is awesome." Ant-Man looks behind him at Wanda, pointing at Captain America, and says "Captain America!" but then realizes he's looking at another superhero and says "I know you too, you're great!" Ant-Man then looks back at Captain America, gets overwhelmed, feels Captain America's muscles for a moment, and says "Jeez. Look, I wanna say, I know you know a lot of super people, so thinks for thanking of me [sic]."
I've just joined the Public Platform team at Stack Overflow, which means I get to work with some absolutely awesome people. I feel like I was thrown in the back of a van, stolen from the middle of nowhere to join programming superheroes.
When I first got a callback for an interview at Stack Overflow, I was in disbelief. I was working for my local City Hall as a programmer, working with exciting web technologies like Web Forms and SharePoint. (My favorite part about the Web Forms marketing page is the first heading: "Consider Razor Pages instead of Web Forms") Stack Overflow was a dream job for me, but my application felt like a long shot.
I've always followed people on technology through social media. One of Stack Overflow's values is transparency, so their staff has posted a wealth of content, like Nick Craver's series on the architecture of Stack Overflow. I've looked up to these "famous nerds" as role models and put them up on a pedestal (almost like they were actual superheroes?). There's no way that me, a newer programmer compared to them, could match up!
However, this feeling was just a distortion of impostor syndrome and isn't true. I'm an experienced developer and I was able to pass the tough hiring gauntlet. I guess this means I am supposed to be standing alongside the best? I'm still slowly getting used to working with people that I previously thought were so far above me.
The breaking down of the walls between me and notable nerds started early in the hiring process. I messaged a few developers that I had followed on social media asking for help on how to pass the Stack Overflow interviews. To my surprise, they got back to me and gave me really helpful advice!
It's not about solving a problem, etc. - it's how. Share your thought process - ask the questions, don't assume the data you're given is all there is... treat things as a discussion. We want people who can learn and grow, not the perfect person for today.
I recommend being relaxed, our coding exercises are not too hard and mostly people want to see how you solve problems. GOOD LUCK
This was super weird for me - these people I have followed on Twitter for ages were replying to me. This was like getting to talk to a famous actor or musician!
Once I got hired, these interactions became more frequent. The memory that sticks out most for me is in one of our company-wide developer demo meetings, I got to watch the Nerd Avengers assemble. All of these faces I have seen on social media were all in one big meeting and were chatting with each other - and I got to be part of it!? My mic was muted the whole time and I was freaking out emotionally. This was so cool.
This continued as I met with more people as part of my onboarding. I got to meet someone without realizing they had authored a book I had read. I had one on one chats with people who I followed on Twitter for years like Marc Gravell. Finally, of course, I got to meet all of the Public Platform team.
In that first meeting where I met my team, Kristina Lustig said something that really stuck with me. I said something like "I'm still in disbelief that I get to work with all of these cool people at Stack Overflow." She replied with "You're one of the cool people at Stack Overflow now, too!" That one line broke down a lot of the impostor syndrome feelings I had - I wasn't just getting to chat with cool people, I get to be teammates with them and be just as awesome as they were.
From then on, I took her word for it and I'm trying my best to be a superhero and not a fanboy. I'm working really hard on my onboarding and my "graduation project." I've hung out with more Stackers, including hosting a Magic: the Gathering night that included the Stack Overflow podcast hosts. I pull pranks on my teammates. I meme with the best of them. I was even already in an episode for the Stack Overflow podcast!
In the future, I hope to do great things like my colleagues at Stack have done. I'm still learning and getting onboarded, but I've got high hopes for how me and my team will help developers across the world. For now, I just wanted to share my lesson that all of these cool nerds on social media aren't untouchable superheroes, but they're real people. If you work hard, one day Nick Fury will show up in your post-credits scene and will ask you to join the Nerd Avengers.