useful things

Imposter Syndrome is almost universal

I work with 50 odd people in the engineering space, almost all of us suffer from imposter syndrome.

According to Wikipedia it is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

I was chatting to a friend today about their fear. They have progressed in the organisation quite rapidly and they feel out of their depth. It’s a mixture of their understanding of the Peter Principle (the idea you will get promoted to a level one above your competence) and IS.

The truth is somewhere in between, and like most things; it depends.

My friend, had received performing or outstanding annual reviews for years. I probed “So do you rate your managers over that time”. “Well yes, most of them” was the reply. “You cannot be doing badly then, or someone would have said something, so crack on” was my reply. If you trust your management, and those involved in your employment/promotion then consider that IS suggests you have some how convinced them and managed to hide the fact you are a “fraud” from them and potentially for years. Logically that just isn’t likely.

I’ve suffered with IS throughout my dev career, largely based on not being a nerd (I like football more than I like understanding how threading works, I like two-by-two magic frameworks/grids more than I look at binaries, threading, or what’s on the heap. I don’t have a computer science background or a degree. Yet somehow I’ve made it to head of engineering in one organisation with 4 promotions in that time, and now I’m an engineering manager at a really exciting FinTech.

I have coached myself1 and my way out of IS with the above argument, surely after a 16 year career if I was doing my job poorly someone would have said something, sure I have had some feedback that I can improve in my approach, but never anything threatening my position and livelihood.

I’ve also learned not to care that much about what others think2. Life is too short to worry about others. Focus on what you can control. Have a growth mindset and genuinely invest in continuous learning and seek to improve and you won’t go wrong.

  1. yes, I coach myself. I’ll write about that soon.
  2. about me, except in a one-to-one direct report context. That relationship is very important to me and one I absolutely do care about in order to provide my best possible level of support.

Published 6 June 2022, with 425 words.