Imposter Syndrome is real


Writing software has always been a creative process for me. The solving of a small bug or building of a big feature has given me the same pleasure that I get from reading Emily Dickinson, Evelyn Waugh, Christopher Hitchens, or Richard Dawkins. As asinine as it might sound, I used to celebrate every bug fix with a pumped fist. Writing code was cathartic, enjoyable, and liberating; all at the same time. As I got older, I have gotten slower. I have gotten measurably slower at solving problems, and slower at picking up new technologies

The past few years, I realize that I have been falling short in a lot more in my programming tasks. I’ve introduced bugs or have struggled building features from ground up in timely fashion. I have increasingly grown frustrated with my slowdown at solving problems, and this frustration fed into a programming pattern where I’ve introduced bugs and built sub-optimal features. Things started unraveling and got to a state where I feared writing code. I was terrified of opening the IDE and typing code. This fear is paralyzing.

The one thing that I reveled in, paralyzed me.

Imposter Syndrome is real and dangerous

It was a vicious cycle that I struggled to get out of. I still am in the process of recovering from this episode, but I hope to share here the things I did to help me get out of my funk

  1. Small changes to my programming habits -
    - Avoided using IDEs. vi was a cocoon that I fell back into and continued to love it
    - Switch out out of Mac’s dark mode and realized how productive I became right away. Something in the way I am wired made me despise dark mode so I’m not going back to dark mode
    - Got a new pair of reading glasses
  2. Acceptance of limitations - Conversations with some close friends helped, and an explicit acknowledgment that I will get slower as I get older.
  3. Re-evaluated career trajectory - This was and is a hard one and I am still assessing what I want/should do. Questions like
    - How long should I continue in an IC role?
    - Is continuing to be in this role something that plays to my strengths?
    - Is management a path I should take up?
  4. Talk to your boss - I am immensely fortunate to work for a manager who is empathetic and cognizant of my struggles. Not everyone has the luxury of an empathetic manager, or work in an industry wherein failures are tolerated, celebrated, and encouraged.

I do want to leave you with three thoughts

  1. Be kind to yourself and fellow software engineers
  2. Rely on your trusted circle to help you during difficult times
  3. Be mindful of ageism in addition to other implicit/explicit biases you may possess. Today’s Software Engineer is tomorrow’s senior-citizen Software Engineer




Views expressed on this blog are solely mine and not those of employers, past or present.

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Kartik Lakshminarayanan

Kartik Lakshminarayanan

Views expressed on this blog are solely mine and not those of employers, past or present.

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