Imposter Syndrome. It’s Real. It Sucks. What To Do About It

I Need Someone At Work To Tell Me If I’m Doing a Good Job Or Not

I started working as a Software Engineer about 3 months ago. Sometimes, I have fleeting moments where I feel like I’m absolutely crushing it, but most of the time I am pretty sure that I am actively helping to destroy our codebase and mess everything up.

A lot of the time, I feel like I simply don’t belong. What do I know about writing code? I didn’t study computer science in my first undergraduate degree. I didn’t cumulatively code during high school. I get stumped on a lot of Leetcode problems. My half-finished side projects are trash. What. Am. I. Doing here?

You’re Not Alone: Lot’s of People Have Imposter Syndrome

A quick search of Reddit and you’ll see that imposter syndrome is legit and a lot of people feel this way. There’s a wide variety of backgrounds in software engineering. Some people go to mediocre schools and get computer science degrees. Some graduate from Stanford or MIT. Some people read some books, follow some tutorials, and learn enough to create web pages. Others drop 20k on a bootcamp and study all day for 3 months to learn about the hottest frameworks. 

This doesn’t make anyone less of a software developer. You might not know about the time complexity of some recursive function, but it’s something that can be easily learned by watching Youtube videos. Everyone in this field is constantly learning and in the beginning your knowledge base is going to be pretty small but you just have to be open to learning. 

TIF: A Story Of My Failure

This week I screwed up something that was supposed to be super simple. I had a simple feature to implement. Easy-peazy I thought. I wrote the code. I did a bunch of manual testing. Thought for sure it was working. It got merged in. Everything was hunky dory…

Until, the following week the UI team lead pinged me early in the morning for a chat. Every time this happens, I am sure it’s to learn that I screwed up in some way. Usually, my fears are unfounded. Today, not so much. Turns out my code didn’t work. It had obvious bugs. Like, embarrassingly obvious bugs. 

We Learn From our Mistakes

How did this happen? Part of me really wants to put some of the blame on my team lead. BRO I HAVE 3 MONTHS OF EXPERIENCE WHY AREN’T YOU CHECKING MY CODE? But, because I’m normally hard on myself, I blame a lot of it on me. I should have done a better job testing. To test the code, I was setting an if statement manually to true because the code depended on the app landing on a specific category but that category was rarely in the stage data.

What will I learn from the lesson? Double check my code if I know that people aren’t really actively scrutinizing it (even though they definitely should be). Learn to test better. Obviously manually testing isn’t the best and we are working on end-to-end automated tests. I should’ve checked with the backend team to see if they could add some fake test data. 

While my ego is damaged, and I’m worried that my team lead is now not going to trust the code that I write, this is the very beginning of my second career and is obviously going to be a learning process. This is one of those times. 

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