Skip to content

I'm an experienced developer?

You have more value than you give yourself credit for

In an email at work this week, someone referred to me as an experienced developer. I'm still working through the impostor syndrome of that statement.

In general, I'm still in disbelief that I get to work at Stack Overflow. I passed the interviews, I got and accepted the offer, and I'm almost done the onboarding process. However, I'm still waiting for something bad to happen! It's like I'm on the edge of my seat all the time, anticipating something to blow up.

In my mind, I don't deserve it. "How did I stumble into this? This doesn't make any sense! I was just working for my local City, and now I'm at one of the biggest sites in the world?"

I've fed this impostor syndrome feeling in my regular weekly check-ins with my boss. I ask, "What's a metric we can use to measure my performance, and what would a fail state look like?" but I really mean "Don't you realize I'm not supposed to be here, and how long until you realize that I shouldn't be on the team?"

This is an admittedly unhealthy way to deal with the problem. Trying to find the worst case scenario is catastrophizing and is not a realistic evaluation of the situation. Just because I can imagine catastrophic situations does not mean that I should try to explore and eliminate them.

Instead, I think it's important to focus on the positive. I got the job for a reason. I earned it. I deserve it. To help try and squash the impostor syndrome feelings, I'm going to write a list of reasons I think I'm in the right place.

  • I'm passionate about helping people, and working at Stack Overflow allows me to help people at a global scale.
  • I've used the Stack Overflow product for several years and am in line with their mission of empowering developers
  • I have several years of experience working in a .NET environment and can confidently write code
  • I have followed some of the staff of Stack Overflow on social media, and I have read and enjoyed their blog posts and listening to their podcasts
  • I have a growth mindset and am constantly learning things that interest me, not just for work
  • I'm empathetic to others and truly care about how the feel and the problems they face

Writing this list out kind of feels like writing out a cover letter or resume. The thing is, this isn't for anyone but myself. I've wrote this list as almost a way to validate myself - to apply for the position of being myself, where I'm the one responsible for hiring.

If you're feeling impostor syndrome or are just down on your value, maybe a list like this would help you. Don't focus on the reasons why you shouldn't be where you are or the reasons why you can't achieve your goals. Focus on the reasons why you're great and why you deserve good things happening to you.

Importantly, don't try and compare your list to mine. That list wasn't for you to feel bad about or for you to get impostor syndrome about (though it's valid if you feel those emotions!). There's a great venn diagram illustration in the article Overcoming Impostor Syndrome by Alicia Liu that is worth checking out. For those who are learning, the follow up You don't have Impostor Syndrome is important to keep in mind too.

I still have lots to learn and lots of growing to do. However, for now, I can feel valuable to myself and deserving of where I am.