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Ryan Bigg on Imposter Syndrome and Becoming a Senior Developer

jacobherrington profile image Jacob Herrington (he/him) Updated on ・2 min read

I recently had the opportunity to talk with one of my personal heroes, Ryan Bigg aka radar.

Ryan is a prolific software engineer who has made one or two contributions to Rails and basically built the open source project I maintain today.

We talked in-depth about Ryan's personal experiences with imposter syndrome, which he feels the effect of even today. Coming from a developer with over a decade of experience this quote stuck with me:

I have it [imposter syndrome], maybe not on a daily basis, but a weekly basis? Sure.

Ryan's honesty is so refreshing because it helps to clear the misconception that veteran engineers have this whole imposter syndrome thing figured out. In reality, pretty much everyone doubts their abilities or value at some point or another. And that doesn't make you a bad engineer; Ryan is living proof.

Another thing we spent quite a bit of time on was learning to work on a team. Ryan's job now is to provide leadership and mentorship to a cohort of junior developers at Culture Amp (which sounds like a really cool job), but there was a time when he didn't value the team dynamic.

Ryan admitted that even today, he struggles with being reactive. This is ironic because he is well respected as a mentor and teacher. It just goes to show, being aware of your struggles is conducive to succeeding.

If this kind of stuff interests you, please check out the full recording. It's also available on Spotify.

Regardless, let's try to follow Ryan's example and be honest about imposter syndrome and our shortcomings (feel free to share your own experiences with imposter syndrome 👇)

Discussion (1)

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Jacob Herrington (he/him) Author

Answering my own CTA:

I spent a little over a year in my first dev job. I fell into a position I wasn't prepared for and never really figured out how to ask for help.

The team experienced significant turnover, and the management wasn't able to provide the mentorship I desperately needed.

Despite having the support of one of the most understanding senior developers to ever live, I became anxious and introverted and let my fear of not being good enough ruin what could have been a great first year of my career.

It wasn't until after I was able to create some distance between myself and that experience that I realized what I was feeling was normal and that there are ways to overcome with it.

Ultimately, that's why I'm reaching out to industry veterans now. I'm hoping to destigmatize the ubiquitous feeling of inadequacy among juniors and catalog a set of methodologies for progressing in a software development career.