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Nevertheless, 5t3ph Coded and (Mostly) Conquered Imposter Syndrome

Stephanie Eckles
(she/her) ✍️ ModernCSS.dev, πŸ‘©πŸΌβ€πŸŽ¨ StyleStage.dev, πŸ‘©β€πŸ’» Software Engineer, πŸ‘©β€πŸ« @eggheadio instructor, πŸ‘¨β€πŸ‘©β€πŸ‘§β€πŸ‘§ mom
・6 min read

Last year I wrote my first Nevertheless post, and I recently re-read it to reflect on my career progress then versus now (if you're interested in my "origin" story, head over to that post!)

At the end of that post, I had listed one goal that I was starting with for 2020:

...for my own wellbeing, I made a goal for 2020 to produce a web development series for beginners. As of this writing, I have published 12 episodes πŸŽ‰ I'm still getting used to the video format but you never know until you try, right? And based on reception on DEV, it seems it might have been the right time to appeal to beginners.

Of course, we had started to hear about COVID. Myself and my family were prepared to take it very seriously, but we hadn't been impacted by restrictions or any local cases at the time I published that.

But that initial goal became a catalyst for a whole pack of side projects over the last year. Coding for fun was a welcome distraction as I navigated pandemic life as a full-time working mom of two.

Those side projects + the pandemic causing more companies to be remote-friendly led to a major job change. Suddenly, my geographic boundaries that I thought I was career-trapped in were dropped (as mentioned in my first post, I live in "flyover country" aka not Silicon Valley, or NYC, or insert-whatever-other-hot-at-the-moment-US-tech-city).

And gosh darn it - I'm proud of my career and personal growth over the last 12 months! I've discovered that I was harboring a lot of doubt despite doing a lot of work that I was proud of at my previous jobs. And I realized it had more to do with being in an environment where although my direct team members supported me, the corporate and "midwest culture" barriers kept me locked into imposter syndrome for nearly 13 years of my career.

When I started making that video series for my first goal, I just wanted to help anyone who happened to wander across it. And those first videos are definitely rough production value, but I'm happy with the overall flow of the course and the content. I've had a few reviews that have let me know it did help some folks get started with web development! 😊

Along the way, I got back into Twitter (@5t3ph) which I'd kind of taken a 4-year hiatus from while I was figuring out life again as a working mom of two.

And I discovered several conversations were still happening - nearest to my heart was whether CSS was a programming language and related disdain for it. But at this point, I had some more years under my belt of working with folks with varied skillsets, and in particular, those who were hired as full-stack and absolutely wanted to avoid CSS. And what I knew is that a lot of those feelings were from trying to do things with less modern CSS.

So - ModernCSS.dev was born, which is my blog about modern CSS solutions for old CSS problems. It features in-depth, long-form tutorials that are intended to be practical examples of using modern CSS. I try to write them in a way that is understandable and helpful for a wide range of skillsets. And I emphasize any accessibility considerations throughout solutions as well.

I also have been blogging other things here on DEV and currently have 89 published posts (including the beginner's video series transcript and cross-posts of ModernCSS articles).

In April 2020, I serendipitously happened to respond to a Twitter thread from Joel Hooks - who I didn't realize was a co-founder of egghead - with a link to ModernCSS. This led to me becoming an egghead instructor which really let me improve my screencasting skills. I recently released my first full course there: Accessible Cross-Browser CSS Form Styling.

Another premise that flowed from creating ModernCSS tutorials was how important play is in my own work. Without allowing space to play, I would not have achieved an understanding of all kinds of development concepts, from CSS to JS to React to APIs to databases.

And I noticed that while we have some awesome environments that encourage play to learn, like CodePen, those tools usually are focused on one small experience. Or things that are too experimental (or inaccessible) to be used in more practical scenarios that we actually encounter for everyday work.

