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Discussion on: How do you deal with imposter syndrome?

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John Colagioia

Over twenty-five years in the field, I'll try to say something that most people don't get to notice and are terrified to say out loud: We all have imposter syndrome, and it's because we're all imposters. And there's your solution.

What I mean is that nobody "evolved" to hold a job or solve problems for anywhere from hundreds to billions of people. As developers, none of us was "meant" to write code, a field that quite a few living people are still old enough to remember not existing at all. And if any of us was ready for our work, it'd already be complete. So, we're all really just pretending that we're good at this and doing the best we can, and if you don't think you're wrong. The functioning people, I suspect, are the people who have internalized this as a normal state of affairs, in the same way that the people who "fit in" socially are the people who accept that nobody ever really fits in.

That has the seeds of fixing the problem, because we have a support group with seven billion members sitting right here. We--primarily white and Asian guys who make up the majority of the field--need to normalize saying "I need to learn that" and, instead of being shocked that someone doesn't know something, being excited at the chance to introduce them to it. It needs to be OK to be doing a job you're learning as you go, because that's the only kind of job there is.