Impostor Syndrome and Fear of Missing Out…
along the way of a software engineer’s career.
Disclaimer: this is not a guide on how to deal with your FOMO nor your impostor syndrome, I might drop some tips out of my personal experience still if you want an actual guide there is plenty out there.
This is more a showcase on how everyone can face these syndromes and more of a “welcome to the club” article.
So what are those big words?
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, fraud syndrome, or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments or talents and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
It is hard, right!? yet understandable. Those feelings are legit, and you are not alone.
Where does it all begin!!? with Big Expectations.
For me it started the moment I started my major, a master’s degree in Software Engineering; A very condense program, heavy on the academic studies and computer science fundamentals, and full of extracurricular and elective content…
In Lebanon -my home country- holding the title of an engineer comes with a lot of expectations, so any respectful engineering school would make sure their graduates had all it takes. Not to name all the courses I had to take yet to give you an idea of how diverse that major was, I had to take business, marketing, HR, Law for business, and a lot more…
In addition, my community (friends and family) had their own set of expectations, “Why can’t you fix my computer bro!!, aren’t you in the software business?”, “The fridge stopped working can you have a look, my engineer son!!”
Living up to everyone’s expectations is the first step into being/seeing yourself as an impostor.
And it grows while in school…
On a more serious track though, I do remember taking Algorithmics, the first course of the first year… it was love from the first sight or read :) I just loved it understood it excelled at it, while my colleagues were struggling I always had optimal solutions and easier time juggling code and understanding the different concepts.
It was the language I did not know I can speak, the language of computers.
But that wasn’t enough to save me from the Imposter syndrome, I felt the pressure of needing to know it all, and I wanted to have the answers to everyone’s questions…
That’s Impossible though, this is why I am not a software engineer yet.
Something I wish someone told me back then: “Dude, chill! enjoy the journey and don’t try to jump forward”
It blossoms with the first job
After my second year, I started an internship, as a JAVA full-stack software developer; and as I was supposed to do, I learned a lot on the job… I learned about web services, about ORMs, Web servers, debugging, and a lot of technical skills.
Believe me, when I say I never felt like I know nothing more than then… furthermore, I was sure that somehow, I skipped this knowledge in school and that I was not paying enough attention in class…
Worst feeling ever.
Advice to my younger self: “the point of an internship is to gain technical and practical knowledge that wasn’t covered academically as much as soft skills and learn how to work within a team and under deadlines pressure…”
Yet whether an intern or an employee, you will feel you are missing out too…
you will be wondering was this the right job for me? What about all the different stacks out there? Different programming languages? Different project management styles? the other industries? Am I passing on better opportunities, would what I am learning here be enough for my next job!?
And it never dies.
I am sure all of you have been on job hunts before, I have been there myself many times since I graduated but I will fast forward to the recent past. Two years ago I made a big move, I moved from Lebanon to NYC. A move that made my life better on a personal level, but it amplified my impostor syndrome in ways I cannot describe.
Every time I checked all the job posts and investigated the different job descriptions out there, I got sick to my stomach… when did all these languages come up? How am I supposed to have three years of experience in some language that has been out there for eighteen months? One question I had in my head, am I just not good enough? Did I miss the chance of being a real software engineer? Where did I go wrong?
I lost confidence in myself, in my skills and my knowledge… I questioned every career decision I made in the past and that led me here. And I got frustrated about my next move, what to do next? Should I learn new languages? How would I get enough professional experience with new languages and/or stacks?
What I did to overcome my insecurities and fear?
That’s when I decided to take control over the narrative, I decided that instead of living in fear I can take the best next step…
Flatiron software engineering Bootcamp, allows me to brush up on my basics and learn new languages and tech stack, hold on to my vision of myself as a stack agnostic engineer focus on the problems I want to solve and showcase my ability to learn fast and adapt to new circumstances and new requirements.
Keep in mind though this industry is the one who has the biggest impostor syndrome, every time a new language is out there they exhaust it, they try to make it look like the best of them all, the savior that will solve all our problems and fix all our limitations.
But no language is perfect, and no stack will have it all, our needs are growing faster than the technology development and we will keep looking for what is next.
In addition and to wrap up, you might be wondering why I chose this subject instead of a technical guide maybe, the answer is simple…
Because deep down I do believe I don’t have enough knowledge to allow me to speak or explain technical subjects to people, but hopefully now that I did put my experience with the syndrome out in public, I will be able to get over it and start with some technical articles, so stay tuned…