Since I'd been on the web awhile, I got to thinking about a pioneering project from when I was learning about CSS which was CSS Zen Garden. I did some research to see if any comparable project existed, and finding that it didn't, I created StyleStage.dev. Style Stage is a modern CSS showcase styled by community contributions. There's lots of info about what it is and how it works on the main page and it's always open to more contributors! But the idea is that it provides a way for you to think about styling of a page holistically, and to learn about and practice modern CSS. The project launched after a week of work in July 2020, and at this moment, there are 54 styles!

I've talked about Style Stage quite a bit, most recently in this recorded Twitch stream if you'd like to learn more about what it is and how to contribute!

Style Stage was one of my first Eleventy projects, and Eleventy became an enabler for basically all of the projects that followed. Eleventy (11ty) is a static site generator and if you want to learn more - guess what? I have a whole side project about it, haha! Check out 11ty.Rocks for resources that can help you get started or advance your existing projects.

In the midst of doing those projects, my confidence was growing. Folks were liking what I was putting out there, including some that I had admired a long time (which left me pretty starstruck - like what? Me? Former farm girl? 😱).

For much of my career, I thought that if I couldn't make something perfect I had no business releasing it. This is extremely flawed logic, and is why we often talk about imposter syndrome.

But as I built a flow of creating projects, I also started to embrace instantly releasing them which I highly recommend to help you get past imposter syndrome. Yes, it's extremely scary at first! But - the more you do it, the less scary it becomes.

Eleventy let me boilerplate certain aspects, and I created additional tools to help me create color palettes and social share images. Those freed me to focus on architecting my idea and preparing content and design and ensuring accessibility. Then - out the door it went!

I also decided to submit my writing to some additional publications (because it sure doesn't hurt to get paid sometimes!), which was a wonderful experience to work with talented editors:

And as I created content and tried out various formats, I was able to learn more about appealing to different learning styles. This led to the following projects:

  • SmolCSS.dev - Minimal snippets for modern CSS layouts and components
  • ButtonBuddy.dev - Learn about accessible button contrast then generate your own accessible button color palette

I've also had the privilege to speak at some events and on streams:

  • CSS Masters - discussing Style Stage and some of my background and approach to CSS
  • LondonCSS - Talk focusing on Style Stage
  • Colbyashi Maru - Twitch stream with Colby Fayock where SmolCSS.dev originated

I will be teaching a workshop for Smashing Conference in July called "Level-Up With Modern CSS" that is now available for early-bird registration!

More past and upcoming events are listed on my main site

Oh, and I co-host a podcast called Word Wrap with my long-time friend and a super excellent developer, Claire Lipskey.

Whew! Thank you for attending my self-retro 🀣 If you still want to know more, I recently talked with Toddy Libby on the Front End Nerdery podcast (also available as a video).

I would LOVE to know what your accomplishments were this year and how you have worked to kick imposter syndrome to the curb!

Discussion (5)

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jaredcwhite profile image
Jared White

You're crushing it Stephanie! I'm excited to dig deeper into ModernCSS and StyleStage. I've been trying to spread the word about some of the ways CSS in 2021 is simply mind-blowing compared to CSS ten years ago…there's a huge knowledge gap out there I think (aka people thinking they have to use Sass, or CSS-in-JS libraries, or Tailwind utilities, or some other extra layer of tooling/framework/etc.). Keep up the great work ✌️

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seemcat profile image
Maricris Bonzo

Goodness, YOU ARE A QUEEN Stephanie!!! So happy for you and all of your accomplishments. The best part? You offer so much help and guidance to others.

My accomplishments from 2020 till now:

  • Interviewed & found an amazing job while having a full time job.
  • Felt vibrationally ready to create content again on Instagram and Youtube.
  • Started giving talks at conferences!
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5t3ph profile image
Stephanie Eckles Author

Awww, thank you so much!

And Heck YES, those are amazing accomplishments!! Congrats to you! Uhmmm drop your links??

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seemcat profile image
Maricris Bonzo

Thank you πŸ₯° Here they are πŸͺ„

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clairebaire profile image
Claire Lipskey

It’s been absolutely wonderful to see you grow as a developer and a leader in our field. I’m so honored that you wanted to do a podcast with me, and I’m super excited to see what you do in 2021!