I’m Supposed to Know

There are many obstacles to learning but a key one I see repeatedly is: I’M SUPPOSED TO KNOW.

Let’s say that you’re trying to accomplish something technical and you don’t remember how but can easily look it up, if you feel like you’re supposed to know it, you’re less satisfied with your ability to get it done. You feel like an impostor.

This mindset actively discourages the act of looking up information, which is essential for learning.

Imagine that you’re a web developer working on a project that requires the implementation of SSO/IdP. A voice inside tells you, “I’m a professional web developer. I’m supposed to know how to do this already.”

You might spend hours trying to figure it out entirely on your own instead of taking advantage of all the help you can get. And this further adds to your feelings of inadequacy or your Impostor Syndrome.

I suspect technologies like Copilot and watsonx Code Assistant will really challenge those who struggle with this. Remember, it doesn’t matter if you had to look it up. If you got it done, you got it done. This isn’t the Olympics where outside help disqualifies you. Looking up things is an integral part of being a programmer.

(I readily acknowledge that these tools are useful but still being developed and their suggestions can still be inaccurate or suboptimal, but I think the point stands.)

Embrace the mindset that “it’s okay not to know everything; get it done” and such tools become playgrounds for learning and being more productive. If you take the “I’m supposed to know” approach you’ll just see them as crutches and miss out on their potential. Always watch out for psychological barriers. They can make or break you.

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