Are you learning to code but worried you’ll never truly be a professional coder? You may be experiencing Imposter Syndrome, and don’t worry – it’s pretty common. As the Dean of Students at all-women’s coding bootcamp, The Grace Hopper Program, Meg Duffy has heard first hand about the anxieties that come with learning to code. We sat down with Meg to find out what exactly Imposter Syndrome is, why it’s common among coding bootcamp students (especially women), and four tips to overcome imposter syndrome so you can build a career as a software developer. Watch the video or read the summary.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
For a developer, Imposter Syndrome is that nagging voice that tells you you’re not worthy of your job in engineering or that you could be exposed as a “fraud.”
For coding bootcampers who don’t have that traditional computer science degree, and especially for women who don’t have a ton of role models in software development, this imposter syndrome can be even more common.
But it is possible to overcome it, if you have the right mindset and determination.
4 Tips to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
Tip #1: Be persistent
If programming were easy, then everyone would do it! A lot of people think that the ability to program is innate, or that it’s a way of thinking that you’re born with.
But in fact, the best programmers are often the most persistent. They’re willing to wrestle with tough problems, take a break, find a different approach, and power through until they find a solution.
If you’re just starting programming and find it difficult, that’s not weird! Remember: if you’re accepted into a bootcamp, you’ve already demonstrated persistence in learning on your own. Strengthening this trait will help you get through the program, continue through the job search, and will make you a great candidate for hire. Keep wrestling.
Tip #2: Cultivate a growth mindset
The structure of a coding bootcamp is different than other types of education. At high school or college, you do your homework, you study for tests, you pass them, but you don’t always have to demonstrate your knowledge. At a bootcamp, the tests you take and the projects you build force you to apply concepts you learn in class to new problems.
That style of learning takes some adjustment. And that fear of failure can be a real roadblock, but trust the process. You’re not going to get everything on the first try, but everything you’re learning is building on itself. Cultivating a growth mindset, where you’re more focused on the learning process than the specific outcome, can be really challenging, especially for students who self-define as high achieving, but it’s a necessary component of success at a coding bootcamp.
Tip #3: Curb negative self-talk
When you’re starting something new like programming, it’s easy to fall into the imposter syndrome trap. Everyone has that voice that tells them they’re not smart enough or experienced enough. But recognizing that you have control over that voice is the key to stepping outside of your comfort zone.
It’s important to catch yourself when you fall into that trap and short circuit that negative self-talk. A great strategy is to talk to yourself like you’re talking to a friend. If a friend was struggling and lacking confidence, you’d give them a pep talk and pump them up. Use that same compassionate tone when you’re speaking to yourself.
Tip #4: Remind yourself of previous achievements
A common symptom of Imposter Syndrome is an “inability to internalize accomplishments.” Remind yourself that your successes aren’t flukes or purely luck; you were successful because you worked hard. If you’re struggling with a particular concept or task, it may be difficult to keep things in perspective.
When you start discounting your successes, it helps to have a tangible reminder of how far you’ve come. Here are a few ways to do that:
Before you dive into something new, write a list of all your past achievements.
Looking back at your GitHub or even keeping a technical blog are great ways to remind yourself of just how much you’ve learned in a short time.
Every day, write down one small accomplishment that you’re proud of so you can track your progress.
When you complete a project, show it off!
There’s always more work ahead, so be sure to acknowledge the hard work it took to achieve that goal. This confidence will shine through in interviews, at meetups, and in your first job as a developer.
Imogen is a writer and content producer who loves writing about technology and education. Her background is in journalism, writing for newspapers and news websites. She grew up in England, Dubai and New Zealand, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY.