By John Sonmez August 16, 2018

Shaking Off Your Bad Reputation As A Developer

People have some sort of reputation. You perceive people as they show up to you, right? Nothing more normal than that. Developers have reputations too… Sometimes good, sometimes bad reputation.

However, our choices definitely pave the way for us, when it comes to creating a good/bad reputation for ourselves.

What do you do if you have a bad reputation at work? What can you possibly do to change that?

Watch this video and find out!

Transcript Of The Video

John Sonmez: Hey, what's up? John Sonmez here from simpleprogrammer.com. Today we're going to be talking about shaking off a bad reputation. I've never had to do that. No. No. Oh, how do you shake off a bad reputation. This is good. This is a good question. I mean we can take this a lot of different ways. This is from Aladdin. That's—talk about someone who has to shake off a bad reputation as a thief, Aladdin. He says, “Hi John, thanks a lot for your videos. I've carved out a niche on my team as the C++/Tech pro, with higher knowledge than the average dev, but that came at the expense of some domain/application knowledge. After receiving criticism for that in a review, I've worked hard to change that and with good success, but I find the old rep sticks! I'd suggest the same idea as a colleague, but mine would be seen as too “fancy” or “tricky” almost instantly! Is it too late for me to fix this label?”

It's never too late. You can always reinvent yourself. If you've seen my—go look at my old YouTube videos. Look at this channel. Look at some of my old YouTube videos and look at over the years I've reinvented myself many times as I've grown, as you personally grow and some of you that have come into this channel from—recently, you've only known me as this John. You haven't known me as the Clark Kent John of yesteryear.

What I'm saying is that like you can't be afraid to like—some of the times what holds us back is that what we project out into the world. If we believe something about ourselves, that's why I'm always so careful. I always am very, very careful and I tell you guys the same thing is to be really careful about what you call yourself, because your subconscious is listening. It's listening to what you're saying.

I actually just redid a video just recently on—you can check out the redone video on How to Beat Laziness. I redid the video because in that video I said I'm lazy and that's no good. It was right in big bold letters. Instead, what I should have said was—in the new video I said, “In the past I have acted in a way that's lazy. In the past I've been lazy.” Better to even say, “I've acted in a way that's lazy” because I'm not identifying with that, I'm not lazy. I've actually done that in the past or acted that way. Just because you lacked domain knowledge in the past doesn't mean that you do today.

I'm starting from here because I think this is the most powerful thing, because you need to understand that what you project in the world, what you tell people about yourself, not necessarily verbal, but what you believe about yourself other people automatically believe about you if you truly believe it.

Now, when you're thinking it totally and you're kind of a phony or fraud and you're trying to represent something that you're not, people detect that as well. What I'm saying is that if you want to change people's perception of you, you change your perception of you. Start there. If you change your perception of you other people—because think about it, how much information do we have? We go and we see all this stuff, we have to take in all this stuff from our eyes, from ears.

There are a couple of good books on this. I'm blanking the names now, but they talk about this psychological phenomenon. What it is is that we have to essentially take what people tell us or what they appear to be at face value for the most part, because we can't question every aspect of reality. We can't say, “Ah, I'm not sure if this is—every person is a wolf in sheep's clothing.” We can't assume that people are fake. We have to assume that they're generally what they're representing.

If you're representing this, if you keep on having that chip on your shoulder from before, from this one review thinking that your position, your reputation is to be really good in technical knowledge but lack domain knowledge, other people are going to pick up on it and they're still going to believe that. When you're giving a talk, and you're suggesting an idea, perhaps it's not your reputation but perhaps you already sensed that people sense about you this reputation that you have. So, you're presenting it in such a way that it's sort of conveying this, that you're cautious about this, that you're self-conscious about this and so people are automatically picking up on this and adapting on it because you're leading them to that direction.

What would happen, what would happen if you changed how you thought about yourself? I mean let's do something silly. Let's look in the mirror every day and let's say, “I have domain knowledge. I'm an expert in domain knowledge.” You do it. I won't do it, but you do it, okay? Just say that about yourself with a big smile in your face. I know this sounds woo-woo and crazy out there, but if you hear that enough times and you tell yourself that you'll believe it and you'll start acting that way and you'll start projecting that.

Again, am I talking about technical skills versus domain knowledge here? No. No. I'm talking about everything. This is why—yes, this is a specific question but I'll give you a more general answer and say, “What area of your life are you being pegged as a round peg in a square hole? What “reputation” do you have that you think that other people are casting on you,” but really you're projecting it out to them. Because when you change and you do it boldly, and you represent the new you, people will believe that and they will accept that.

It's like I said, I've got a book that I've just published a while ago called The Complete Software Developer's Career Guide. Go check it if you haven't and there's a chapter on dressing. I talk about how, you know, a lot of people would ask me a question, they're like, “John, I really want to start dressing nice or something because I read the chapter in the book” and I talk about the value of that, and they say, “But I'm afraid, I don't want to be embarrassed. People are going to think I'm a fraud. They're going to think I'm a phony, blah, blah, blah, all this stuff.”

I'm like, “Look, look, look, here's what you. You just do it and for a week people are going to be like, ‘Ah, what do you think you are? You think you're like a baller? You got a job interview today? Why you looking so fancy? You think you're—” whatever. They're going to drag on you for a week or like 2 weeks and then it will become the new normal because you'll just be like, “Fuck that! I don't care what they're saying. I'm just going to keep on doing what I'm doing.” That will become the new normal and then they'll just see you as that way.

Most people don't take a big enough step because they don't change how they see themselves. Ultimately, you want to conquer these kinds of things. You want to change your reputation, you have to see yourself differently and then the world is just going to believe whatever you tell the world, whatever you represent in the world.

I'll give you one last piece of advice as far as reputation goes and this is a lesson, again, like him or not, you can learn this from Trump. If your reputation—if you're hiding shit, you've got skeletons in your closet, you can be wrecked. There's a really good book called Antifragile which you should read. It's sort of the strategy of people like Trump, people that—it doesn’t matter how much bad press they get, it doesn't tarnish their reputation any. It doesn’t mean that you do bad things and like I said, I don't care if you like him or hot, that doesn't matter. What I'm saying is that like one way to protect your reputation is to make sure that you don't have anything and you're really trying to protect, you're being transparent and honest and genuine. My reputation, for example, it's very hard for you to throw pain on me or to splash mud on me because I'm raw, I'm telling you—like, what am I hiding? I've got nothing to hide. I'm being transparent and honest.

That's another thing to do, the more transparency and honesty that you put out there the less your reputation can possibly—people could harm you with your reputation. But the more clean and pristine—the people who—when you look at the news, who gets the biggest slap down? It's priests, it's Catholic priests on molestation charges. Why is this? Is it because Catholic priests are more likely to molest? No, it's probably not, that's probably not the—it's because they're so clean and they have such pristine reputations that are so protected that when shit happens and there's any kind of chink in that armor it's a big story, it's a big thing, it's a big scandal. You see what I'm saying? Whereas there are other people that, I don't know, like—I've never watched Jersey Shore but there's this Snooki character or something in there, I don't think that there's anything you can do to tarnish her reputation.

You see what I'm saying? I'm not saying that you have a bad reputation, but I'm just saying if you're out there you don't have much to protect. That's a better way to live your life rather than wondering, “Hey, someday someone's going to out me and I'm going to be in big trouble and lose everything I've built.” That's just my opinion on it. feel free to leave a comment below and let me know what your opinion is, if you've got one. Make sure you click the subscribe button, click the bell so you don't miss any videos. I'll talk to you next time. Take care.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."