How Developers can Overcome Imposter Syndrome and Accurately Gauge Their Coding Skills

by Pranav Ramesh
November 26, 2019

Podcast transcription of Recruiters Get Real! Ep. 01

ft. Jay Johnson and Matthew Bardeleben

Recruiters Get Real! can be found on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, and all major podcast platforms.

Recruiters Get Real! The only place where, real IT recruiters answer, real career questions asked, by real tech professionals.

Matt:

So, I’m sitting here today with our (Peterson Technology Partner) Vice President, Mr. Jay Johnson, and I have a question for you. It comes off of the Reddit forum CSCareerQuestions from user u/tylerslemke.

The question is around imposter syndrome. So, the scenario that that this person gives is that a friend of theirs is a recent computer science grad. It was their first job as a developer and, after a short period of time, they were laid off. Before being laid off, they really hadn’t had any performance discussions or anything like that so he was basically laid off without knowing why, what to change, or what to develop. So, that person has two questions.

One is how can a developer, especially a newer developer, objectively analyze or look at their skills compared to everyone else around them.

The second question is, how could they, what recommendations do you have for them to overcome imposter syndrome. How to overcome that idea or belief that everyone else around you knows more than you do now or that you don’t belong in this role because everyone else is smarter, when, in reality, they’re all looking Stack Overflow just as much as you are, but it sometimes feels like that.

So how can you objectively measure yourself, and how can you overcome imposter syndrome?

Jay:

I think what really needs to happen is… project-based and team-based.

Everyone really has a particular position or a skill, normally, that that project or team would need. To me, as important, you have to be able to continue to hone your skills. You have to continue to be relevant, for lack of a better term, you’re there and you’re hired.

Remember, managers put together teams not necessarily based on just on skills. It goes much deeper than that. I think therein lies the answer to a lot of the questions some folks have.

It’s not the skill that I bring. I think that anybody who is in computer science, normally if they’re hired into a position, they have a skill which means they can be taught or they can learn. And I think what we’re seeing today, much more, is that a lot of folks come into a position and the skill I believe they’re going to need to use is something, ultimately, they can learn. And I think a lot of managers today don’t necessarily hire on skill.

Now if you’re talking about someone coming in as a Lead or Architect, obviously, that’s a different story. But when we’re talking about a Junior, or someone with a couple years’ experience, especially going into enterprise companies, it’s beyond that. It’s communication. It’s all kinds of things that aren’t necessarily “how to code”. Again, anybody can be taught how to code if they’re willing to be taught.

So that’s something important people need to realize. Managers put together teams that are very eclectic. And, again, it’s not necessarily about the skill a person has. It’s about how does a person fit in with the team. How is their communication? How will they be able to adapt and work with others there?

Again, I can’t stress it enough, 9 out of 10 times a skill or deficit can be taught within a week. You’re not going to be an expert, but you’ll know enough, and you’ll be able to get by. The reality is that even tenured developers… we all know where to get the information if you don’t know it.

That’s where a lot of people get caught up in. Again, Imposter, that person’s better than I am or how do I measure up to them. If you know where to go to get the information, you’re going to be fine. You can survive. I think it’s the willingness to learn that’s the most important piece to that.

Matt: That kind of answers a question I was about to ask in that. Would it be safe to say, in Tyler’s case, how can they objectively measure their ability compared to other developers… correct me if I’m wrong but it sounds like the answer is… don’t.

Don’t try to objectively measure your skill against other developers. Be introspective in regards to, are you open and willing to learn, are you able to collaborate and communicate, and those kinds of things.

Jay:

All of the above without question.

And I think, to answer that successfully, you have to think about…

We live in a world where we always want to be better than we are or we don’t want to admit that we’re good at what we do. That’s just kind of a thing that we’re all taught, unfortunately, from an early age today.

Matt:

That being humble is a value, don’t brag, etc.

Jay:

Yeah, and, my