Imposter Syndrome In Software Developers: Am I A Fake Developer?
Have you heard Imposter Syndrome before ??
Yes or No whatever your answer is…if you are a developer we are going to make you remember something which you might have experienced in your job…
- You get completely lost when you are asked to work on a new project or maybe you are asked to write a new feature where you don’t know half of the technology your other coworkers are talking about.
- How did you feel (especially as a junior developer) when you were given a code written by other developer but you couldn’t understand some syntax, words or patterns used in the code (What the hell is going on in this code…?) to build the logic. Again you are completely off and you started having self-doubt (If I would be able to continue this..???)
- How did you feel when you attended a seminar or training or tech meetup where all the developers were asking questions or doing some debate on the latest technology and some popular tools but you were silent because you had no idea (or maybe you just heard the name) about they all were talking about and you might have felt like your career will be in danger if you won’t update yourself with those technologies.
- You might have scrolling StackOverflow or another developer community site to check some answers or for inspiration but you switched to another tab instantly when you found your manager is just behind you and he may catch you.
All the above feeling is the sign of Imposter Syndrome. So in short as a developer…
- When you think that you don’t fit in your job or you shouldn’t be here.
- You see other developers and you start thinking that they all are smarter or talented than you.
- You constantly feel that one day somebody will expose you as a fraud and you will be thrown out.
- You start wondering… if you made the right career choice or not because there are so many things in tech which you don’t know but others have the knowledge and they are better than you.
This is a quite common feeling in software development and not only beginner or junior developers face this problem but also people who are experienced and doing coding for decades also go through this problem. In a Blind Survey it was found that employees working in top-notch companies such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Apple also face imposter syndrome despite their accomplishments. 58% of tech employees suffer from this feeling.
Why it happens??
Imposter syndrome is a signal that you’re doing something outside of your comfort zone. Well, somewhere it’s a good sign because it means you are growing and trying to stretch yourself. If you are in a room where you are not the smartest or talented person it means you are learning and expanding yourself. Change your perspective towards this problem and embrace it because when you feel you’re lacking somewhere and you are not talented then you try to acquire more knowledge and skills, you try to learn more, you try to expand yourself and you try to do something you’re not comfortable with.
The nature of the tech industry is very different and it’s bigger. Every year a lot of developers enter into this field. It’s a field where programmers have to stay updated with the latest technology, frameworks, language, tools, practices and a lot of things. Programmers always have to be in a constant learning phase, different jobs ask for a different kind of expertise in different tools, language or technology which becomes overwhelming for them. They always have pressure to learn something every time and if something is unknown for them they start doubting their accomplishment, feel insecure, compare themselves and suffer from this problem. The point is they need to understand that it’s impossible for any developer to know everything.
Is This an Issue?? How It Affects Developers??
If you are a developer who loves to play with code, love to take challenges, always curious for learning new things and enjoy being uncomfortable all the time then definitely it’s not an issue for you (you’re actually not suffering from this problem) but there are some scenarios that happen in tech industry due to this problem which is not a good sign…
- Imposter Syndrome affects developers’ productivity which eventually affects the whole development industry. The victim takes more stress, he/she may feel depressed or anxious, they can burn out trying to stretch themselves all the time to achieve the goal. A lot of developers also start avoiding writing clean and maintainable code because their priority becomes quantity(learning new things) not quality.
- Either developer quit their job after starting it in industry or they switch to another industry or quickly. Some of the newbies don’t take courage to enter in tech industry due to this feeling.
Solution of Imposter Syndrome
Before we list out a few things to overcome this problem firstly understand that it is normal and you’re not alone. The majority of people are in the same position as you so don’t be panic and don’t let it cause you to freeze and stop working. Every developer loves to talk about the tools or technology they are working on so except that thing that you know, the next person may be unaware of or vice versa. Below are some solutions that will help you to deal with imposter syndrome.
