re: Share Your Experiences with Impostor Syndrome VIEW POST


Out of high school I had to get a job. Being the wise young man that I was at the time I figured that a waitering job simply won't do. I will become an artist don't you know? So I get a job as junior web designer, with 0 experience, 1.5 skill (some html some css), but the job offered guidance and moving between two cities. And I am basically a pro at making websites didn't you know?

Fast forward 3 years I decide it's time to go to university. Enrolled for fine arts. I did well in my first year but man it was a lot of work. Too much for this 20 year old that basically moved in to the local pub. Inevitably I dropped out. Wen't back to designing websites (pro remember?)

Spent the next 2-3 years doing just that, and getting by. Worked at a tiny dev company for about a year. Pay sucked but it was comfortable and there was nobody to tell me that I am not the best web designer in the world.

Then my mate got a job at a massive local classifieds company. That simply won't do, I MUST be there too. Managed to get a job there and things started to change for me.

1: I realized immediately that I am no longer working for a small fry company. This was big time.
2: I began to realize that I wasn't 20 anymore, that I had to live a real life now. Girlfriend wanted to move in to an apartment together, medical aid, insurance, etc.
3: I began to realize that what I knew about my industry was but a fraction of what there was. My arrogance still wouldn't humble me though, so I just kept on doing what I needed to do to get by. Which somehow I managed.

Then I got asked to join a new agency. My by then wife (also quite surprising) wanted us to move down to Cape Town, and this agency was going there and they would take me with them. That was the moment I got scared. All of a sudden I wasn't around people I knew. I was around real designers with real degrees and many awards behind them. I was with real programmers with real degrees and very serious attitudes. Uhm. Shit.

The agency was a typical digital agency. Fancy pants websites that moved things around and floated other things behind some more things. My 4 years at classifieds company left me with a great understanding of Drupal, excellent html and css. Due to the nature of the site and the constant pressure on performance, things like jquery (lol I know...) was simply out of the question, which was good for me because I couldn't do jquery... Now I had a problem.

What I did have on my side was that I knew css very well, especially responsive design. I never used frameworks like bootstrap or blueprint (back then it was the big thing), so I could do all this myself and understood it. Agency back then did not believe in responsive and that was my big ass contribution to it. That basically saved me from being "Discovered".

I gave up being a designer. I am a good enough designer, but these guys were beyond anything I could ever keep up with, so I began to focus on being a frontend developer solely.

It took me 2 more years to learn how to write javascript. 1 year dicking about copy pasting stuff from stack overflow (you know... fake it till...), and then finally began to click a few fundamental concepts and got to learning for real.

I am now more than 10 years into this industry, I can code quite well, understand javascript well, nodejs, ruby and some php. I am by now more of a all round developer than I am pure frontend. I am with the same agency (it's a bit bigger now too) and I regularly build wordpress sites, jekyll static sites, angular apps, cli apps, nodejs apis, etc.

And yet, I would never dare call myself a developer. Every week I am afraid I will get called out (still), and I almost always have a list of small dev companies I am fairly sure will take me on as a backup. And it's entirely irrational. Everybody in my company believes in me, trust my knowledge and advice. I am now the lead frontend dev here, and the ceo always comes to me with near impossible but very fun projects. He always challenges me to go out and make mistakes, because even failed projects have value in knowledge.

It's at this point that I realize that the only thing holding me back is this bizarre mental 'thing'. So now I purposefully do udemy courses on things I don't know yet. Every one I do makes the next one easier because I am actually not a bad developer and the concepts start to make more and more sense. It's sloooowly building up more and more confidence.

I published my first public article on this site last week, even though it wasn't well received. I did it. I write my own open source sass library, publish my own helper jquery scripts to npm and put all of my own boilerplate stuff on github. I disliked the way gulp worked, so I built my own cli app to build things for me, and it works well enough for me.

At some stage I will get over this, but man it's hard work.

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