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How Open Source is going to save me from impostor syndrome

Hi there ✨

My name is Nina, I'm a junior web developer based in Paris, France. I graduated from a coding bootcamp in march 2020, after spending two months and a half learning html, css, javascript, node, express, mongodb, git basics, and react. The week after graduating, we entered a lockdown phase as the pandemic made covid cases grow too fast. I was lucky : I had been offered a TA gig by my school, and didn't have to worry about looking for a job in a chaotic market now forced to set remote-everything up overnight.

How I feel today

Today I'm still a TA at that same school, and everyday I feel more comfortable with my skills. Having to teach students and review code is something that left me no choice but to understand concepts well enough to help others. I also developed a love / love relationship with CSS, started to learn about accessibility, best practices, design systems, and of course... Start 30856206350 "projects" to test what I learn along the way.

None of them made it online. They're not even on github (I know... bad !). They're sitting there, in my pretty "projects" folder, on my Desktop. Most of the time out of boredom, sometimes because I'm stuck and don't have the time / will to fix them because life and my main job happen, I abandon them until I read about something that makes me create another one, to "try things out".

I also worked as a freelancer on a few "real" projects, you know, those you HAVE to finish, those a client expects at some point. And it always goes the same way :

  • I'm all excited about it
  • Impostor syndrome kicks in, and I usually don't touch my keyboard for a few days because I don't feel ready
  • I panic because time flies, so I force myself to start working
  • I enjoy it, manage to do what I need to do, become productive
  • I feel better and think about how "next time it won't be as hard to start ! I'm finally getting there !"
  • Next projects comes up : rinse & repeat

Impostor syndrome is a b*tch.

Several times, I came across articles about how to be productive without burning out, when you're still learning and need to grow as you're fresh out of the nest, and the same advice came back several times : work on Open-Source projects.

Ok... But how ? Where to start ? What CAN I actually do ? Open-Source always seems to be about huge projects made by code geniuses escaping the traditional private business approach by building in community... But is it ?

Open Source and the right people

I follow Tatiana Mac on Twitter, and they posted about this project they've been working on for quite some time : Self-Defined. It's a dictionary about the modern world terminologies and the meaning they convey in today's society. I think this project is amazing, and Tatiana said that they were welcoming contributors for development, but also translations, submissions... So I thought : "This is it, let's go !"

I joined the Discord, took a good look at the code-base on github, and thought I would start by contributing to translations until I feel confident enough to work on dev features / maintenance.

I've been warmly welcomed, I feel valued and everyone takes the time to answer my questions. I'm in the perfect environment to overcome my self-doubts and actually contribute to something without feeling pressured or not-good-enough !

The good things

Tatiana offered to teach me, which means a LOT to me. I actually submitted my first PR (and first Open-Source contribution EVER) this morning : I translated the homepage header section in French.

In my head I have this voice that keeps saying "But why do translations ? You're a dev ! This does not count it's easy work !". Well : NOPE.

I believe it's the right starting point for me : by focusing on a task I KNOW I can do right (I have good language skills) I can also leave space for things I'm not confident about :

  • Work with people I don't know on a same project
  • Follow guidelines regarding processes and structure
  • Work with git (I actually stashed and rebased for the first time on my own, and it went well !)
  • Get a good look at the code base, understand the flow of the application and get familiar with new code design systems

So today was a good day ! I will post an update in a while to give feedback about the experience, but I feel great 🌱

Tatiana if you ever read this, thank you for your patience, kindness and energy. I feel confident and excited to learn from you !

Top comments (2)

raphabot profile image
Raphael Bottino • Edited

Waiting on the update :)

Also, I love that you touch the Impostor Syndrome here. Skycrafters, a community of cloud practitioners, is actively discussing the same theme (here: and I love your approach of leaning on open source to overcome it!

anand795 profile image

This actually Helped me....Thank you !

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