I had the pleasure of attending abstractions.io, which was held in Pittsburgh from August 18 – 20, 2016.  This event was two years in the making, and was brought to you by some of the best conference organizers in the country.

Abstractions.io brought together great minds from all walks of software development.  Unlike many conferences, the diversity of talks was incredible.  Abstractions.io presented itself as operating-system agnostic, and language-diverse.  Not once did I witness someone proclaim, “you’re not a real programmer if you use ___!”.  Okay, so one dude said, “You’re using Safari?  Why?”  (I kept all profanities to myself.  Kudos to me!)   Anyhoo,  the conference atmosphere felt safe and welcoming, increasing the likelihood that even the most conflict-avoidant among us would speak up if a problem was encountered.

A bit of history: when I first attended user groups in South Carolina, the “real programmers,” aka the privileged white dudes who had been programming since they were 2 years old, poked fun at me for using a Windows laptop.  In response, I partitioned my hard drive, and installed a Linux virtual machine.  Later, in the workplace, I was ostracized for using a Linux machine.  Apparently, Mac was the only acceptable OS.  Wanting to feel included, I purchased a MacBook Pro.  So, I dusted off my TI-83 Plus calculator, and computed the probability of being accepted by the cool kids.  I calculated that, YES… I was indeed cool enough to be part of the in-group.   But, just like in high school, if I appeared to be headed in the general direction of the cool-kids table, the cool kids each straddled 2 seats, and moved their lunch trays (errr… super-cool laptops) closer together so that there was no place for me to sit.  Well, the problem must have been the calculator, so into the trash it went!!!

So then there was abstractions.io, where it was cool to be a Linux user, or a Mac user, or even a Windows user!  Wait, what?  I’ve been flip-flopping like a dying fish for all of these years for nothing?

Oh, and that’s not all!  I’m currently building WordPress websites for a professional photographer.  I attended a WordPress talk, and it was excellent, and nobody made fun of me for “not being a REAL programmer” because I was using a CMS.

I attended a JavaScript talk, and there were no hecklers in the audience!  None of us had to feel like 2nd-class citizens for using JavaScript!  Hallelujah!

I think we have all had a true taste of some of the origins of imposter syndrome.  I wish that there was a pill to swallow that would make all of us immune to the B.S.  I wish that there were a switch to flip when we second-guess our abilities.

So, maybe it’s all going to be okay after all.  Maybe I can keep my MacBook, as well as my Windows laptop with the Linux partition.  Maybe I can use both laptops in public, without fear of judgment.  Maybe I can continue to love all things Python, and also do some web development with JavaScript and PHP, without being a traitor.  Maybe I can use WordPress and still be “a real programmer.”  Maybe my problem this whole time was buying in to the hype.

In summary… hype can take a hike.  Instead, let us abstract all the things, and embrace one another, exactly as we are…

Thank you to all of the speakers, organizers, volunteers, and sponsors of abstractions.io.  What you gave to me and many others is priceless… you gave us knowledge, hope, acceptance, and a much-needed reminder to never give up the love of writing code just because someone says that we’re “not real programmers.”