My Cure for Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome. It is a dreaded thing, and it has been talked about over and over and over again. And those are just three examples I’ve personally looked at. There are literally hundreds of thousands more results if you search Google. Everyone has self doubt. Everyone worries they aren’t as good as their peers. Its a fact of life in pretty much any and all types of situations, not just in technology. I know it well, because I very frequently get lost in this land of self doubt.

I have been a professional developer for just over a year now. I started down this path seriously about 2 years ago (Thanks again Code Louisville). I know that there is a mountain of things I don’t know. It is largely this list of “Known Unknowns” that frequently leads me to wonder if I’m really the best person for the job. I once had a meeting with someone talking about my career, and they honestly looked at me going “Why do you doubt yourself so much?”, and she wrote one of the articles I linked above.

But I think the thing that has helped me the most, the one thing that has done more to help me learn that I really am not an Imposter, was going back to mentor at Code Louisville. I started because I have heard that it can be very valuable to have people who just went through a program to help others learn the same program. The theory being that the newer it is to you, the fresher the feeling of being new is in your mind, so it can be easier to help newer people who are experiencing the same things. I signed up to mentor for several reasons. I wanted to give back to the program the helped me so much. I wanted to help others down a path that I had just completed. I wanted to help show that the program had successful stories (They recently celebrated over 100 job placements).

I also wanted to use the experience to learn myself. I’ve seen people solve a problem in a way I hadn’t thought of before. I’ve had to research answers to questions I hadn’t thought of. And, helping explain things to people has helped some things stick inside my head as well. But the side effect I didn’t expect, was the disappearing of feeling like I didn’t belong. And I don’t think it is just the fact that I’m largely talking to people who may not be as experienced as I am. Each session, I’ve been more comfortable. I am able to offer better advice and better answers.

Today, was the Graduation Mixer for the January 2017 session of Code Louisville. I was talking to people who graduated and everyone was very happy to have a few weeks before signing up for their next session. This session had one of the highest retention rates I’ve seen. And someone that I mentored in the September 2016 session came up to me. He thanked me something completely unexpected. He said that many of the things that I said during that session as a mentor stayed with him. It helped motivate and helped me get through this most recent session as he learned C# and .Net. I’d received compliments and thanks from previous people in the program, but this one, this one hit me.

I may not be an expert. I may not be senior in my field. But my name is Justin Carver. And I am definitly not an imposter. I am a developer.