1. Make a Habit of Being Uncomfortable
Software development is a field where nobody knows everything. Everyone in this field loves to share and talk about the technology they are working on or they have explored. Everybody wants to learn some sort of technology they are lacking because nobody wants to become a bad developer. If you are a beginner or experienced understand that technology is a never-ending thing so there will be always something to learn and you can’t learn all the technology, frameworks, tools which are coming out every day. Accept that when you see someone’s proficiency in a certain domain or technology it doesn’t mean he/she knows everything. They are also like you and they also don’t know something in tech that you know. Today everyone in software development needs help from StackOverflow or other resources so you’re not alone with this feeling.
The main reason behind imposter syndrome is when you see someone’s proficiency in technology or concept, you start feeling inferior, you compare yourself with the next person, you start doubting yourself and then you fear that you don’t have that knowledge about the concept of technology they know.
Accept the truth that you can not be an expert in software development, you will always find someone better than you, so instead of seeing someone’s intelligence and getting depressed focus on your learning and getting better every day in the right direction. There is no endpoint of being completely knowledgeable and comfortable in software development. Accept the real truth of software development that nobody can learn everything all the time so you need to make a habit of being uncomfortable.
2. Understand the Job Description Requirement
We have already mentioned what most of the developers feel when they see job requirements. In most cases, you need to understand what these job descriptions say and what it means. Below is one example.
Don’t be afraid when you see these kinds of job descriptions. In 80-90% cases, you will feel like “I am not fit in this role” or “I don’t have knowledge for XYZ technology.” Understand the actual requirement behind a job description given (exceptions are there). When lots of technologies are mentioned then most of the time it means you must have fundamentals knowledge and you should have the ability to learn new things or adapt to new technology. A lot of developers learn new technologies or tools in industries when they are assigned certain tasks so don’t be afraid to learn on the job.
3. Get Support from Seniors
Talk to your seniors and ask the question when you feel like you don’t know something. Whenever you get stuck in your code or need help in understanding some algorithm or design choice, get help from your seniors. It doesn’t make you a fool person and it’s pretty normal to feel like a dumb person when you ask something you don’t know, especially working on a new project. When you ask how the product works, or how their support operations systems work, or how their QA process works for the new project then it’s not a dumb question. Remember It’s okay to ask for help.
An encouraging team and relaxed atmosphere always help coworkers to deal with imposter syndrome. People who are fairly senior in their career they will let you know that it’s ok to feel overwhelmed reading the code of a new project when you are not aware of some language, framework or technology. Also get feedback about your work from your senior, team leader or manager. Seniors also need to put themselves into the next person’s shoes to support them, make them feel calm, relaxed and comfortable.
4. Keep Track of Your Achievements
When you enter in programming and keep learning you start realizing how far you’ have come. How you solved your first programming problem, how you cracked some interviews, how you dealt with the most horrifying bug generated at a production level, how you learned new technology or tools when you had to add some feature in the product. How you become expertise in some language and how you took the challenge to solve some complex problems in difficult situations. These things will give you positivity and it will help you to overcome imposter syndrome.
You can plan a career goal for yourself and decide what you want to learn every month. You can move towards your goal and keep adding skills in your brain cart. Make a calendar for every month, learn the skill and keep track of all the accomplishments. Check your past accomplishments, take inspiration from there and feel positive for everything you have achieved. This will not only help you to overcome imposter but also it will help you to boost your resume.
5. Make Your Fundamentals Clear
New language, new frameworks, new tools all these things are shiny and attractive for developers but you need to understand that if your foundations aren’t solid and your fundamentals are not clear then whatever new things you will try to pick up it won’t help you for a long time.
Coding is a journey, you will never be the best but you always have to work to be the best.
A lot of developers suffer from imposter syndrome but all they need to understand that it’s normal and they aren’t alone. Doubting on your accomplishment and feeling like a bad programmer when you don’t know something is completely normal. Understand that it’s impossible to know everything all the time. All it’s just matter that if you are curious if you have an interest in tech if you love to accept the challenges and if you are willing to learn and adapt new skills, technologies then you aren’t a fake developer.
You don’t need to run away from imposter syndrome, embrace it and just consider this as an opportunity to learn something new.