Overcoming Imposter Syndrome In Tech

Consultadd behaviorblog

Have you ever been in a meeting or workshop, with room full of your team members and felt, “What are they talking about? How do they know so much about this technology? I cannot understand a thing!! Do I even belong here? “

If you have often had this suffocating feeling of cheating your boss and team members, and acting like you belong but you don’t, you are not the only one. This phenomenon of feeling like a fraud is called “Imposter Syndrome”. About 58% of tech employees suffer from imposter syndrome, regardless of their gender and including employees of tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google.

According to Harvard Business Review; Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.”

Imposter Syndrome is very common among software engineers or developers who are new to the role and lack the experience that some of their co-workers. Tech industry is particularly vulnerable to Imposter syndrome because this is the only industry where while experience counts there constantly is adaptation to newly emerged technology.

So how can one overcome the feeling of burnout, restlessness and unhappiness that the imposter syndrome brings along?

According to American Psychology Association, to overcome imposter syndrome you must learn the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. People with a growth mindset believe that their skills and talents can be developed through hard work, practice, conversations with others, etc. Alternately, those with a fixed mindset tend to believe their talents are set abilities that they were born with.

I took this opportunity of writing about growth mindset to ask Bharat Bhate, CEO of ConsultAdd, and one of the person that I personally have know to have most vigorous growth mindset, what does “Growth” mean? In his own words;
Growth is an ongoing process, as long as you are not staying stationary and moving in the right direction, you are growing.
The right is the keyword here, sometimes we are not moving in the right direction, we are lost or worse, we think we are going in the right direction, but we may be going in just opposite direction.
When growing, there would be a lot of repetition. If you want to refine things, it is essential to focus on incremental growth. Slowly you can develop a framework to advance through direct experience.
Another characteristic of a growth mindset is to create mental checkpoints and reward system. If you create a checkpoint for yourself, you can easily navigate towards it, and when getting to a checkpoint, you can reward yourself. Notice, I called it a checkpoint. Once it is marked, you can move on to the next checkpoint.
Finally, focus on being a better version of yourself, not just in the context of the goal but also in other aspects. You possess a limitless mind.”

But what if the “Growth Mindset” doesn’t come naturally to you? What do you do to continuously learn and grow? The answer, for you, is not passion and motivation.  Sure if you are passionate and motivated, you will continuously learn and grown. But What if you are one of those people who want to grow but aren’t attuned to the motivation? The answer for you is Discipline and Continuous Learning. Make repetition and Micro Learning a habit.

If you are interested in understanding how to form habit around learning, and catch up to those “seeming lofty” goals, I highly encourage you to listen to “How to Achieve Your Most Ambitious Goals” By Stephen Duneier in TEDxTucson.

Neil Gaiman, a celebrated English Author, during his commencement address at The University of the Arts spoke candidly about his experience dealing with Impostor Syndrome and famously said;
“I got out into the world, and I coded, and I became a better coder the more I coded, and I coded some more, and nobody ever seemed to mind that I was making it up as I went along, they just saw what I coded and they paid for it, or they didn't, and often they commissioned me to code something else for them.”

So, does this mean we need to pay bit more attention to the clichéd saying “Fake it until you make it”? Sure, why not!!

The repetition and continuous learning does mean to fake it until you make it. The worst part of Imposter Syndrome is how it holds us all back. Keep in your mind that you are learning and improving every day. And don’t wait to learn it all before taking the job. Take the job even if you don’t have all the required skill set. Code some today and code some more and more. And when someone says “Good work, – embrace it! Don’t diminish it with an “Oh it was nothing or “I couldn't have done it without help. What matters is, YOU DID IT!!

About Author: Nisha, now V.P of Operations in Consultadd, has been working for IT industry since 2012. When she started her career as an Analyst, she went through the phase of “Imposter Syndrome”. Now she is not scared of acknowledging not knowing something and learning; and in her own words; to fake it until she has made it.


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