I've suffered from imposter syndrome for most of my career. Lately, I've found myself truly trusting that I'm a qualified, talented, and deserving engineer! It's life changing. I wanted to share a couple of actionable strategies that helped me get here.
1. Overcome your fear of the command line.
Level 1: Create aliases for common commands keep a cheat sheet on your desk so you get used to using them.
Level 2: Git can be scary for junior developers. But, trust me, once you know how to recover from even the messiest of git situations, you'll feel much better. Learn how to get unstuck when using git.
2. Build a full stack application from scratch.
Level 1: This one is a time commitment, but totally worth it. Familiarize yourself with React and then follow along this great full stack course from Wes Bos. Make sure you build it yourself as you go through the course!
Level 2: When you work at a big company you get a lot of infrastructure for free. Take some time to understand how you would design a system from scratch. Here are some things you might want to try:
- Design a relational database schema
- Set up authentication
- Learn how pagination works so you're efficient about how you fetch data
- Set up web sockets so your client gets real time updates from the server
Level 3: Learn infrastructure basics and deploy your app! Heroku is great tool to get you started.
Showing yourself that you can independently build something full stack is one of the best data points to demonstrate that you're an engineer with breath.
3. Ask for positive feedback.
Level 1: Everyone has a different style. Your manager might need to be told that you do better work when he/she is reinforcing your good work. Try telling them this:
"I tend to perform better if I'm receiving a lot of positive feedback. What am I doing well?"
Level 2: When you get positive feedback, maybe a shoutout over email or an in-person thank you, write it down on a post it and put it up on your wall or on your bathroom mirror. Sometimes we just need to be reminded.
4. Help others.
Level 1: Leave your codebase better than you found it. Add comments when you think things could be clearer. Update the README so future engineers have a better experience with onboarding. Refactor code or add tests where necessary. Your team will be grateful.
Level 2: Offer to mentor an intern or junior engineer at your company. Sometimes the best way to realize how much you know is to talk to someone a couple years behind you.
5. Always be learning.
Level 1: Subscribe to a podcast or newsletter that will help you keep up with what's going on in the industry. Even just reading the headlines is enough to stay "in the know." Here are some of my favorites:
Level 2: Talk to smart people. You'll start to learn about strong opinions senior engineers have - maybe you'll start to adopt some as your own.
Solving an interesting technical problem at work? Find a subject matter expert to chat with. Maybe they've written a blog post and have done a conference talk. Don't be afraid to do a cold reach out, often they'll be happy to help.
"I watched your talk on ____ and found it incredibly informative. We are implementing something similar within our product and have a couple of open questions such ___. Would you be open to chatting with me and another member of my team?"
Learning to trust yourself as an engineer is hard work. Hopefully some of these tips are actionable in your journey to overcome imposter syndrome.