Not an Impostor

MrFodder linked me this tweet today. If you have a look, a lot of people responded saying similar things, that they often need to Google how to do simple tasks,
I have mentioned in the past that I feel like I don’t belong at work, and that I often feel like I have no idea what I’m doing – typical symptoms of the Impostor syndrome. Well, I still feel like that, but one morning, I ended up in the lift with an intern from my old team. He mentioned that he felt really lost, and I got the impression that he was feeling like I do now. This was pretty much confirmed by Special K.

I sent him an email describing how Grad Daniel and I would message each other in the morning, detailing what we were asked to do. Then, between the two of us, we would Google-fu our way into some sort of solution. We pretty much helped each other out until our projects diverged enough that we weren’t familiar with each other’s code and the questions got too specific for us to Google without all the background knowledge. I offered to help run him through the framework used by the team, so that at least he’d have some idea how it all hangs together, since a lot of it is done by “magic”.

Now I find myself in this weird position, where I was once the impostor, and now I’m a semi-mentor? I did do mentor training a few years ago, but once again, I was the most junior person there, and the only person in the group who wasn’t a manager of some kind, so the whole time I felt like I wasn’t good enough to be there. Am I ready to mentor someone else? Special K actually asked me to mentor her, saying that I was pretty much acting like one anyway. I declined, saying that we’re friends, and it would be tough to keep a mentor relationship and a friendship at the same time. I still feel like that is the case, which is why I don’t want to mentor this intern either. It also feels dishonest to be giving other people advice when I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.

Anyway, it was nice to read the tweets from other programmers who have years of experience, admitting that they sometimes don’t know how to do the simplest of things. I think part of it was to show that technical interviews where you are asked to regurgitate documentation don’t really do very well at wedding out bad programmers, but I think the other part of it is to reassure people that the super pro, been programming since he was born developer still needs to look up the Javadocs for String methods every now and again, and that’s OK.

Tomorrow, I will go to work with my head held high, and write code with confidence! Maybe one day I’ll work up enough confidence to take someone under my wing.

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