I have impostor syndrome about my career as a developer evangelist, big time. I never feel like I’m good enough, or curious enough, or that I code enough. I wonder how I’ve been able to be a tech professional for years now (with a growing reputation) when I’m not creating big distributed systems, super optimized front-ends, or magic with the latest frameworks… you know all the things I see in job descriptions that I self-select out of because I’m not a “rock star developer.”
Part of it is because I have only had two roles (one for three months, one for 11) where my primary job was to write software, and both were as a solo developer. I’ve never had the traditional developer ramp-up, working for years on dev teams as I increased my skills in a particular domain by taking on increasing levels of responsibility for increasingly large and complex projects.
But sometimes, I get the kind of task I knocked down this weekend. “Our customer’s developers can’t make their code for using our APIs work. Can you debug it for them?” It’s in a language I barely know and never use like Java or C#. But within a reasonable time I have the software running the way its supposed to with clear instructions detailing what was wrong and how to fix it.
And the thing is that I never had to dig into any tools they didn’t have access to, I never got into any source code they didn’t have access to. In fact, this weekend I was using Visual Studio Community Edition, our GitHub repo, Fiddler 4, and my home internet connection (not even on our internal network).
And as I was posting my solution, I thought “I am so down on myself, yet here I am fixing other people’s stuff. I constantly tell myself I’m just an amateur with an interesting resume, but I get assigned this stuff and knock it down. Maybe I actually have some skill.”
Then I look up the switch statement reference for the 63rd time (because I have this constant nagging feeling I’m getting my syntax wrong and double-check it All. The. Time.). And I start feeling like an amateur again.
Reading Rey Bango talk about his experience with impostor syndrome earlier this year helped me feel better about my own. I even got to meet him and chat with him at CascadiaJS in July, which made me feel like a teenager getting treated like a peer by a grownup (not in a patronizing way, but because my inner fanboy was screaming the whole time). And reading David Walsh talk about his impostor syndrome apparently helped Rey cope with his feelings of being an impostor.
If it helped me to read someone I admired talk about their feelings of being an impostor, I figured after a weekend where I both felt and challenged those feelings, it was time for me to knock out a post just in case it might help someone else. Hope it does.