You don’t have to look like, act like, or have a similar background to ANYONE to get started in this industry.
Be you, do great.
— Me, a few weeks ago on Twitter
When I was a beginner web developer, my first thought whenever I visited a website was to find out out who was involved. I always asked myself, “Which one of them is the most like me?” I usually started with faces — “Do any of them look like me?” And then I moved to names — “Do any of them have names like mine?”
In the case of many websites: No, none of them were like me.
Does it matter?
Yes — it absolutely matters.
Some of us spend our whole lives constantly reminded about the things over which we have no control (race, gender, ethnicity, neighborhood in which we grew up, etc). Often these reminders are followed by (usually inaccurate) stereotypes about our intelligence, personality, fashion sense, etc. Over time, we (understandably) start to believe it all, and it infiltrates every aspect of our daily lives.
Role models are important. When the people we look up to look like us, act like us, and have similar experiences as us, we start to believe that we can be like them. As students, we need to know that we can learn the hard stuff, despite the memories of the morons in our past who tried to convince us otherwise. Role models help us keep going.
Unfortunately, as in the case of the aforementioned websites, not all of us have role models when we need them. So what should we do?
We keep going anyway.
Like it or not, our success is defined more by how we act than by how we’re born.
Be persistent, learn constantly, and ignore the haters.
Become the role model that someone else looks up to, to know that they can make it, too.
This was originally posted on The Pastry Box Project at https://the-pastry-box-project.net/raquel-velez/2014-February-4.