I am the dumbest person in the room… and I love it

by Bart Waeterschoot

I graduated almost exactly 15 years ago in IT and was pretty excited for my first job. I started out as a rookie (or junior software engineer as they called it) in a developer support team and learned a lot by tackling day-to-day issues. I literally had no experience so it felt natural & comfortable to ask for advice and guidance from senior developers. You can’t know everything as a junior right?

The classic career path

As years went by I got promoted to senior developer. Add a couple of extra years and I was a technical architect. Before I knew it I was a team lead only to realise I hated yearly performance reviews. 😉 So after a while I switched to enterprise architecture and finally ended up as a pricey insert random buzzword consultant.

This is a very classic and common pattern. People who want to grow are pushed onto this staircase which only leads to more talking & meeting and less building & realising. And most importantly: the more & more fancy my title got, the less obvious it became for me to ask for advice and to be transparant of my lack of knowledge. After all, I was supposed to have all the necessary guidance and wisdom at hand. This made me feel isolated & created unrealistic expectations.

A choice

5 months ago I decided to start my own company. For me this was a necessary next step in taking control of my career. I could have chosen what would be by many considered the “easy” road which would imply continuing my consultancy work. At the time there were a lot of well-payed options available in large companies so this would seem like the best option. But I chose otherwise.

Back to the playing field

Because I really missed realising something more tangible I chose to restart my career as a developer. It had already been 10 years since I did any development work and trust me when I say that 10 years is a lifetime in IT. I knew I had a lot to catch up & learn. And who would hire a 37-year old developer who wrote his last line of production code in 2007? Teal Partners did.

Being accepted

Teal Partners is a company founded less than 2 years ago. The founders truly believe in equivalence & full transparency. They currently employ 12 colleagues and with each big decision (like for example recruitment) everyone is invited in sharing their views and thoughts. And so they did with my job application. You can imagine how scary it felt that my application was discussed by seasoned developer profiles.

Continuous learning

5 months in, I couldn’t be more happy with my decision. My learning pace is significantly higher than the past years and it doesn’t cost me any energy. It actually provides new energy. Yes, I am probably the worst developer in the room but I am confident I’m catching up without feeling forced. And that is worth something.

My 2 cents

So try to find a place where you’re surrounded by individuals you can really learn from in a surrounding where there’s no artificial pressure in rising the ranks. You’ll feel a lot better!