DEV Community

Cover image for Am I a good dev?
Jeniffer Carvalho
Jeniffer Carvalho

Posted on

Am I a good dev?

Probably not.

If you are a Senior dev, perhaps you are failing on the basics because you don’t care about them anymore. That sounds "too basic," and that's why you fail. You probably do not know the new basics.

If you are a Junior dev, perhaps you are failing because you don’t know enough about your tech, get stuck with easy errors, and probably fail to ask for help.

Let me be clear: no one is awesome on the job, and that’s completely ok.

Technology changes fast, and it means that it is impossible to be awesome.
Tomorrow you will receive another e-mail with a big update on your favorite framework.
In a few days, someone fucking awesome will create a better approach to writing code. And you know what? You do not need to know all of this.

I'm a very anxious person. I mean. I'M VERY ANXIOUS. At my first job in a big tech company, I felt bad every time that I needed to open a Pull Request for someone review my code.

Fear, shame, every bad feeling came to me. I didn't want to be judged. Or be discovered as a fraud.

That was real. I felt bad. I needed to see a doctor and took medication to treat myself with more compassion.
It took a while to realize that IT IS OK NOT TO BE AWESOME.

I discovered that even my heroes have fear.

Do you know that fucking awesome guy that has created a new approach that I mentioned before? He very likely felt the same as you. He had fears and anxiety. He had felt like a fraud before, so why wouldn't you?

I don't know about you, but even now, I have doubts about my technical skills if I'm really good at what I do. But one thing that's different now is that I have learned how to deal with this fear.

It is normal to feel that way in a world with so many changes.

It is normal to fear criticism, fear a code review. Everybody feels or has felt that way.

You are not alone, please, know that.

Do not let anxiety and fear control you. If it gets worse, look for help. Talk to someone. Take care of yourself. Do not give up on this beautiful career because you think this is hard for you. It was hard for most of us.

Tip for the seniors devs: be the senior that your junior self wanted to meet. Be kind to others.

Tip for the juniors devs: fear is normal. Ask for help if you need it.
Be kind to yourself.

Top comments (20)

thumbone profile image
Bernd Wechner • Edited

Hmmm, I have to admit I find your take both interesting, full of sense, and all the same somewhat biased toward apparent anxiety disorders. Let me clarify.

I have done a lot of development and lot of public speaking and I see parallels in your sharing here. Something any speaking coach will share, and I do to juniors, and even have done to my seniors (as often they are suffering deep pre-speaking anxiety too) is that everyone gets nervous ... everyone loses some sleep the night before, everyone knows anxiety, it is not whether you feel nervous or not but what you do in response that diffferentiates people. Sometimes it cripples us. Sometimes it challenges us to defy it. You are not powerless is managing how much of the time it is one or the other.

But why do I read bias in your sharing? Phrases like this: no one is awesome on the job

Sorry but I disagree. Many many people are awesome on the job. I suggest though that the difference in our takes on that is only in what you and I think awesome is. I will have to presume that in your take you mean awesome as in at some grand peak of savvy and performance impressing everyone around you with the quality and quantity of your output. My take on awesome is very different to that. Awesome is when you know your skills, you know your limits, you know when to listen, and when to learn, and when to push forward and to drive and produce. That is awesome. it is not a particular level of skill and knowing. It is a mastery of and awareness of you particular skill and knowledge set (notice I didn't say "level" again, as it is a chromatic spectrum not a climbing thing, a growing thing).

Because you are right. No-one knows all the tech. And in any area of tech there are always people better at it. The first is a consequence of the collected complexity of technology. I mean I could patch machine code fairly easily on an 8086 to strip copy protection from software and did so (Destroyed by the Releaser was a tagline I used inspired by one pirated game I had that was Released by the Destroyer) but today, the layers of tech on any desktop, never mind more a complex system, run so deep no-one indeed is on top of it all nor can be and more than any doctor can be across all of medicine, or any lawyer across all of law, or any English professor across all of English or any Artist across all of art etc.). It has simply grown from its infancy to mature world, IT has.

And so yes it's OK not to know all that but that doesn't stop anyone from being awesome. Awesome is knowing what you do know and what you don't. Knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em if you like tacky cultural allusions, or if you prefer other tacky cultural allusions having the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference ... It is that wisdom that comes at any age and is what is awesome.

We're in a slogging, and learning profession in IT. There is no resting on any laurels. Your challenge is and will remain to stay sane, relaxed, comfortable and happy, in that environment and help those around you do same.

You remind me also for a Quora question I saw recently where someone asked When will I be a real developer and not just copy/paste other people's code? The top answer? Was, paraphrased: That's what a real developer does. A good developer knows what to copy and where to paste it ... ;-)

jritten profile image
Jenna Ritten

I think there's some bias in her blog post, because it's written from her perspective. there's no such thing as an unbiased article, unless it's a scientific research paper.

if you have a difference of opinions, you should totally post your own blog post as well. I would love to read it!

zafaralam profile image
Zafar Alam

This should be a blog post!!🤪 Love the subjective awesomeness description.

