You’ve overcome the hurdles between you and your first role as a professional developer. Now you actually need to seem, and feel, like you know what you’re doing!
Imposter Syndrome is something that haunts many developers at various stages of their careers, but if you have come into the industry from another field, with no professional experience, the first few months in your new role can feel particularly difficult. You have earned the job you were given, but that doesn’t mean you won’t occassionally feel like a fraud.
Hopefully the following tips will help you overcome these feelings and give you some concrete steps towards succeeding.
Lots to learn - take notes
I probably learned and promptly forgot more about web development in my first three months on the job than I had in the preceding two years.
A trick I picked up a little too late in order to retain that early rush of knowledge was simply to take notes.
Since we work with computers day-in, day-out, it makes sense to have those notes easily accessible on your computer, but even pen-and-paper notes are useful if that’s all you have available to you when you learn something new.
Personally, I like Evernote because of the nice Tusk client for Ubuntu and its ease of use and searchability. But anything vaguely organised will do. If I were starting completely from scratch, I might give Notion a go instead, since it rolls up task management, note taking and provides a lightweight database for more bespoke / structured data.
One of my favourite things to keep in my notes are all those little tricks I see more senior developers do. If I spot someone rattling off a little command line magic I’d never seen before, I ask them to give me a quick explanation of it and write it down before I forget it. I’ll share some of these command line flourishes in a follow-up post.
Lots to celebrate - take more notes
Nothing is a better antidote for Imposter Syndrome than having a good running list of your accomplishments. Everytime you implement a new feature, fix a quirky bug, or learn a new technology, make a note of it.
You remember how hard it was when you had to write a resume with no professional experience? With an ever-growing list of your successes, not only will you not have that problem ever again, you’ll have a new problem: how do you fit everything you can do now on a single page resume?
When the going gets tough blog about it
You will reach moments when you are stuck on something that feels unsolveable and every Google search leads you nowhere productive.
You will also eventually solve the problem.
When you do, get in the habit of writing up a post-mortem of what the issue was and how it was eventually solved. If possible, recreating a small code sandbox example of the problem and the fix can help you further. The benefit of this is twofold: firstly it helps you better understand, rememeber, and learn from the problem so yo ucan better tackle it next time. Secondly, it shows potential future employers how you go about problem solving.
If you switched careers, it is more than likely that you spent the previous year (or much more) working full-time, holding down all your other obligations, and still having to cram in coding practice time so you could pursue your dream.
Now that you are in the industry, relax on your personal projects for a while. It can still feel tempting to fight the Imposter Syndrome by ramping up on a bunch of other technologies on your own time - but believe me, you are learning enough, and working hard enough already.
You are entitled to have a life away from code, even in the early portion of your new career. Get some exercise, play some games, spend time with your kids, and catch up on all that sleep you missed with your late night coding sessions of yore.
You can’t be a good developer if you are burnt out.