Starting out as a software engineer is not easy. Tech companies are competitive and keeping up with the ever-evolving technology is challenging. When I started at Ona as an intern, surrounded by smart people and high expectations, I began to have feelings of inadequacy. Which is why I’m sharing my experience with imposter syndrome and the ways I’ve managed my feelings to let others know that, however unpleasant, these feelings are common and surmountable.
My internship started after passing a rigorous interview. I received the opportunity and challenge to work with a bigger engineering team. My initial tasks were to setup the development environment and familiarize myself with tools used at Ona, including: Docker, Ansible, and more — which were all completely new to me. I wondered if the timeline I had for the setup was long enough. I made up my mind not to go the old school way of watching YouTube tutorials, fearing someone would peep at me watching tuts instead of going through documentation.
After the setup, I had to read through existing code and build new features on top of it. Boom! New libraries, APIs and frameworks. Looking through the code base, my brain shutdown for a moment. It was not the normal Android code I was familiar with (using Activities and Intents). Events, sync adapters, rules engines, and Mapbox were bizarre and unfamiliar concepts. I felt pressure to keep up with code standards and write quality code at par with other engineers in the team. I started to feel I was not up to the challenge.
After losing confidence, I discovered what I was going through is known as impostor syndrome and decided to research ways of overcoming it. I’ve concluded it’s a rarely discussed topic among engineers, yet a common phenomenon that many can relate to and have come across. You may be having this persistent feeling of “Oh! I feel like I’m faking it.” Or, thoughts like “I just got lucky”, “I am not worth this job”, ”they did me a favor” etc. are just so familiar to you that they can’t seem to fade away. If you sometimes become anxious, stressed and feel sorry for yourself, read on.