I recently wondered in another blog post, “what makes someone a computer scientist:
the act of writing code or the programming mindset?” I could ask the same of any other field, and it all boils down to the same questions: how do you adopt a new identity? when can you give yourself a new title? One obviously has to do more than take a class or fiddle with some code to be a “computer scientist.” So I came up with these criteria to test whether one has earned a new identity:
1. Doing something within the field regularly for a job or as a hobby– To be a journalist, you must constantly be out in the field collecting stories. To be a musician, you must be regularly practicing and performing. Even if you have enough experience in the field, your knowledge stops being as valuable over time unless you continue sharpening your skills.
2. Accumulating enough experience in the field to be qualified enough to teach others- It always takes a while to gain confidence when you start to learn something new. Fortunately, doing your job regularly will give you enough experience to teach others. The sure way to know if you’ve truly immersed yourself in a field is to advise others or take on a leadership role.
The bottom line is you have to do it to become it. If you want a title, you need action to back it up. To be a programmer, you have to program. To be a writer, write. Easy enough, but hard to maintain. But as long as you work hard and make no excuses, you can be anything you want.