Aysha Anggraini

On Code, Design, and Movement

That Little Fine Line

I don’t usually write about people because I can never be subtle in my writings or my portrayal of them. I remember getting into trouble when I wrote about a classmate during my college days. I never mentioned her name but the post was a criticism of her management skills of our group project. I wrote it in order to vent my frustrations rather than offering a solution. Being a student, I found writing therapeutic and a healthy outlet to release my stress.

Not aware that people actually read what I wrote, I was oblivious towards my classmate’s cold mannerism towards me until she wrote a long email to me about the post; she also attached all of my team members in that email. All of them ganged up on me and gave me a bad peer review for the group project. I was worried for my grades but I knew that if I get anything less than an A, I was prepared to dispute this with the professor. Fortunately for me, it was never necessary since the professor knew that I was the primary code contributor for the group. We wouldn’t have a project without me. Although I never got any damaging repercussions for that, it taught me a lesson and I decided to stop writing about my experience with people. A primer on why this blog is mainly a tech blog; it used to be more personal.

But people are so fascinating. To not write about them at all will be such a waste since we can draw many lessons from them. And truth be told, I no longer care if the subject of my post is going to confront me. I am just going to tell them that for better or for worse, they are my muse and they have been immortalised on this blog of mine. Consider it an honor.

A few months ago, I had the unfortunate chance of working with a person I consider unpleasant. She doesn’t understand the thin line between confidence and arrogance. Always harping about how experienced she is in the industry and how she is different from other people because other people would talk about being experienced but has no actual experience at all. This moved me to look up her past work experience and I found that while she did have experience, it was only at small organisations. She had no experience traversing a larger organisation where the politics can be harder to navigate and promotions even harder to come by. The irony.

She would pass her opinions as facts. Instead of offering a real solution to manage stakeholders’ expectations, she would tell us to ignore them since in her experience, ignoring is better than engaging. What stands out to me was how often she talked about her past. If you mention working with a UX researcher, she’d mentioned her eclectic experience in research. Mention engineers? She had worked with better ones. Mention documentations? She’d talked about creating a documentation tool so good that it made kittens cry tears of joy!

She enjoys naming all of the past organizations she used to work for. I have a feeling she thought them as prestigious. Once, I made a harmless comment about not knowing she used to work for a startup that is responsible for a product that I occasionally use. Her reaction was one of annoyance and it is all because she finds it irritating that people are not aware of her extensive body of work. I was really surprised since my comment was never meant to offend.

Why do people do what they do? A question that I always ask myself when I meet interesting people. This is what I think she is actually doing: overcompensating. Lacking experience navigating work in a larger organisation and knowing she lacks the experience, she believes she has to be more vocal about her credentials. Perhaps people would have more faith in her if they were often reminded of her previous success. Perhaps people would trust her if she exudes confidence despite lacking the experience and the ability to do the job. As the saying goes, fake it ’til you make it. So lets fake confidence. However, what she thought as confidence is actually cockiness. In her arrogance, she was oblivious to other people’s aversion to her. Towards the end of her tenure, I can tell that some people were happy that she was leaving.

I never want to turn into the very thing that I dislike. God forbid if I ever turn into someone like her. I like to think that I have enough self-awareness to prevent something like that from ever happening. So I wrote these tips first and foremost as a reminder to myself.

Show. Don’t Tell.

Instead of telling people about your past experience, prove it through your current work and collaboration. Be proactive in your daily task and be a team player. If you are trying to lead by building influence, it is more effective to do so by being collaborative rather than by boasting about your past projects.

Don’t live in the past.

It doesn’t matter what you used to do. People care about what you can bring onto the table right now. Also, it doesn’t matter how successful a person was. People can deteriorate in their skills and character. This is why you should never be complacent just because you had a few great gigs in the past. Funny how the world works. One day, you’d find yourself at the top and then another day struggling not to hit rock bottom. The world is fickle that way.

Be Considerate.

The world would be a better place if people actually think before they speak. Always think for a moment about how your message would be perceived by others. Take your time to find the right words before delivering them.