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The Insecure Developer

agisilaosts profile image Agis 👨‍💻 ・4 min read

I couldn’t decide how to start this story. I’m thinking about to share my story about feeling insecure and how I try to overcome this feeling.

Feeling insecure

If you need to know something about me is that I’m super insecure in many areas in my life and of course as a developer. I feel that I’m not good enough or I don’t know enough of my craftsmanship. Insecure or maybe well known as imposter syndrome hits me hard many times from when I started as an iOS developer.

Storytime

As a University student, I was searching for an internship for this summer. I applied to a couple of companies but I got rejected from almost all of them. That feeling struck me hard, made me feel more insecure and stupid. I failed a lot of the coding challenges.

A couple of tweets I wrote about the experience I had with the coding challenges.

I was super stressed out and in many of them and didn’t have the chance to even complete the solution to the given problem. I wasn’t fast enough and this feeling along with all the others made me question myself even more.

Coding challenges in a whiteboard (Quizzes, and puzzle questions) are WRONG

I intentionally mentioned coding challenges for an internship or a full-time job because I found that many people after “fail them they’re becoming sad or more insecure about themselves.

The feeling of rejection

Being rejected one time for an internship or a full-time job position can be so hard to swallow, but what about 9–10 rejections one after the other? That was exactly my position, imagine how I felt.
Reading emails like: “Thank you for your application but we decided to not continue with you in the next phase or “thank you for your interest in our X company but you’re not diverse enough for us”, made me feel sad and useless.
I know that is kind of hard to reply to every single one of the applicants about why they got rejected but I think the recruiters need to add that to the process. For example: What the heck means, “You aren’t diverse enough”?

Overcome the feeling of being insecure

1. Talk to your friends & co – workers

I can’t and stress this advice enough. Talking to them will help you relax and get motivated for your work.

Getting advice from friends will help you understand that, for example in the situation, I explained above with the coding challenges the problem is not related to you but the problem is related to this useless process that many companies have to make other developers anxious and sad.

I want to relate this advice to my situation: When I felt weird & sad I talked to Cat Noone and she really helped me with her advice like how this is a normal feeling & that I have to overcome it by continue working on stuff that I really love.

Also, I talked with Viktor Wu from Gitlab recently because of the Out of office hours initiative and I understood that it’s ok to not be good in this kind of challenges. It doesn’t mean that you’re not good enough.
This kind of puzzles & quizzes will not help in your career or in what you will do in your everyday job in any way. Our conversation helped me be more confident about my skills.

2. Keep trying, until you achieve your goal

I’m maybe one of the most insecure people that you may know but at the same time I’m super dedicated, motivated & I work hard. I’m the kind of guy that I will fail a lot but I will keep pushing & move forward until I achieve my goal. I think that you should try and do the same. That’s a weird combination, right? Hah!

It’s kind of hard to do that but I want to share my thoughts & story behind it.

After I got rejected so many times I was sad but after that, I kept pushing and I sent more applications about internships positions. I was confident in my skills aside from the fact that many people/companies didn’t have the same idea. At the same time I was working on a weird bug on Iris’s iOS application and after fixing it made me feel more confident.

If you want something so badly like I did, you need to work hard and at the end, you will achieve it, no matter what other people think.

Last but not least I want to mention that is good to feel insecure & at the same time work on improving your skills. In my perspective and like Cat Noone mentioned is better to feel that way than feeling over confident about yourself and your skills. I want to see “insecurity as an advantage of a human being than a vulnerability.

I hope that this post will help people to overcome their fears and improve their skills!

❤️ Agis

This was first published on my Medium page

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agisilaosts profile

Agis 👨‍💻

@agisilaosts

Agis is an iOS Engineer focused on building products that have a large and positive impact. He is the co-founder and CTO of Iris Health and a student at Technological Institute of Kavala.

Discussion

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Thank you, Ben! I hope that this post will help other people too that they have the same insecurities. It was a tough couple of months but with friends/family/coworkers supporting me made the process a lot better.

