DEV Community

Manuel Fernandez
Manuel Fernandez

Posted on

Mentoring as a way of overcoming the impostor syndrome

The ugly truth

Having self-doubts about your accomplishments and your abilities, and having the fear of ever being exposed as a "fraud". Nowadays most people recognize the impostor syndrome as a psychological pattern that messes with our ability to achieve our goals and dreams.

Altough most of us know what it is, we don't actually know a solution for every single case, and of course, there is no magical drug that can get your brain to stop getting in your way, so escaping those thoughts might be a bit trickier than you wished.

Being this my first ever online article, I wanted to share my experience on how I keep my very own I.S in check, and hopefully encourage you to find and try a solution for your own personal struggle. Hope you enjoy it :)

Picture of a blackboard with the word "Mentoring" written in it.

So… let me put you in context. My name is Manuel, I'm 25 years old, and I've been working as a backend developer for the past year and a half for an Argentinian startup called Syloper.
On a daily basis, I divide the 8 hours I spend at the office between working in one of our major products (let's call it Product A for now), and dealing with some external clients. As the workflow never ends, I started to think that I wasn't doing enough, and that all the work I did in a full week had zero impact -  next week I would still be as busy as the week before - so I developed the above mentioned I.S.

Somehow I kept this whole show running, until a new developer was hired. Not to replace me, but to work alongside me. The tricky part was that he was in a similar state as I was when I joined the company, and he was in need of some mentoring. So, in a bold move, my managers decided to assign him to Product A and make him work with me, easing my workload and giving him hands-on experience in a real project at the same time.

…And then things just clicked.

My new partner needed to learn not only about the product he was working on, but also about the tools we work with (PHP 7 with the CakePHP 3 framework in this case), and I was tasked to help him out, show him the existing codebase, and basically being there for him in case he needed anything.

What's my point here? Mentoring requires an unbiased self-assesment. In order to transmit knowledge to someone else, you have to get your facts straight, organize the things you know, so you can provide a solid foundation for the person you're mentoring when you communicate.

For further reading, please have a look at Kaleb M's fantastic post, which explains more about this phenomenom called the Dunning Kruger Effect.

How has this helped me?

Things are going well so far, and I'm now much more confident in my abilities as a developer, and I get to exercise some soft-skills which are always welcome in our line of work.
The bottom line here, is that if you are struggling with I.S, you should try to make an unbiased self-assesment of what you actually now: mentor a coworker, write some simple documentation for a plugin or tool that you tried for the first time... or just go to your favourite development community and write your first post, i'm getting that little sense of pride already :)

That's it for this post, in case you made it to the end, thank you very much! let me know what you think down in the comments section.

Top comments (4)

mattconway1984 profile image
Matthew Conway

When mentoring it's important that you don't try to be the fake person who knows everything; never be afraid to say "sorry, I don't know the answer"

It's much better to open a web browser, search for the information you require (together), learn something new and discuss with the mentored so you both gain new knowledge.

I'm astonished by the number of times I've come across "senior" devs giving fake answers or bluffing their way through a stream of tech garbage ending up with everyone more confused than when they started!

nelo_mf profile image
Manuel Fernandez

Totally agree... that's what I was talking about when I wrote about getting your facts straight.

nelo_mf profile image
Manuel Fernandez

That's some really good advice John, thank you for sharing!