We all know that software engineer whom we can never match in their ability of think of the right abstractions, ability to debug issues quickly and come up with patches before you reach your desk from theirs. You feel like you missed the meeting where they handed these super powers.
Impostor Syndrome, a valuable skill 1
Wikipedia defines it as
... a psychological pattern in which one doubts one's accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud".
If you encounter sufficient number of people with the said super powers, you begin to wonder if this whole Impostor Syndrome business is just a syndrome or is there truth to it. As I have written before, the current state of industry requires a ton of software development work to be done. A sizable chunk of this work does not demand the highest standard. So there is a lot of room for low quality. So it is very likely that a large share of engineers are getting away with sub-par efforts. A lot of the times, this does not have an impact on the outcome of the product or your company’s fate.
Don’t Only Hire The Best”
OK, the hiring department will tell you that we only hire the best. It is true in a few companies. But the HR teams that are under this illusion in other companies - where are all the average and (!!) below average developers of the world? They are probably sitting next to you hiding behind some fancy earphones.
Getting To My Point?
I sound cynical, but I have something positive to offer. My point was not to say that all others are low quality. I’m trying to say that a majority of the people in the industry have a few strengths and a large number of weaknesses. But invoking patterns like Impostor Syndrome as a general rule only gives people who are below the bar an excuse to convince themselves that it is common to not be at your best. If every opportunity at a workplace is treated like you’d treat an exam in school that counts towards your graduation then the overall quality of the output seen in the industry would be much higher.
Impostor Syndrome can be a valuable skill. Unfortunately, in its current form, it democratizes pretense. It can be used as a stepping stone to learn a new skill-set instead.
Obviously, there are people who might be suffering from chronic cases of self-doubt, lower endorphins etc. This is not about them, this is about the average person. I’d say being brutally honest with yourself is a good and necessary first step. ↩
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