I don't remember what grade I was in while at school that I realized I was not one of the cool kids. I was not one of the guys good at basketball, I was OK at football, but there were loads of folks better. I was slow, had terrible hand-eye coordination (can't be that astigmatism that has been addressed partly with my cataract surgery a few years ago...) - and as sporting ability was one of the defining points for cool-kids at that school, that was a significant handicap.
Then there was "social standing." My parents were nominally "middle class." At one time, they might have been considered "artisans" but to some folks, how much money one makes determines significance in society.
Alas, that seems to have not changed very much in the intervening years.
How much money one makes determines how important one is.
When I was in elementary and high school, that translated into the material goods the kids in school had - the shoes, designer labels, the other sundries students needed or wanted.
I expect that has not changed much either.
Since I was not very good at most sports, and my parents did not have loads of money to throw around - well, that was two strikes against me. So, I carried on as best as I could. I expect most people do.
Some folks made a point of rejecting the cool kids. Looking back, that seems a defense mechanism. "They did not reject me, I rejected them." I've seen it my kids and grandkids. I expect I did something similar.
So, on to college/university and hung with people who worried more about what we did and learned than what our parents did or how popular (and why) we were or who wanted to be seen with us and who we wanted to be seen with. I guess, the folks I hung with then had an influence on me now.
I'm not a cool kid when it comes to testing. At one time, I thought "Gee, since testers are not among the cool kids in software, we must be all pretty decent folks."
Then I learned people did not really all think that way. There were folks who had significant ideas what testing was and was not. They were convinced they were right. Those who agreed with them were right also, and were "cool."
Except the folks who disagreed with them were also convinced they were right. The people who aligned with them were "cool."
Except there were levels of "cool" within both groups. There were the ones who leveled everything on a couple of issues or points. Maybe a single issue. If you agreed with them on that issue, you might not be cool, but you were not "misguided" or "wasting their time."
At least, not completely.
They may not let you into their "inner circle" but they'd talk to you at conferences. Maybe. Kind of like the cool kids who knew your name in school and sometimes spoke to you in the hallway.
It became clear to me some time ago that I am not a cool kid among testers.
I thought I wanted to be. I have learned clearly, that I am not. There are people who want to be included with the cool kids, one group or another. There are people who, like the hangers-on at school, want to be included and gleefully repeat the words of the cool-kids and retweet them and, and, and...
And so many people turn off their brains when the cool-kids speak. They so want to be accepted that - yeah - they are good with that. No matter what it is or means. They are fine with that.
Screw the cool kids.
Look to yourself. Look to your own journey. Find the things you think are important and work on those things. If some "major name" won't talk to you because you disagree? Screw them. They are not worth your trouble or effort.
Look to how you can improve the people around you. Help them get better and help yourself continue learning. Sure. The cool kids are all talking about some book. So what? Do you feel compelled to read it or quote it because they do, or because it makes sense and has a bearing on what you are trying to do?
Challenge your beliefs. Do you believe them because the cool kids said this is what you need to believe? Or maybe, you believe them because you have seen how things work in the wild?
Or maybe you reject some idea from the cool kids because you have not found they are true for you.
When you get to the point of thinking for yourself - you will realize that you can redefine what it takes to be a cool kid. Do what needs to be done. Learn what needs to be learned and share it with anyone who will listen, read, whatever.
Then you know what that means?
You are the cool kid.