Imposter Syndrome As A Junior Engineer
- By Christopher Billingsley
- Junior Software Engineer
Ever feel that everyone around you is just that much smarter? Feel nervous at work? Me too, let’s talk about it.
Who knew that me writing about impostor syndrome would be my first ever blog post? In fact – this is the first blog post I’ve ever done. Anywhere. You’ve heard it here first.
The idea for this came out of nowhere on a slow Friday as I was looking for more things to do. I figured, as a new graduate of the COVID class and the newest full-time engineer on the team, I can talk about impostor syndrome: how it feels, how I’m growing from it, and how you can apply it in life.
What is it?
Imagine yourself back in high school or college, and you’re recently starting a group project. You’ve grouped up with people that have more experience or skills than you in certain areas. From a software standpoint, one person could be better with working on user experience, another one could be better with being down in the trenches of the backend, making sure the system works correctly.
You’re trying to feel for your role in the group. You have skills you know you can contribute with. You’re likely confused about some aspects of the project, but you struggle with asking for help. Deep down, you’re not sure how you’re here working with these people.
You don’t feel like you fit in, you don’t feel like you have the knowledge, and that others around you know exactly what they’re talking about. That’s impostor syndrome.
My Experience with Impostor Syndrome
This is how I’ve felt in college, and even here at Mindfire. It was natural. I’ve had many experiences with this while I was getting my degree in Computer Science. I thought I had confidence in myself and what I brought to the table, but I was nervous deep down. I’ve worked with people who came into my major as those who’ve been into computers as a kid. As someone who cared about what others thought, it sucked. But what happened? I ended up graduating, with a bit of a chip on my shoulder thinking I could blast into the industry.
Nope, slow down Chris, you’ll get hit by a truck. And that happened with COVID.
I applied everywhere and tried to get interviews. The interviews I did have consisted of me being very nervous, unsure of myself, and feeling like I couldn’t fit into the industry. I got in contact with Tiffany about a contract here as an intern and took it. I’ve been here ever since, while moving into an engineering position in March.
And guess what? I felt like an impostor again. I was comfortable with the team during my 6 months as a contractor, but now I felt scared putting into practice what I spent 4 years learning about. I needed to ask for help. I needed to accept that I’m starting from the beginning in the industry, and that my skills and knowledge can only go up.
Fixed vs Growth Mindset
I realize that I needed to adopt a growth mindset. There are two types of mindsets that shape our lives, a fixed mindset, and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is where you feel that your knowledge, beliefs, values, and character are set in stone. The statement “It’s just who I am” comes to mind.
A growth mindset, however, is one where you feel that you can always learn more, that you can always improve yourself, that you can always grow. It’s one where criticism is not taken as offense, but as construction. It’s one that champions humility, open-mindedness, and willingness to accept being wrong sometimes. It’s changed how I’ve carried myself in the office, and parts of my character as well. As an example, during code reviews, I receive feedback and suggestions. These aren’t meant to be taken as offenses, but as suggestions for improvement I can make, so that I perform better in the future.
This is how I started to feel more comfortable in the office, working with people much older and experienced than myself, in a part of Utah where I don’t have a circle of friends or acquaintances like in college. I started to think about how I can learn and improve from my coworkers and how I can help vs. being stubborn, sad, or self-deprecating. I also figured out that everyone else is still learning each day.
Now, this isn’t to say I never feel like an impostor anymore. I still have my moments but thinking in terms of growth has helped me considerably with dealing with impostor feelings. No matter what your career is, I think a growth mindset can serve you well not just with work and impostor syndrome, but in your hobbies, passions, and goals.
Get out there and grow. Never stop learning.
Photo by Nik Shuliahin on StockSnap