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What I did last year - OR - How to avoid imposter syndrome

vorsprung profile image vorsprung ・2 min read

What I did last year OR How to avoid imposter syndrome

I'm an imposter

Sometimes I really enjoy my geeky job looking after servers

Sometimes I spend half a morning writing a script to fix something, I forget what I'm doing and then suddenly think "ooh better stop this and do some work"

Then I remember that this is my work, for real this is what I do

Other times I am talking to clever clever people and they say "I'm learning Go but I don't quite understand pointers yet". And I start saying "Well, funcs are call by value..." and then I doubt that I am just the person to tell them this but then...

I remember, for real I have fixed projects, I've had live production code in Go

Of course, I'm not an imposter

How to remember

To remind myself that I am learning all the new stuff and that is actually what I do, I keep a list in a spreadsheet. It has 3 columns: datetime, area, winulation

"datetime" is just my way of saying when

"area" is the thing I've been working at. For 2018 the areas are

  • golang
  • kubernetes
  • book
  • conference
  • github
  • AWS
  • public speaking
  • javascript
  • MOOC

"winulation" is the small achievement I've made in that area.

For example in the case of Golang, I had learnt the absolute basics of it late 2017
One aim I had for 2018 was to get good at it. Some winulations for Golang said "did tests for go-spacemesh crypto with 100% cover and submitted pull request", "used the runtime/trace to instrument a toy web server", "finished reading Donovan & Kernighan book" and "Soduku program finally works. Not terrifically fast :)"

As I'm sure you can appreciate from the above list, there is nothing earth-shattering there! But each thing filled me with a brief sense of achievement, and it's this sense of achievement that I am trying to capture with the spreadsheet

Next time I feel like an imposter, I just look at the sheet and see all the stuff I've done.

This year's new areas are ML (Machine Learning), Squirrel (I am doing a side project, this is the code name) and Prometheus (an interesting thing at work)

I'd encourage you to keep a list like this, it's a great way to build confidence without arrogance

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Discussion

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That's a really helpful outlook and one I would like to recommend to more than a few people I know - so many people cherish their imposter syndrome, like it's a good thing (or a "pet" vice) but if you really think it's a problem, then you ought to do something about it and this is a very practical solution.

 

Oh yes, this is quite a good idea.

So many experienced developers get to a stage were doubt creeps in after some years.

For me it has a lot to do with constant learning, where we put ourselves on the bottom step of the knowledge staircase time and again. We are permanently beginners in something.