Auntie Pattern’s advice: Bitcoin mining, bootcamp slumps & the not-junior blues

Coworkers treating you like a n00b? Our agony aunt has advice

Earlier this month, we asked you to send in your questions for our brand new Tech Agony Aunt, Auntie Pattern (aka Jessica Rose). And you delivered.

Here are Auntie’s answers to your first three queries, starting with this doozy.

1. Crypto mining at work

A colleague of mine was caught mining for Bitcoin at work. Management weren’t sure how to handle it. He kept his job because there was nothing in the company rules against it (there is now). I’ve also heard of this happening at a friend’s workplace and they’re figuring out what to do about it. What do you think the general consensus on mining for Bitcoin at work should be? – Cryptocoworker

Dear Cryptocoworker,

I’m interested in how your workplace operates as a business while using the logic of a snarky 12 year old to manage its staff. There not being an explicit rule against using company resources, machines or time in this extremely specific way shouldn’t keep managers or companies from enforcing their existing, general rules around use of company resources or time. I’m left daydreaming in a mix of delight and horror what else your company would be willing to tolerate because it wasn’t explicitly against company rules:

“Nobody told me I couldn’t run a casino in the office after hours!”
“There aren’t any rules about petsitting out of my cubicle!!!”
“Where does it say I can’t bareknuckle box during my lunch break!!!!11!eleven”

Doing anything at work that’s using company owned computers, energy, bandwith and/or time unauthorized to generate income should be considered harmful to your continued employment. Most employment contracts include language addressing this and you, dear readers, can be punished for doing stupid things. Even if they’re not explicitly forbidden.

2. The post-bootcamp slump

I am currently in an awkward position. I went through a coding bootcamp, and things were not the best. I took an administrative job right after to pay the bills, and the DEBT. Now, that I can breathe deeply after few payments on that loan, I want to get back to tech, put few things in my portfolio, and make the transition. What should I do? – Post Bootcamp Blues

Dear Blues,

I’m afraid that you’ve found yourself in a position that’s not uncommon for bootcamp graduates. As bootcamps are unaccredited, for-profit training providers, both the training they provide and the employment support available can be hit or miss. With these programs costing thousands to tens of thousands of dollars (or pounds, euros, etc), many graduates can feel pressed to get any job they can to try and make a dent in their newly developed debt.

But you’ve found a job to help offset some of the bootcamp debt and you’re ready to take another run at working in technology. This is fantastic! Getting a portfolio together and beginning to network in industry are going to be great first steps to take. I’ve written some guidance for making a portfolio site to help get your work out there.

To get eyes on that your portfolio site, you’ll need to network both on and offline. Following and meaningfully interacting with technologists in your local area is a low cost, scalable way to start making some connections without getting off the couch. Getting to (or even speaking at!) relevant local tech meetups can help you meet potential hires and allies while stretching grocery budgets through free pizza. Don’t be afraid to talk or write about your job hunt and what you want out of an employer when networking.

Going back to your bootcamp for help with your jobhunt might be a great way to take some of the pain out of the process. While many bootcamps offer limited job placement assistance, they have a vested moral and commercial interest in their grads making good. Seeing what assistance they can make available as you reboot your jobhunt will give a decent camp the chance to help you out.

I wish you all the luck you deserve from your job hunt and from the tech industry.

3. Not a junior, dammit

I’ve been in tech a good many years, but it’s been in a number of different roles and languages, so while I’ve been in tech a while, I don’t have a solid “5 years” in one language to be able to call myself a “senior developer.”

But my co-workers won’t stop treating me like a junior. They assume I don’t know basic concepts that I’ve known for years, and they keep dumping basic work on me, and treating me like I’m just out of a bootcamp.

How can I politely inform them that I know what I’m doing, and just because I can’t do super advanced “code-golf” examples in their language of choice doesn’t mean I don’t have experience? – MapReduce

Dear MapReduce,

I’m so sorry to hear that you work with assholes. You’ve got an incredible journey ahead of you in trying to demonstrate your competence to people who have doggedly refused to see it though working alongside you. You have a few different ways you can address this.

You can kill them with kindness. And awkward silences. There are a lot of things you can try to kill them with, but it’s best we try and limit ourselves to these, for the moment. Approach interactions with your enraging coworkers with the kind assumption that they’ve merely forgotten that you’re a talented developer. A cheery “I’m too busy to pick this up for you, but can make time if you need someone to show you how to do this” can be a fantastic shield against non-managers passing you 101 level gruntwork.

Sugary deflection can be a great tool, but pairing this approach with an awkward silence will help you get the most mileage out of your chipperness. The next time a colleague tries to explain what a for-loop is, wait until they’re fully finished. Then wait some more. Draw out an uncomfortable silence and look confused at them before asking sweetly why they’re explaining this to you. Do they need you to confirm that they’ve understood the concept properly?

Your goal here isn’t to change their perception but their behaviour. If your coworkers are thick enough to have ignored your demonstrated competence, you’re unlikely to change their minds. You’re just creating a tax on treating you like a newbie by reliably responding to this behaviour with polite rebuffs or awkward silences. But this may not successfully change their behaviour. And changed behavior may not ever impact their assessment of your skills levels. Luckily, you’ve got another route to the respect you deserve.

You can quit your job to go work for and with people who understand your value. And likely get a pay rise in the process. You’re an experienced polymath developer with multiple years experience in industry. How much time do you really want to invest in people too daft to see your brilliance?


Want Auntie Pattern to answer your question? Email her here.

Auntie Pattern is written by Jessica Rose, a technologist obsessed with fostering more equal access to meaningful, less miserable work in tech. You can also listen to her advice on the Pursuit Podcast, find her online at jessica.tech or argue with her on Twitter.

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Jessica Rose
About Jessica Rose 10 Articles
Jessica Rose is a self taught technologist obsessed with fostering more equal access to technical education and meaningful work in the tech industry. Equipped with an American accent and based in Blighty, she's always excited to hear about the weird projects people are working on.