Sep 20, 2023

The Scoff of Superiority

Sav dressed as a Wizard in an attempt to look like a technical wizard.
Me as a wizard, I thought it looked quite funny.

In the software industry I meet many people who deem themselves as technical wizards, those who live and breathe software for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They know and understand things about software that others know nothing about. Most of these technical wizards, in my experience, lack people skills so when people enter their dungeon to ask a technical question they give what I call, the scoff of superiority.

The scoff, you know, that exhalation of breath. The shock that you don’t know the answer and they do. A breath of air that slaps your face with the regret that you even asked the question to begin with. The scoff where you feel inferior for that moment of time and the scoffer feeds off the ego boost that they know the answer.

I remember when I first started within the software world I knew very little about how the industry worked. I remember at an old workplace I used to ask questions to the undisputed expert, a technical software wizard of sorts. I entered his office and asked him technical questions and it always proved difficult. He mocked questions, scoffed when I failed to understand a concept, and gave incomprehensible answers that only other wizards understood. For example:

Me: “So could I use Python to create this application?”

Wizard: «scoffs» “Obviously, if you studied you would understand the answer.”

A contrived example but it illustrates the point that a scoff and comment like that helps no one, it only creates terrible team dynamics and a fear to ask future questions. A new saying of mine based on an old adage: “Teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime. Belittle the man for not knowing how to fish and he’ll eat nothing”.

I remember everyone in the office wanted to ask the wizard questions but hesitated as they knew he mocked and scoffed at what he deemed as silly questions. They even warned me: “Ask the wizard for help but remember he might become agitated”. As a young man fresh out of University I felt the fear to ask for help. Only now that I am older I realise how precious, humbling, and helpful it is to pass on wisdom without the scoff of superiority or other types of mockery.

A reminder to current or future wizards before giving a scoff of superiority:

  • Everyone starts off new, you aren’t born with technical software knowledge, it was learnt.
  • Remember what it feels like when someone gives you a scoff of superiority.
  • A person you scoff at today may grow up to become a technical wizard and cast evil spells back on you.