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What am I doing here?

dlionz profile image Damien Breaux ・4 min read

To Start

Recently I moved to San Francisco. My wonderfully talented girlfriend got a job at Apple and since my company was flexible enough to allow me to work remotely, we picked up and flew off to beautiful San Francisco from Houston. Being a developer, this was not only an exciting step for our relationship in moving and experiencing a brand new city together, it was an exciting step for me personally, as my career was sure to benefit just be virtue of being in the presence of the tech environment within the Bay Area.

Now on to my story!

Sustaining Open Source Meetup

Earlier this week my boss messaged me a link and said "hey you should try and go to this meetup." I checked out the link and it was to a meetup at GitHub to discuss how companies can help sustain open-source software.

Link to the exact meetup

When I opened it up I thought "WOW my first meetup and its going to be at GitHub!? sign me up!!!". I've only contributed once to open source so far in my one year and seven months of being a developer. The main reason being that I doubt my own skills as a developer when compared to the other folks I imagined attending, and to be honest that was just plain intimidating. The one contribution I did make was a documentation correction for this repo. Nevertheless I was excited to get out of the house and start plugging myself into the tech community here.

I will never be good enough

The day of the meetup I show up to GitHub headquarters a half hour early. I'm an anxious person and I've made a career out of being painfully early to all professional events and functions.

Upon arrival, I was immediately blown away and overwhelmed with what I walked into. GitHub HQ might be the coolest building I have ever entered to date. The interior is like an industrial loft - high ceilings, exposed wood, beams, half walls with tube lights and just all over amazing-ness. See for yourself here (no affiliation - I just wanted to provide you the visual aid).

Once the excitement of the interior wore off, I was suddenly filled with dread and thoughts of "I do not belong here", "I will never be good enough", and "there is no way I could pass an interview and be able to work in a place like this." Even though I told myself this kind of knee-jerk intimidation was very normal, it was hard to shake all the same. I graduated college with a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration and an overall 2.5 GPA. After great effort and no small amount of money I joined a coding boot camp (at a time when they are a dime a dozen) and somehow landed a job as a C# developer afterward. Most days I feel like I 'Object Dot' intellisense through my work day.

At the meetup itself, there was a conference area set up with chairs in a circle (inner monologue: "oh god we are going to have to introduce our selves and say a fun fact"). I made my way to the chairs, took a seat, and surprise... we have to introduce ourselves and say why we were attending the meetup. As introductions went around, I found myself in a circle with the heads of open source for Twitter, Indeed, and Airbnb, as well as a GitHub product manager and a few other devs from all of the aforementioned tech giants. The meetup began, and lots of great ideas about how companies can better support open source products and how they can encourage their own employees to contribute started flowing. The next two hours were full of lively discussion from all attendees on the ethics, challenges, and next steps for each company in how better to promote collaboration on open-source projects.

All too soon, the meeting was over and everyone was standing up to spend the last hour to networking chit-chat while making use of GitHub's self-service open bar. Being the shy person I am, I was already calling my Lyft and heading to the door. But as I waited, I made eye contact with the head of open source at Indeed as he was walking to the bar, and we give each other a nod. He got himself a drink and started walking back to the group when he suddenly turned around and came up to me, extending his hand. "Hey man, thanks for coming out. What was your name again?" I introduced myself and thanked him for his insights during the meetup. He was incredibly warm and friendly and replied "well thanks for coming out man, I hope to see you at one of these again."

That moment of acknowledgement and warmth helped so much. It didn't solve my problem nor magic away the self-doubt - but it helped. It let me know that I was welcomed here as I was. One of the most important things said at the meetup I believe was this: open source isn't about the code. It's about the communities that develop around the code, and the people that enjoy them. (Reminds me of a certain site I know of.)

This post isn't a how-to on solving your insecurity or impostor syndrome in a dev role - if anything, it's a stream of consciousness from a new dev trying to let others know that there is someone out there who might feel the same as they do. I'll continue to learn and become a better developer and maybe one day I'll be my own head of open source, sharing my experiences and thoughts with another nervous and new developer.

Thanks,
Damien


Posted on Apr 13 '19 by:

dlionz profile

Damien Breaux

@dlionz

Remote Software Developer living in San Fransisco. Follow me on twitter if you like animal crossing, and nonsense :D

Discussion

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Been doing this for 10 years and it doesn't matter how long that imposter syndrome never truly goes away. Plus, being at meetups and socializing is another anxiety causing thing.

The best thing you can do is remember that we are all learning, the games are made up, and the points don't matter! 😉

And as a community we try to remember stories like this so we remain warm and welcoming to others. This stuff is hard, no matter who you are, and it's impossible without asking for and receiving help. Good luck on your journey and we're always here is you need help along the way!

 

Yep, almost 30 years here and I'm still anxious when it comes to presentations in front of more than three people - I literally laid down on my floor at home for an hour to calm myself the last time I had to give a presentation.

I second this comment wholeheartedly. We are are learning and fitting into our own skin over time. We all ask for help. Keep it up!

 

Thanks for confirmation, have had many panic attacks myself. Always a fun phone call when you can't breathe in the middle lol!

Followed on Twitter. _^

 

Thanks for the input! I resonate with the laying on the floor bit very much haha!!

 

Thank you so much for saying this!