I've been a developer for more than a decade now and there are days that I feel I know nothing about my trade but that's only temporary and as soon as I apply myself I feel awesome about achive the the task at hand.
So, my little advise is keep applying yourself to the work you do and awesomeness will follow you around.

roeniss profile image
Roeniss Moon

Interesting. Your "We are awesome" and Jeniffer's "No one is awesome" have the exactly same meaning.

thumbone profile image
Bernd Wechner

That is the most twisted logic I've seen in a while. Care to explain? I mean in a sense if all you're saying is they describe the same underlying reality, how we are, fine. But they that is where the similarly ends. One model describes how we are as awesome and the other as none of us are. They are as similar as depression and elation.

adam_cyclones profile image
Adam Crockett 🌀

I am also very anxious, but, I now realize, it's just a job, how many more jobs will you have before your retire? 4 maybe 5, if you mess up, well there's those jobs ahead of you, it's a comforting thought, and it's even better the more junior you are.

adam_cyclones profile image
Adam Crockett 🌀

Oh yes and this week I learned, the more I fail, the more I solve, the more I learn about my current problem, it's a cycle often it's drawn as a diagram but the whole point of software development is to screw up, over and over and over, not to be perfect and that's where people get it wrong

phantas0s profile image
Matthieu Cneude

We're working in a very young industry, people expect a lot from us, and we don't have much clues about what we're doing.

Let's sit back and enjoy the show. We can't control everything, and that's fine. Learning to let go is difficult, but it's essential.

ba7er profile image

I just finished my first year as a backend dev. However recently i had a PR reviewed 10 times by a senior dev and his comments was something about design patterns and at the end we decided that he will pickup the task. You have no idea how bad i felt.
Next day i decided not to give up, i bought a book on that topic and started digging in.
I was not really convinced about his comment and still think my PR looks fine but i got over it and move on.
Thank you for sharing your ideas.

felipeelia profile image
Felipe Elia

Thanks for the excellent article!

I discovered that even my heroes have fear.

That reminds me of something interesting to share: our team has this thing we do on Friday's daily standup called "Friday Failure" where everybody needs to say something they failed during the week. It really helps to know that even our bosses fail (a lot) during their weeks, I totally recommend implement that to whoever can :)

leandro_nunes profile image
Leandro Nunes

Thanks for words @jenicarvalho . I'm a Junior Frontend Engineer and sometimes I feel a fraud and anxious about the things that I don't know, your articles help me to feel better.
Keep them coming :)

gdenn profile image
Dennis Groß (he/him)

It is great to see that people are so confident in this community that they are willing to share stories like this.

I mean imagine you write something like this on Medium, you just end up getting harassed....

About the post topic: I wouldn't say that I have an anxiety problem with my work. But I definitely have to deal with imposter form time to time.

I think it just shows that you are a person that actually cares about the work that you do.

But you should remember that life is about more than your work. And that it is sometimes ok to not care about the opinion of others (there are always those that you cannot please).

At the very end, we are all humans and we fail at times. Look at Elon Musk and his SpaceX rockets. How many of these things exploded? Doesn't matter because after all he still succeeded.

So don't beat yourself too much if you made a mistake. Making mistakes is ok as long as you are supportive when others make mistakes too.

mobatheist profile image
pablo justino

I am a Pleno dev, and on the first half of my career i always had buggy code, overthinking and consequently overengineering things, the catch si that i did not have the experience to back it up, so my codes eventually would become a mess.

Some visits to the psychologist and Learning about myself and my limits, i could finally start focusing on studying the knowledge i actually needed.

kallmanation profile image
Nathan Kallman

The general focus on exceptionalism in every aspect of American culture (maybe spreading elsewhere in the world?) really perverts a lot of daily life and our mental health.

Got 4 out of 5 stars? Literally considered a failure by most business, git gud or git fired.

Got 90% correct on a test? Many will see you as mediocre. Got less than 70%? Outright failure. (When it's actually astounding to be able to recall 70% of new information given to you just last week).

We don't want to even try unless we already know we will be the best. When we are second best, we feel that we've failed (even though we're better performing than 99.9% of the population).

We mock the bronze medalist who celebrates; when they have every right to be ecstatic!

Cartoon of bronze medalist showering themselves in champagne and celebrating while the gold and silver medalists stand gawking

Thank you for the article! Don't be disappointed that we're "only" great, not awesome. Most people are average. Our average is pretty cool!

ashkanmohammadi profile image

I am a junior dev and I used to dread doing things that I didn't have any information about.

But then I realized that everyone of my teammates felt the same way and it is OK to not know what to do.

I learned that the more challenging the situation is, the more experience and respect you gain from solving that problem.

jritten profile image
Jenna Ritten

I love this post! this is great! I completely agree, nobody can every know all the things and/or be great at all of them. it's like trying to build a ship at sea, the pieces are constantly moving and changing. great article!

avishkardalvi profile image

Much love to this post.

rubsgs profile image
Rubens Guarnieri dos Santos

I'm starting on a new job next month and been feeling this fear from the moment I was approved on the interview.

Seeing others who also feel that is really comforting, thank you sharing this

tsadarsh profile image
Adarsh TS

Loved your post. It is indeed very natural to feel overwhelmed and self-doubt oneself too much. Thanks for sharing ❤️.

mahmoudessam profile image
Mahmoud EL-kariouny

Every block has key you will find it in the end, never give up