Imposter syndrome is real

If you look up the definition of imposter syndrome, you will find that it is when an individual doubts their skills, abilities, talents and…

Imposter syndrome is real
Photo by Maxwell Nelson on Unsplash

If you look up the definition of imposter syndrome, you will find that it is when an individual doubts their skills, abilities, talents and any other inherent quality they have. Unless you’ve experienced it yourself, you might think it is some silly condition that people will make up or some weird situation that rarely, if ever happens. That’s not the case, usually.

It’s been about a month at my current position. I moved away from a financial advisory firm where I was the only tech-oriented person for many years. My title was Software Engineer/Financial Analyst but in reality I was 90% Financial Analyst and 10% Software Engineer. That’s something I knew going into that position several years ago, and yet when life put me back in a software-driven company after 4 years, I’m again feeling the imposter syndrome. Hard.

Back in my natal Guatemala, software development as a profession is unlike anything I’ve seen in the US. I’ve met some of the most brilliant and professional software developers during my time there but comparing it to what I’ve experienced first-hand in the US would not be fair. However, there’s one thing that remains true: the dreaded imposter syndrome you will experience during the first couple of months at any new position.

I have the theory that it is a mix of being new at a company, trying to navigate the culture, the codebase and your own insecurities. You would think that after 15 years of doing this it would go away, but no, the reality is that imposter syndrome is alive and kicking every single time you start a new position.

Personal theories aside though, the reality is that imposter syndrome can become a real hurdle in your professional development if you let it get to you. I’m sure there are people that can just shrug it off and continue like nothing happened and adapt in a blink of an eye but for the vast majority of us mortals, it is a process that needs to be addressed in a timely fashion.

I think it is a very human thing to feel scared when faced with a new reality, a new set of rules, a new environment to understand. The first reaction will be probably one of fear when the realization that everything you’ve come used to is not useful anymore becomes true. You could be very good at what you do but you are now in a strange land, the end result might still be the same but the process to get to that result is different.

Writing code can’t be that different, right? Well, even if you know your way around a specific language, framework and even you know the same methodology (SCRUM, anyone?), blending in with a new team and corporate environment will take some time. And that word, time, will become the most important asset in your favor. It might seem like time is against you but in reality the perspective from the other side is actually the opposite. Time is in your favor. People will not expect you to blend in on your first day or even your first week on the job. Unless you landed a job at the worst company possible, people will help you ease in and land on your feet.

I know, you want to know all there is to know as soon as possible. You also need to manage your expectations. Some things take some time to sink in and hindsight is definitely a thing. Trying too hard to take it all in will be counter intuitive and some things will definitely benefit from the perspective that only time will give you.

Going back to my personal experience, one month in and I can tell you that some things are starting to make sense. I’m a full stack software engineer and even though some days it might not seem like it, I’m finally starting to see that others are not giving me any second thought. They are probably thinking about me just as another one that joined the company not too long ago and as I start to contribute here and there, in the grand scheme of things I’m becoming one with the team. It just takes time.