 
 

You know, everyone feels insecure one way or the other. Many developers have something called impostor syndrome (the feeling you don't know as much as you do despite visible proofs, the feeling that you are an impostor). It may be visible when you are anxious about code review, pair programming, or showing others your code. And in the stressful situation, like an interview, it's even harder. It even can lead to a depression.
There are many aspects to it too, but there are few things that help. Talking, or generally spending time with people helps. Especially when you can finally rant about it. Olso putting your thought in writing as you did here. There's one more thing though, that I cannot stress enough: exercise. Really. 15 (or even 5) minutes of walk every day can work miracles.
Ah, and one more thing, the recruitment process in our industry is screwed up. It's like asking to the band on their knowledge about the history of classical music when you want to hire them for a jam session. But it'll take time before all hiring managers get that.
Good luck!

 

Great article! Maybe there is a point that you're not completely seeing. IMHO, it's pretty difficult for people to recognize their own weknesses, but here, you're sharing yours openly. So from my point of view, in this article you're showing your strength!

If you have troubles with puzzles I recomend you to follow this online training effective-thinking-through-mathema..., you'll see some topics about puzzles, solving them is not a matter of cleverness, it's more about having strategies when you face them =D.

Keep trying!

 

Totally see what you say there Alan, but I'm sure that If I was good to this kind of problems I would have the same opinion about them. I think giving someone a project to work on/ improve or find a bug will be more valuable to them than this coding puzzles. With that said, I'm even though I don't like such challenges I'm trying to improve and become better! P.s Thanks for the resource Alan, I'm gonna dig into this 🤓

 

Of course! Solving puzzles just shows one part of the skills you have. But it's not enough because is not possible to see how a person will work with other people, and many other skills that are so important while you're working. Anyway, in many companies the first filter is to show how you can solve this kind of exercises. But don't feel bad, they are difficult for all of us!

 

Every company has a different interview process, and it's better if you fail in them because sometimes you are just not suited to their type of work culture.

I gave an interview recently, where they wanted an MVC developer, but the interviewee grilled for 1.5 hours on OOPS, and afterwards I got a feedback from HR that I did not have good OOPS concepts so was rejected. I really felt down that day, because even after 7 yrs exp you are getting such kind of feedback, it's really hard to digest.

But the key as you say is keep working towards a goal.Failures are more part of developer's life than success, just accept this fact and move on.

 

Great article -- And I have over 17 years of development experience and I still suffer from Imposter Syndrome. This article helped me a lot: Scott Hanselman's I'm a phony. Are you?. But like you, it helps motivate me to get better at my job and learn new things. And if only we can foster a culture of failure being acceptable, we can then feel good and safe to be able to learn through our failures. One of my motivators is Elon Musk. He understands failure is a necessary part of growth. I love that he posted the many failures of his SpaceX rockets on YouTube: .

Keep going Agis! You are not alone, and you only get better with time!

 

After 20 years of development I still basically suck at coding challenges in interview settings. I've never been a fan of them. The odd thing is that I've probably implemented and designed more algorithms than most programmer's will ever get the chance to. A lot of my work is actually directly related to algorithms. Yet I still suck at the "challenges".

Naturally, given the time to think, and the freedom to work through the problem normally, I can solve any of these interview challenges. But surprise me with a random question, sit my down in a totally new environment, actively watch me, and set a crazy low time lime, then I'll do poorly.

 

I totally agree with you on coding challenges, I also suck at coding challenges and even Math, but that doesn't make a bad developer, it's way more important to get skills actually coding not cramming.

 

Thanks for this! Just switched from Swift only iOS to react native and am feeling like I know nothing all over again. I needed this.

 

Thanks for sharing this experience.

However, I have recently come to know also the other side of the coin. One of my team-mates left us and now we are searching for a new colleague. We as developers have a good say in the process whether we make an offer to an applicant or not. Beside the one how didn't accept our invitation to an on-site interview we rejected all applicants so far.

The point to consider is that we are working in challenging environment, with high demands on all of us. I am personally working hard to wrap my head around the various moving parts of the Spring framework, test infrastructure and Kubernetes deployments; while trying to keep the software design in order.

What do you suggest to find out whether an applicant is a passionate (junior) software developer and can learn to work successfully in a challenging environment or whether he/she will hamper our own productivity?

(Maybe we are wrong about trying to find elite people and should rather fix the system's complexity + develop a better training program. But that is too hard and I'll try to ignore it for now ^^ .)

 

Oh man, it was almost like me writing this. I am a slow learner and I have struggle with that my whole life too! Today I am learning to accept this, apply my strengths and work on my weaknesses.

I am also working on my insecurities, that's not easy at all. As a woman, I think that is a problem even bigger...

Very good post, good luck on your projects!

 

The feeling of insecurity; not being secure. The opposite of safety? What is there to be afraid of? (LOTS), but is the feeling necessary? Maybe. You have to be afraid of that poisonous spider, if you're going to manage to jump away from it (WITHOUT THINKING). I'm sometimes scared I won't make it as a web developer. That pushes me forward and makes me work even harder (I THINK). I agree - maybe insecurity can be a good thing. But don't be afraid. We have nothing to fear (REALLY), including fear itself! :)

 

Love this post. Why? I was in a similar position when the year began. I was a company and the boss let me go. It hit me hard. Then came the applications to new companies. I got the same replies as you. They were so annoying... "Thank you for your application but we decided to not continue with you in the next phase". It made me feel so bad. But I pressed on.

I finally applied to a place and they so my enthusiasm and skill and took me in.

 

I also want to say that this hit home for me. When I first started my current job, I was very green and very insecure that I could become a developer.

But, as I grew into it, the company kind of rallied around me and helped me find my groove and become more secure. I also developed a mentor-student relationship with a solid guy who had been just like me. He forced me to get better, so I did, I read books, I did coding challenge, katas, and I got better.

I could hit him up with questions, was X the best way to solve the problem? How do I know when to use X? All of them he answered and more. He told me, he could see me improving and I loved it. I am still green around the ears but thankfully I am growing and improving.

And in the end, that's what really matters. If you can take the critiques and try to get better, then a company can really make use of you, because they are getting a nice return on their investment.

I am not the best and I am a little still insecure about skills, I question myself sometimes and sometimes I was right with my gut. But, that'll come with time.

It takes a lot of hours to become an expert but when you keep striving for improvement then any progress is progress. The worse thing you can do is shut down and refuse to grow.

And, the whole point about katas and code challenges is not how fast you can solve them, but that you can find strategies and see patterns. Sometimes, you have to sit down and plan it out, and all of a sudden, you start to see them unfold. And let me tell you, that is when you really feel like you are a developer.

 

This is a great article and raises some very valuable points. One thing that employers tend to forget when they these types of puzzles as part of the hiring process is that in the end it's not the solution that's important. It's how they got there. There's more than one way to cat.

Another problem employers have with these types of puzzles is taking the individual's personality into consideration. There are certain personality types that solve tough problems better isolated, on their own. And some are great at solving them in a group setting. However there's not too many people I know that know how to do it on stage.....with people watching......and the prospect of a new job opportunity on the line.

All of that said, it is very important to build confidence in yourself. You don't have to brag or boast or make wild claims. Stick to things that you know or that show your ability to adapt and learn. Some of the best developers in the world are the ones who can fit any team.

"I really enjoy being wrong." is one thing I typically will tell people in an interview. Because it's true. Some of the most interesting lessons I've learned in this field is when something has blown up so horribly we had no choice but to meticulously rebuild, piece by piece.

 

It is quite funny, because I’m on the same situation right now, I work as a DevOps engineer ( 5 years doing it ) but I’ve been rejected at this moment 4 times. You think you have all the technical requirements for getting a job whenever you like but I find out that is not true. I guess I’ll have to keep practicing and keep trying.

 

I struggle with some of the same feelings from time to time, in many aspects of my life, including professionally. It’s inspiring to see other devs openly talk about it! Thanks for sharing!

 

Those evaluations are certainly pointless and wrong. They predict absolutely nothing about job performance. When I managed software, I never used them. I talked to the candidates at length to discover their development philosophy, personality, and real level of experience. Never had a bad hire. These qualities are far, far more important than the ability to solve tricky toy problems in a specific language under immense pressure.

 

That's how I feel myself with not feeling confident enough, I just keep horning my skills and hope that I get better

 

Thanks for this great article, sometimes I feel the same, you're not alone Agis! Keep working hard! You have all my support, I wish you the best!

 
 

This is my situation right now. Thanks for this.

 

I had this feeling when I got into a new company as a mobile app developer with iOS and android and was assigned to backend dev but I got over it and I love it so much now.