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Imposter Syndrome, the Bane of My Existence

It’s been a while (might be ever) since I blogged about my professional journey but now is as good a time as ever since many of you (including myself) may be having these feelings now more than ever. Let’s start with a little story. I have had quite an interesting journey in my career. I graduated from college with a degree in pre-med and started working full-time as a human resource/payroll manager in a nursing home while studying for the MCATs.

One day I found myself running on the treadmill with a good friend of mine after many months of being completely worn out physically and emotionally. I couldn’t stop complaining to him about how exhausted I was from studying my butt off day and night for this exam. It would help me become a doctor, but I would have too much student loan debt to even count. Coupling this with being at a job that was full-time and very demanding, I felt that my life was going nowhere fast. The worst part was I didn’t want to be a doctor. I always knew it would make my parents proud to finally be able to say “my son, the doctor” without ever thinking about how that would make me feel.

I wish I could say that at this point I knew that this was the start of imposter syndrome creeping into my life, but I can’t. My friend convinced me, given that my hobbies included computer building and watching tech reviewers on YouTube all the time and being awed at the innovations coming out annually, that maybe I should try a career in tech. I was curious, so I asked, “Okay, what type of career is that?” not knowing a thing about the industry other than being subscribed to Netflix or owning a Macbook. He said, “Programming!” I’m almost embarrassed to say, but I answered, “What’s programming?” Oh boy, now the fun begins.

Well, you guessed it! Or maybe you didn’t, but either way, I decided to attend a meetup at a coding boot camp in Chicago called Actualize in hopes that maybe this might be the career move I’ve been waiting for.

I was blown away by a “simple” demonstration on how to use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to make webpages. I thought it was so cool to have the ability to create things on your own and call them yours. There was so much freedom of expression that, as a terrible doodler in school, I felt that I could make anything! So I signed up.

This is the quote. While I was learning to code, this quote helped me not go insane (even though I did quite a few times, and still do). After three months of intense learning, I made it. I graduated from the boot camp thinking “Wow, we learned so much! But there is so much more out there.” I wasn’t wrong.

After job-searching for around three months and a lot of coding challenges, I finally got my first gig. I was going to be a QA automation engineer. I was so excited, but I could not help this feeling I had inside of me of Why me? Am I good enough? I had so many interviews before this and they didn’t want me. At this point, you might be thinking, Okay Andrew, so now it sunk in that you had imposter syndrome. Well, you’d be wrong. I didn’t know what imposter syndrome was yet, and I did not think I was good enough, despite the hours and hours of preparation I did to get the job. I researched everything about the company and its software and practiced, very uncomfortably I might add, in front of a mirror for what seemed like an eternity. But hey, why would they pick me, right?

I learned so much more than I ever could have imagined in this position, and despite my inexperience, I wanted to be the best that I could be and learn as much as I could. After I’d been in this position for around ten months, my manager, who is a model of what a manager should be, encouraged me to apply for a junior back-end position that the company was opening up and said that she had already recommended me for the position.

Just like that, I began to have these feelings again, and like an old friend, I welcomed them right in: Am I good enough? Why would she recommend me for the job? Funny how something so powerful can be overlooked so easily. I was interviewed for the position, and, would you look at that, they said yes! Well now, you might want to ask me, “That’s awesome, but did you ever wonder what these thoughts were or why they always appear at a milestone?” Nope. I remember telling myself that this was a part of the process and that I will learn not to be as hard on myself later on. Little did I know that this would ultimately hit me harder than I would ever know.

The time came for me to start this new role. This was historically the hardest team/codebase to wrap your head around out of every team in the company. There were so many new languages and frameworks I needed to learn in this role: AWS, NodeJS, the serverless framework, mocking AWS resources in unit tests, and PHP, just to name a few. I was overwhelmed, but I took it day by day.

After a week of being in this role, I could not stop thinking, Why me? I don’t have experience in a lot of these technologies. This time though, the thoughts did not stop. I would think about it constantly. So I finally did some research and learned, you guessed it, I was experiencing imposter syndrome.

Well, you’ve made it through my story and now you’re determined! “I won’t be like Andrew, I will attack this head-on because I know what to look for.” Awesome! I hope you conquer your imposter syndrome and never have to worry about it again.

Or maybe you’re like me and think, I’m on my second (or third, or fourth) job, and I still have these feelings — what gives? This is what my story is for. I’ve been there and I’m still there. Imposter syndrome, for many us, is a constant struggle and requires constant attention to keep under control. You are not alone, and you too can cope with this unwanted reality.

YOU got that new job, YOU got that promotion. Give yourself credit for the accomplishments that you’ve had and celebrate your successes. It’s not easy to always feel comfortable in every situation, but at least you have the power to pick yourself up and thrive. No matter what you do, you have to believe in yourself, even when it’s the hardest thing to do. I believe in you. Now you do the same!

Posted: May 10, 2021