Discussion on: Battles of an Impostor

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Sailor Winkelman

Hi Melissa - Thanks for this article! In the 2 years of my journey as a developer so far this is the first writing about "Imposter Syndrome" that has resonated with me in a helpful way. It helped that you described the risk factors that make it more likely to have Imposter Syndrome (the entire list applies to me), and that procrastination and over-preparing are connected habits.

However, I'm still struggling to reconcile most advice about Imposter Syndrome with some systems at play in my career (which I think are impacting more and more new devs). While the "Recognize, Rationalize, Reflect" technique is helpful, I get hung up on "rationalize," because I can see rational reasons to feel like an imposter in the "external temporary worker" structure I'm a part of. Perhaps you have thoughts about it? I'll provide some context below.

I graduated from a code school and have been working for a big company as an "external temporary worker." I finished my first contract job at the company, then was job-searching for a month or so with the goal of getting on as a full-time employee at a company that with a more supportive engineering culture, but got rejected many times and then recruited back as a contractor at the same company.

In my job searches, recruiters and managers stress repeatedly that they need someone who can work independently (no "hand-holding"), and on the job, I feel responsible to prove that - even though I have been a new developer most of this time and could really benefit from mentorship and support. Management at the company I work for isn't involved with my growth. I've sometimes had access to 1:1s, but not usually and when I do it was evident that my manager was disconnected structurally from my work and achievements. The best I could do is present a list of them myself -- which was not easy for me to do. Even my most invested manager wasn't able to get me a full-time position when he tried.

Being disconnected from support and pressed to work independently makes me feel like an imposter because I haven't earned the privileges of being a real employee of the company -- which in this case are basic things like support, encouragement, and structure around my development. I feel like even if I do have imposter syndrome because of structural reasons I can't control, I also truly haven't "made it" yet. I'm wondering what can be done for people like me who don't have access to external support and validation but want to avoid the negative impacts of imposter syndrome. When I get a better handle on it, it's something I would like to write about.