Are You a Gatekeeper?

One of the problems that I’ve seen in many parts of life is the belief that things must proceed a certain way. I caught an article on ways teachers have made school less fun for kids because they adhered to some rule or belief too tightly. I think many of those stories are true because I’ve seen some strange teacher behavior with my kids over the years.

In the tech world we’ve gotten our share of gatekeepers who think that a developer or sysadmin or some other person doing a job should do it a certain way or use particular tools. I caught a tweet that embodies the frustration some people have with those gatekeepers. Jez Humble quoted this and built a thread on this, including admitting he’s contributed to the problem. I know I have as well.

If you think back in how you’ve worked with others, interviewed people, onboarded a new hire, or even disagreed with another person, are you a gatekeeper? Do you have strong, core beliefs that you think everyone should follow? Or are you adaptable and flexible, willing to consider slightly different thoughts, protocols, or ways of viewing problems?

I think that many of the advances and incredible achievements in the world have some from someone thinking differently. Someone, or a group of people that grow, change, or alter something in the world make the biggest differences. We have best practices, we have standards, and we have good, solid ways of working in many cases. We also learn to become better over time in many cases, changing the way we work because of the growth in our knowledge.

I think teams ought to come to some consensus and agreement. We have to make decisions and move forward in our efforts to build software and systems. However, we also need to allow debate, discussion, and civil disagreement. I argue for many points at work, winning people over on some, and losing other debates. I don’t always like it, but I can live with it if more people disagree with me. I think that most of us can do the same, as long as there are rational reasons for the final decision.

Being a gatekeeper often involves having power and abusing it because you can, rather than building and generating some sort of group agreement. Real leaders find ways to work with their people, not force them to fit a mold.

Steve Jones

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1 Response to Are You a Gatekeeper?

  1. EC says:

    Jez Humble is partially correct and partially wrong. Yes gate-keeping everywhere is a problem including within those areas where persons are claiming to fight it and promote diversity. How can you promote diversity while limiting diversity of ideas? As for Jez’s take on it this…

    As noted in a reply to Jez’s twitter thread, having the ability to learn anything, something most humans can do, is not the same as being good at it specially good enough to be paid for it. There are innate traits and skills that can not be learned by anyone to the extent that you would need to use those skills at an acceptable level. Anyone can learn about brain surgery but that doesn’t mean anyone is capable of being a brain surgeon. This rush to embrace diversity has many thinking foolishly. Real diversity means we aren’t all the same yet if anyone can learn to do anything then that would mean we are the same and thus not diverse.

    The diversity of life means we are not all the same and thus we can not all learn to do anything or be anyone; we all excel in some areas more easily then others just as we also have limitations that others may not. In the world of RDBMS there is a type of set based thinking/understanding that not just anyone can do and so while anyone can learn SQL not just anyone can achieve the level of understanding to use it effectively and anyone who believes otherwise is foolishly embracing the diversity hype train.


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