DEV Community

Cover image for Clare Sudbery surfing on her imposter syndrome and other things I learned recording her DevJourney (#156)

Clare Sudbery surfing on her imposter syndrome and other things I learned recording her DevJourney (#156)

This week, I published Clare Sudbery's #DevJourney story on my eponym Podcast: Software developer's Journey. Among many other things, here are my main personal takeaways:

  • Clare started her coding journey playing sounds on a ZX-Spectrum at a very young age. But then, computers exited her life for a while.
  • She got a maths and philosophy degree through which she did a lot of logical thinking, but coming from a family of teachers, she was aiming at becoming a math teacher herself. But, before becoming one, she got convinced by other teachers that teaching was not what she had envisioned: "lots of bureaucracy, a little teaching", so she steered away. Then, thanks to a friend, computers came back on her radar.
  • She then did a "conversion master" to convert her degree into a computation degree and ended up finding a job coding in C++.
  • During this master's degree, and long after, Clare found herself being the only woman in the room, and the only person in the room who hadn't been coding since their teenage. This made her feel that "she didn't belong here". 4 years into her career, Clare had been promoted to Senior Software Engineer and still was sure of being a fraud.
  • Clare always wanted to write a novel. So she decided to reduce her work time to 4 days a week, announce that she was writing a book to increase the peer pressure, and started writing.
  • Clare has a crucial skill; she is very good at persuading people to give her a job. Her first tip in this regard is: "be yourself!"
  • Clare experienced the "waterfall" nightmare of being stuck, not raising your voice, becoming even more stuck, feeling that you can raise your voice even less, and so on, and feeling guilty throughout the whole process.
  • After 12 years as an engineer, and after having been unfairly treated and fired, she decided to embrace the career she wanted all along: being a freelance writer and a math teacher. And the warning she had received a few years before was spot on. Teaching was nothing like what she envisioned; she attempted to hold against the pressure, the bullying, and the bureaucracy but finally resigned and went back to software development, this time web development. That place was a learning-heaven, where asking questions was mandatory. Clare entered as an "empty vessel" and took in as much as she could get.
  • She was promoted as a middle manager on the assumption that women are stronger on the people's side, even though she didn't want to do it.
  • After moving toward management and seeing a contractor doing the same job as she did and earning twice the money, Clare decided to become a freelance contractor. Her idea was to alternate contracting and writing. After a few gigs, she rented a remote cottage in Scottland to write her new novel. All she ended up doing was fight her writer's block, and realize how miserable she was, being away from code. She finally realized she was a software engineer after all.
  • Clare had never applied with ThoughtWorks, a renowned company, for fear of the travel obligations. But after a few more companies, Clare was head-hunted by ThoughtWorks and started there as a consultant.
  • As Clares puts it, in consultancy, you have to be able to land in any company, any team, and any domain and be proficient. Thus the job-title scale is often skewed. For example, a lead engineer in a product company would be a senior engineer in a consultancy. And consultancies often sell their people a level higher than where they are, e.g., selling seniors as leads, following this pattern. That was terrifying. Clare faced a real case of Imposter-Syndrom and making herself sick over it. And the only person giving her bad feedback was herself.
  • Since then, Clare has followed the habit of writing down at the end of every week all the things she did well that week.

Advice:

  • "Make a note of every tiny little success"
  • "Ask for feedback and write it down to read on the bad days"
  • "Use your skills to build things and make a note that you did it"
  • "It is allowed to be self-indulgent, but it's OK. If other people deserve kindness, so do you"

Quotes:

  • "I'm very good at persuading people to give me a job"
  • "I had a failed career as a writer and a math teacher, a miscarriage, I had been made redundant in my IT job; it felt like my life had been a series of failures and disappointments, I was determined to prove there was something I could do"
  • "I had been sniffy about people doing computing in their spare time. But then I chose to put it on its head and see my job as a treat, being paid to do my hobby."
  • "I do tend to get bored and fidgety, I must confess"
  • "What I enjoy is being part of a team and building relationships with my coworkers that I missed as a contractor"

Thanks, Clare, for sharing your story with us!

You can find the full episode and the show notes on devjourney.info or directly here on DEV

Did you listen to her story?

  • What did you learn?
  • What are your takeaways?
  • What did you find particularly interesting?

Discussion (0)