There are moments in life where you realize that your perspective on the world has been skewed. Everyone (I hope) has them, they’re our natural system of checks and balances. At any rate, some of these moments are instantaneous, but most come in stages. I’ve been at an eBook startup almost a year now (crazy I know!) and I still love it, my job has evolved each week into something more exciting and more challenging. But recently it also brought with it a realization, particularly about technical skills.
In the publishing industry, I as an ePUB developer, was high-tech. I wrote and edited content in CSS and HTML which to most of my highly skilled editorial counterparts was a baffling language. In that kind of situation where you are close to the top of your pile (in your company) after awhile you start to naturally feel more confident, like you can do anything (honestly if you put your mind to it you can). In truth ePub developers are by far one of the most innovative groups I’ve come across, they have to be to work with such a crazy standard. But overall I lost perspective. I knew I was no where near the skill level of an engineer but I thought I was rather fluent in CSS/HTML.
Then I started my new job and for one day I had a moment of shear panic (I suspect we all do in our first weeks at a new job). SASS, or Semantically Awesome Style Sheets (yes that is a real thing and it is indeed awesome) was what my new company styled everything in. CSS was a byproduct, compiled from the SASS as a last step. Other than a few brushes with SASS I was truly a real “noob” but I was also very lucky. I love a new challenge and I had the incredible fortune to learn from a very patient and kind front-end/web developer. This was my first humbling moment. I had to start over and all of a sudden I didn’t feel nearly as “fluent” as I had.
Time passed and I forgot, I started to get comfortable again with my skill set and found myself drawing comparisons to the last time I’d felt that way. I also started working directly with publishers again and getting back in the ePub state of mind. Then it hit me, I run the risk of falling into the same trap all over again, of losing perspective. Though I can write quite well in CSS, HTML, SASS and I’ve learned to write MathML comfortably. I’m still awed by the things I see full blown computer engineers do or even other web developers (Hello CSS animations and parallax!). This realization was a second humbling moment.
I understand that they’re separate skill sets and arguably so is the set of concerns and skills that an eBook developer has/faces. Still, in the world of the web, it’s fast becoming apparent that we’re all perpetually students. By the time you’ve mastered one element of CSS, five more have been added. It’s a delightful and frustrating cacophony of newness. You’re constantly testing, tweaking and optimizing. Finding the best solution for each piece of content. I imagine this feeling is much the same for anyone looking to evolve with their field but because of the incredible speed at which web standards are/have to be updated the feeling is augmented. Every week you need to learn something new, every week visibly shows progress.
Quite frankly, it’s thrilling and at times startling but boy does it beat a monotonous job. Personally, I’m going to try to remember this moment, and gain as much knowledge and information I can from all the talented and inspiring people I meet. Hopefully along the way I’ll share some of what I’ve learned with those who need it. It pays to be brave, to reach out and ask questions and admitting that you need to learn from others is humbling. It should be.