Are you a fake developer? Me too.

Ben Halpern on May 24, 2019

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I totally get the feeling! My apparent intelligence is directly correlated to my proximity to a working internet connection.

Obligatory XKCD:

XKCD- Extended Mind


Exactly! You can't memorize all that stuff. You only can make sense out of it.


On a lighter note, I used to think I had impostor syndrome, but then I realized only real developers had Impostor Syndrome πŸ˜‚


I google "java string format" every time I need to do more than just %s or %d.

I google a shit load of stuff. Although often limited to specific sites because I know the answer is within that site.

As Einstein said:

"Never memorize something that you can look up."

In the office I'm known as a person who knows a lot of stuff, especially related to the software we build. At some point a colleague came up to me: "How do X in SQL for Postgres?". So I got my browser and searched for X on site:postgresql.org . "I could have done that." the colleague responded, to which I replied "You think I'd bother to remember trivial stuff like this which are just a small search away?"


As the author of the original post, I can confirm that I used to have to google that all the time too hahahaha. Think I have it committed to memory now though.


Ok, quick test. Format the date passed in the 2nd argument into 4 digit year, and 24 hour clock followed by a left padding of the 1st argument with spaces up to a minimum length of 8.

Ok, firstly I have to admit I did some googling (I meant that I'd memorised how to format strings and decimals to different decimal places haha) but, this?

LocalDate date = LocalDate.now();
LocalTime time = LocalTime.now();
System.out.println(String.format("%8tR %tY", time, date));

I guess I am a fake developer after all.

I actually meant this

String.format("%2$tY%2$tR%1$8s", "dev.to", new Date())

Yes I googled the documentation.

Ah I see, makes sense, sorry I got a little confused by the wording.


My conundrum is knowing when I can consider myself a developer so that I can start calling myself a "fake developer" (I have a bad case of imposter syndrome, not just with development, but even as a professional Project Manager).

I guess I'm still in that tinkering stage (going on for like 3 years now...). I think I know enough atm to start leaving the tutorials behind, but that's scary too!


I'll make it official: You are a real dev & pm.

Just make some stuff. You are not an imposter, that is just a feeling you have when you are not focused enough on making something. Once a few people use it & a couple love it, you have done your job as a dev, then do it again. If you are challenging yourself it should be there.

If you had seen what many of the current leading tech put out in the beginning you'd be calling them imposters. So many were just early & barely competent. 🀣

It's like going to the gym, everyone here has been a beginner who couldn't write a line at one point. Everyone knows what it feels like so they want you to do well.

If you struggle to get started, offer help to someone who needs it (charity/small band/artist etc) & over promise. Then you have to do it.


Deliver something. It's not about you, it's about building something for the other billions. Even if it is a small part of progress. You landed at the right time in history to contribute a small amount.

Make a small thing (game? looking at your twitter) on repl.it & the rest of us fakes will contribute advice. Results are the cure. "I wanna make XYZ, now I made XYZ".

search.feedi.me by @daviducolo is a simple MVP & is already spreading around, actually being used by experts before he has even found a designer. Timing is good, will be busy, he is forced to improve it because we are using it & pointing it out (Davide msg me & I'll do a little design, np).

That's the best way to learn, deal with blocks/self & get actual value. If it fails (ask anyone with a good thing how many fails they had), it does & you learn. If it works, you win.

Call the game "Imposter Syndrome" (now it has a story too). if it is bad, make "Imposter Syndrome 2" 🀣.

That's a good point. I do have an app idea I've been kicking around (I tend to wireframe out ideas and then put em in my pocket, forgetting about them or intentionally "forgetting" lol).

Hopefully, I can make a (first ever) post to share it soon.

Thanks for the supportive words, I tend to live in my own world and just starting to venturing out and trying to get involved in the community here.


Do it Bradley. There is a massive amount of interesting dev work & scene near you. LA/SD/OC (NB/HB/Irvine too) is full of crazy risk taking interesting entrepreneurs. Fun work & experiences too. None of that beanbag, pool table nonsense. Real fun.


Yep, no shame in being nervous of venturing down the path of self deprecation because it can feel too real sometimes!

Ride it out. It truly gets better, and seriously, don’t compare with others (because they’re fake too), just compare to past self who knew soooo much less!


I just had a job interview yesterday where I was so freaked out I forgot really basic things that I usually can rattle off. It made me feel like such a fake.

Today, I've gone and coded something I'm super proud of and feel a lot better about myself.

Imposter Syndrome is like a roller coaster - I've learned to just wait it out, it'll pass just as quickly as it came!



programming interviews and been downvoted on stackoverflow...

dunno which one i hate more :/


You have summed up Imposter Syndrome perfectly.

I can totally relate to the interview bit. I have flunked so many interviews I have lost count and always come out of interviews feeling "damn, am useless".


I was just thinking about writing my weekly post on this topic...


We always need more proof of all the fake developers out there! Go for it!


For me the "Aha!" moment came while being part of the interviewer side of the coin and asking a simple question like "what was a project you worked on". This particular person described an html page with a dropdown as quite the challenge. At that point I realized I actually knew a great many things.


After years of freelancing I've joined a company full-time and now realised how many things I've picked up along the way. Its reassuring.


I'm feeling this too, especially when finding a job.
I'm still studying right now, but I don't really feel like I'm ready to work in a company, even if I know how to deploy a complete application. The problem is that I still do a lot of research on Stackoverflow and other websites. Maybe you can tell me if companies will refuse me if I tell them I use stackoverflow as a daily ressource to make my applications work...


