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Jessica Abejar
Jessica Abejar

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Facing Imposter Syndrome as a Self-Taught Developer

The other day, I was feeling the weight of imposter syndrome. I was about three weeks out from finishing my role as Student Success Coordinator at MotherCoders, graduating 21 moms after nine weeks of community building, confidence building, and of course, code. I remember asking them at Demo Day “What next?” and hearing them eagerly share their aspirations, plans, and next steps. They then turned to me and asked me “What next?” I remember telling them that maybe I’d like to actually go for a technical role, and they said, “You totally should!”

I didn’t realize how focused I was on their learning and success that I had nearly forgotten my own learning! So since then I’d been working diligently on picking up the pace- restarting courses I stopped, starting new ones, and rebuilding my portfolio after realizing it’s not exactly where I’d like it to be. I also started looking at job descriptions and internship postings. And that is where the weight of imposter syndrome hit.

When in Doubt, Tweet It Out*

Reading through job and even internship postings, I couldn’t help but feel inadequate. If it wasn’t a line about having a computer science degree that got me, it was a line about welcoming bootcamp grads that did. No posting ever said anything about hiring anyone "self-taught" (would anyone even state that in a job post?). So this made me think- does anyone actually hire anyone self-taught?

In a moment of severe imposter syndrome so early in the morning, I sent out a tweet. I thought nothing of it and spent the morning working hard to get ready to ship a project I had been working and procrastinating on (still not shipped by the way). I was just hoping maybe I’d hear from a handful of people in my twitter circle who shared a similar story and that I could at least feel a little bit better about my journey.

Then this happened ...

Tweet analytics. Text reads: Impressions (times people saw this Tweet on Twitter): 45,008. Total engagements (times people interacted with this Tweet): 1,268.

Tweet analytics from less than 24 hours after posting. For someone with a small following, this is a lot!

In less than 24 hours, my tweet gained traction. People I really admired started replying and even retweeting and soon enough over 100 people were sharing their stories about their journey into tech.

Many of them self-taught but also many not. Many folks new to the industry but also many folks decades into the industry. And yet among the unique stories told, one thing seemed to always be there: imposter syndrome.

However, there was something about reading their stories that made facing imposter syndrome less scary. Maybe it was the familiar tales and feelings or the practical advice given, but knowing that everyone had similar feelings made me feel validated.

On the Other Side of Vulnerability is Validation

I was overwhelmed with gratitude. In a moment of vulnerability, others were willing to share their stories of when they felt imposter syndrome (and nope, it isn’t a one-time thing). They shared their struggles but also their hopes and their determination. They shared valuable insight and sound advice (which I will get to later in this post). But my most important takeaway is feeling validated in my journey. Every person I interacted with had a unique journey- self-taught, CS degrees, bootcamp, or even interesting combinations of each. But we all shared a lot in common- imposter syndrome but also a willingness to learn and put in the work, fears and doubts but also hopes and dreams.

As I sat down and liked, replied, and retweeted almost every response, I could feel the weight of imposter syndrome being lifted. The more stories I read, the more validated I felt. And the more stories I read, the more valuable insight I gained in facing imposter syndrome and preparing to transition into the world of web development, even without a CS degree or bootcamp experience.

Facing Imposter Syndrome as a Self-Taught Developer**

After all the feel-good moments of reading everyone’s reply, I knew I had to do something. Not only did everyone share their story and words of encouragement, they also shared sound advice- practical steps to make the journey and transition into tech less scary and painful. So here are some of the key points and recurring themes, all taken from the replies in the original thread.

Key Points

  • Find Your Community:

    Create or find your community. Discover your niche and find your people. Network by attending meetups and conferences. Find a study buddy. Talk to senior developers and find a mentor(s). Ask all the questions.

  • Study:

    Study/work hard but also smart. Prioritize and focus on what you'd like to learn. Use online courses. Read books. Watch tutorial videos. Go through interview studying materials. Search what jobs are looking for and even take a peek at the syllabi of courses/bootcamps and use this to help devise and execute a study plan.

  • Build Personal Projects:

    Create personal projects from fullstack projects with a database to even small projects. Build things you'd like to see built. Place projects in your portfolio, on GitHub, in the app store. Be prepared to speak about your project in an interview. Constantly improve your projects.

  • Share What You Know:

    Share what you know with others. Blog it (which is why I'm starting with this post!). Make videos. Teach and coach others- even if it seems like you don't know much, remember that you do!

  • Leverage Social Media:

    Connect with others on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Share your learning progress, your projects, your blogposts, your videos. Cheer others on their journey.

  • Just Keep Coding:

    Never give up and stay motivated.

  • Be Gentle:

    Don't be hard on yourself. Understand that you won’t know or learn everything. Be patient and gentle with yourself but feel free to go against your own worst critic. And remember, sometimes it’s not you or anything within your control.

  • Be You:

    Allow yourself to be you. Acknowledge and find value in your previous and current non-tech parts of your life. Follow your passions. Give yourself credit for all that you've done! And be confident.

There is a wealth of knowledge in this thread, and if you do have time, I hope you can check out their replies- each person has a unique perspective and story sharing how they transitioned into tech. And yes, we didn’t even touch base on how they transitioned - from freelancing and side gigs including teaching, internships that turned into full-time work, going back to school, working in super niche fields, and more!

In Summary

We all have imposter syndrome, regardless of how our journey started, and it never really goes away. But do remember- you can and do belong in tech. And yes, you can do it. You got this. I got this. We got this.

*Not always recommended.
**Can also be applied to any developer regardless of journey.
Cover Photo by Rainier Ridao on Unsplash

Discussion (6)

robencom profile image

Imposter Syndrome takes work and time to overcome it.

Throughout my first 5 years of working as a Developer, I always had that thought in the back of my head that I am an imposter, although many people praised my work.

It took me the courage (and the struggle) to quit my job, find a new one, work there for couple of months, then quit it and go to another place, so I finally found out that all my colleagues were praising me, so I just might NOT be an imposter, I just might be a good developer!

It took time, and several companies/colleagues, to understand that I can do it!

jessabejar profile image
Jessica Abejar Author

Ah I know what you mean- reminding myself to be patient with myself and to focus on the good and not the imposter syndrome- thanks for sharing your story!

nycbeardo profile image
M. Stevens

Amazing article!! It really helps to know there are others like myself who go through this on their coding journey! Pleae continue to write more in the future

jessabejar profile image
Jessica Abejar Author

Thank you! Glad this article was helpful, and YES! I hope to write more in the future!

_stani_slava_ profile image

Very well said Jessica! Thank you for this uplifting article! And last but not least - you are a great developer!

jessabejar profile image
Jessica Abejar Author

Aww thanks, Stanislava 😭