 

This is wonderful. I can't stress the amount of stress felt in social functions for new events where people are talking about their own passions. You always hope to meet their level of commitment which is intimidating but the fact that this story shows you how accepting these communities can be really helps people reading to at least take the first step to get involved

 

Yes absolutely! I didn't think of this but this totally happens to me on a consistent basis! Thanks for reading :D

 

By the way, congrats on the big move and new opportunities!

Thank you thank you, but the praise should go to my wonderfully talented girlfriend I shall pass along the congrats. Thanks again.

 

I know you said that your post isn't a "how-to on solving your insecurity or impostor syndrome in a dev role", but imposter syndrome and related stresses are real, and so sharing real-world examples is useful both to yourself (I imagine) and others.

I lived in NYC from 2006-2011 and I was a C# developer that whole time. When I relocated back to the Bay Area, I found it hard to get noticed by many startups because I didn't have work experience in Python or Ruby (both of which were hot at the time). I literally learned Python just to pass coding interviews.

Did I have imposter syndrome at the time? I would definitely say I felt insecurity because recruiters were not interested in my work history--perhaps due to the language and stack, perhaps they didn't care about the failed startup I worked at, etc.

My solution was to:

1) Set a reasonable timeframe.

I couldn't adapt my skillset overnight and that would just stress me out.

2) Figure out what I actually wanted to work on.

Don't chase things only because they are seemingly popular. Do things you actually like doing and that are still in relatively strong or emerging demand.

3) Focus on what actually matters.

In my experience, what matters the most are:

  • a great, supportive manager
  • a strong team you can rely on
  • and a team that has growth projects

Especially the manager part. There are an endless number of truly awful, unqualified managers in tech companies.

Other things like fancy offices are nice but not essential, in my experience at least.

I'm not saying any of this applies to your situation, I'm just sharing concrete data as well in case it's helpful to your or anyone else!

 

Hey Peter, thank you so much for sharing! I absolutely do think it is help to talk about, both for others and myself. All of your points are fantastic and I think worth thinking about for myself. I also whole heatedly agree with the manager part! Luckily I'm at a company right now where I have a fantastic support system in my management.

Thanks for sharing :D

 

This is my first comment on Dev :)

I feel the exact same way at events!!

I once heard a great piece of advice on how to feel more comfortable, especially if you have to be there and can't just leave. Find someone who is off on their own (maybe trying to be invisible too?) and go strike up a conversation with them. It'll help them feel more at ease and likely make you feel the same. Also possibly what the guy heading to the bar did with you :)

 

That’s an awesome story :). I thought that after moving to the Bay Area I’d be going to meetup after meetup, but so far I’ve let anxiety get the best of me. After hearing this I’m gonna try to make my way up to the city for one of these. Maybe I’ll see you around!

Thanks a bunch for sharing.

 

Me too my friend! I thought when I got out here I would be at meetups everyday! HAHA. You should for sure come up and attend. DM me on twitter if you ever do. Maybe we can try and go to the same meetup and eliminate some of the 'alone-ness' of going some where, where you don't know anyone.

 

Thanks for sharing this. I'm about to finish boot camp myself and thinking about (well, somewhat dreading, really) getting out there to network, and hearing this was helpful. I'm in the city too, so if you want "backup" for the next time or just want to meet another SF couple for a drink, feel free to HMU.

 

Ill totally keep you in mind next time I see something come up!

 

Damien, thanks for sharing this experience. I liked the stream-of-consciousness style. I'm sure you'll find plenty more great meetups in SF! :)

 

Hey Peter thanks! I really really appreciate the feedback! and ya I'm excited for whatever this city has in store for me :D

 

I can totally relate, unlike you though, I have a bachelor's degree in Software Engineering. Still whenever there is a meetup like scenario, presentations etc that exact thing happens:
filled with dread and thoughts of "I do not belong here", "I will never be good enough", and "there is no way I could pass an interview and be able to work in a place like this.
I'm also trying to rebrand my online presence, pace up my learning, and be confident. But...
What strikes me is, when I was a student, I was pretty confident, not just that, I was pretty good in programming and problem solving, (Allhamdolillah) I have won (or stood runner up) in 14 national/university level competitions. I was runner up of ICPC Lhr Regional in 2017 and 2nd runner up in 2015 (It was 2nd week of 3rd semester, All I had studied, relating to programming was Programming Fundamentals(PF) and OOP).
I'm not bragging, sorry if it looks like that, it's just that, I feel like a switch flipped and I was not that person anymore. I lost motivation (Look at my Bio). I don't know what happened.
I even managed to get a job in a well reputed company(Don't get distracted by my bio, my company is really good, team is not that good - I guess).
I have started studying myself to pinpoint the cause of this flip, there are a lot of things...Idk, I'm just unmotivated to do all this...

 

This post is my first exposure to this community, and tbh this is the nicest thing I read this week. Made me join, and hopefully learn a thing or two. Thanks man, great post.

 

WOW that's so cool to hear! Welcome! This is without a doubt my favorite community on the internet.

 

Thank you for the read. In my opinion it takes a lot of inner strength to write such personal article. Keep going - you will be a very good developer!

 

Thank you for the kind words!

 
 

This was a great read! I hope you’re enjoying San Fran living! You should try and get up to Tahoe sometime before the snow melts and hit the slopes!

 

Thanks Jeremy! Ya I hear its fantastic out there. I just wouldn't wanna be stuck in one of those 10hr traffic jams :P

 

This post itself is a good start. Thanks for sharing. :)

 
 

Great to hear your experience and thanks for sharing! I'm really liking the DEV.to community!