I’ve been doing a lot of networking lately. The human kind, at meetups and tech talks. One common question I get is:
“What language do you write?”
The thing is, I’m not an expert at any of these languages or frameworks. Hell, after six years at Google and even leading an Android team, my knowledge of the Android platform barely scratches the surface.
The experience I built across such a variety of languages, frameworks, and platforms means that I’ve finally gotten over “fear of the unknown”. A lot of developers feel uncomfortable writing in a language they don’t know. Sometimes their reaction is one of disgust and contempt for languages they’re not familiar with. There is always a tech bro community that will reinforce these. If you think about programming languages as human races, the metaphor of racism applies. It results in a fragmented world where groups of people prefer to stay isolated rather than keeping an open-mind across cultures. Sometimes, people get hurt (OK, mostly just feelings in the programming world). Of course, this isn’t the case of every developer and a lot of wonderful people make an active effort to bridge the gaps.
I dream of a world where programmers aren’t defined by the technologies and languages they use, but by their ability to adapt and ramp up quickly in an unfamiliar environment.
So here are some suggestions to answer the question “What language do you write?” if you want to avoid defining yourself as a specialist:
- “I just started learning X, but I’m curious about Y”
- “I can write X and Y, but I’m willing to learn another language if need be”
- “It depends, what language do you need me to write?”
- “I’ll write anything that makes sense for the specific case we’re considering”