Imposter Syndrome — The New Job

Imposter Syndrome — The New Job

I recently read a blog post by Max Woolf, a fellow ex BoxUK employee, about something called “Imposter Syndrome”, and, similar to my posts about Burn Out, it’s something I can relate to, and felt it right to join in on the subject and hope to rid the developer world of it.

I want to pick up on the side of Imposter Syndrome that kicks in when you start a new job…

So, what is “Imposter Syndrome”?

I can’t explain it any better than Max

Imposter Syndrome occurs when a single software developer believes, with justification or not, that their knowledge is inferior to the knowledge of their peers.

They feel like an ‘imposter’ at work because they believe that their knowledge of software development practices is not up to scratch and that this reflects poorly on them.

You know, I bet that every single developer suffers from Imposter Syndrome.

I certainly have done in the past, and do still.

I sit at my desk and see my colleagues working on amazing things, new technologies, various languages, and I just think “I’m not good enough”.

When I first started working at Box UK, I used to work with the genius minds of developers such as Gavin Davies, Craig Marvelley et al and just think

Shit — I’ve so much to learn

Which of course, was true. I did have a lot to learn. But you know what, I’m pretty sure they had a lot to learn too.

Likewise, when I started working at Liverpool FC I worked with some top developers, and for a time, some of the best developers at Inviqa, and again, I felt that I was the most inadequate developer in the world.

I wasn’t.

I was just working with people with a huge amount of knowledge in a specific domain. My morale dropped to a level that I’ve never experienced before — all these new things, new languages, new methodologies, new infrastructures to get to grips with.


You see, this is where Imposter Syndrome is at its strongest — that moment when you work with others with a huge amount of knowledge over the domain that you are entering.

I know for a fact that as my career has progressed, I’ve had people join my team and think that exact same thing. It’s something that can really get you down, and a major cause of developer Burn Out.

Imposter Syndrome was there. Stressing that you just don’t have the time to learn all these new things.

But why?

No one was expecting anything more of me, I was able to do my job, but others around me knew all this extra stuff.

I was learning, I always try to learn, but it just didn’t seem like I was learning enough to keep up with everyone else.

It’s bollocks

I’ll quote Max again, because his words are just right

Imposter Syndrome only exists because as developers we put such a high importance on our ability to store huge amounts of raw knowledge and we’ve developed social constructs to make those with less of it feel bad despite the fact that they have plenty to contribute.

As I’ve said to people in my team before. No one knows everything, and no one expects you to.

Do your best, enjoy yourself.

Development, the give away is in the name…..You can’t develop if you know it all, and you can’t enjoy development if you’re stressing.

No one knows it all

Originally published at on September 3, 2015.

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