Absolutely not! There will be follow up questions however:

  • where else do you look?
  • who else do you talk to, how would you find them?
  • what can you learn from your research?
  • how will you know: you have a good outcome / you've found a good answer?

Keep on diggin'!


I absolutely know this feeling! I can think back on many interactions at meetups where someone was making a joke or comment on something related to code/development and it went right over my head. I tried to laugh along with others and seem like I got it while internally I was freaking out about not knowing what was going on and not being able to add my thoughts when it seemed like everyone else was.
It is something I still deal with to this day where I get caught up wondering if people all think I have no idea what I’m talking about and if I will get caught for being an imposter at some point.


I get the same feeling quite a bit. The funny thing is I was told saying "impostor syndrome" is dangerous. Its like you are saying you deliberately signed up to be something you are not.

However, you signed up to be a developer you passed the interview and you are not seated among the the senior developers. Sure it will be hard fitting in but thats just it. Adjusting to the new environment, the new responsibilities, expectations etc.

And the big question looms over our minds. "Am I capable enough to adjust ?" Its more of the "Can I adjust to this new change" syndrome. But I do understand where this word comes from. I also used it a lot in my vocabulary!


:) I'll always consider myself a junior developer especially now that I'm in leadership roles. Though...it's been tough dealing with the imposter syndrome when I go to interviews and I'm rejected because I don't know time complexity or when I ask, "How is this relevant if I'm not expected to code and I'll have senior engineers whose responsibility it is to ensure the team knows how to write performant code?"

It's tough but like anything else, I'll refresh myself over the next few months and land with a company where I can make the most positive impact as a servant leader :).

Keep sharing and spreading the good energy, buddy.


This felt really great to read, thanks for putting this out there! I know there are devs that don’t use Google as much as others, but there isn’t a single dev I know that doesn’t use Google at least sometimes.

I’m definitely thinking about going to a meetup now. Thanks for posting this!


I started this It industry with html . I thought those IT guys actually byhearted everything and working. So for the interview i byhearted most of the html tags. I am full stack dev now. Till date those are the only tags i can write without internet.


Glad I came across this post. I have been feeling imposter syndrome recently, I left my previous job to finish my degree and ended up working alongside my studies as a project manager whilst doing web development as well.

I am graduating soon and am finding it extremely hard to apply for positions with confidence. πŸ˜…


This may sound elementary but hear me out. The word developer means (as a noun) one who develops. Develop means, among other things, to start or to improve. If you start to build or improve on your own or someone else's social skills or a social project one might say you work in social development. If you were to write software (or even take other written code and combine it) I would say it's appropriate to call yourself a software developer.

What most people are asking when they ask "am I a developer?" Is really "would a large enough body of people who know or become aware of my work, work being the tasks you perform for money or not, and the details of my work consider me a developer or at the least approve of my use of the word developer when describing myself?" The answer to that question is always "who cares". If you are focusing on getting a job than I would say you should care but only in so far as it lands you the job.

Be honest about where you are at however or the job won't be a good fit (good advice for any profession) but you should rise above the need of others approval of what you call yourself and call yourself a pink elephant if you want.

I'm considered a developer in the classical sense however I find it to be a reductionist point of view because as I see it writing code is the least amount of work I do, designing or finding solutions being the most. When you are looking for developer work what businesses are really looking for are people who can think critically and solve problems not an expert code writer.


Thanks for sharing this! You definitely hit the nail on the head for me. It's warming to know there are others out there who feel the same way :-)


Y'all fake it till you make it. Literally. Build. Things. Period. It doesn't matter whether you sell out an MVP for a bazillion dollars to Google or leave your code in your basement for only your cat and dog to see.

Be brave. And if you feel as stupid as me sometimes, which you do of course: If it's stupid and it works, it ain't stupid.


I’ve posted this before: a simple little CRUD app I made to help with impostor syndrome: impostorroster.com/



I develop multimillion dollar nodejs apps for living... And finding myself Googling how to setup Express using typescript - every project


Why bother with stuff you could easily pick up in the docs. What matters much more in the end is to have sufficient understanding of the bigger picture, architecture of your product and all the interdependent moving parts.

I'm into an on and off relationship with web and backend dev for 15h years now and still feel like I don't know shit at times. Until.. I get things done and thoughts finally materialize into something remotely tangible. :)


My learned friend and veteran developer admitted that he feels like a fraud, if he feels that way then that fills me with hope!


me more then 4 year programing on c# often search this: Connection String Sql Server. XD


Trying this kind of experience is even more revealing or scarring ! :)



I feel like I don't know anything. I'm trying to learn everything. It's killing me! I'm stuck in everything learning and building.


Pick your battles. Choose whatever is annoying/infuriating you the most right now and focus on it - scratch that itch until you feel you understand that aspect, use that learning elsewhere, to prove to yourself you do get it, and repeat :)

I have a respected colleague who simply says of himself 'I poke at stuff until I can make it work'. He's probably the most experienced SQL, Powershell, Sysops, AWS, Terraform, AzureRM, ...(it goes on) expert I know and we all ask him stuff before we hit the search engine. He has no formal qualifications such as a degree or vendor certifications, he simply chose to learn one thing at a time over the last 30 years, and never stops!


Feeling mediocre and inadequate as a dev is a great motivation to keep learning and becoming a better version of myself


Does one truly learn or just allocate more memory?

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