Random Ramblings on LabVIEW Design

Community Browser
Labels
cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Impostor Syndrome

swatts
Active Participant

Hello LabVIEW Darlings,

I've just had a lovely week off with the fam and have returned with enough spare energy/time to squeeze out an article. 

 

Imposter Syndrome seems to affect a lot of programmers and if you knew my history you may think I should really suffer from it, but I don't. Is it irredeemable arrogance and can it be taught?

 

"Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenonimpostorismfraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a 'fraud'"

Wikipedia

 

I work with a lot of extremely clever people in a field chock-full of opinions (a fair proportion of which I don't agree), and I'm just an old punk who pretty much gave up going to school from the age of 13 and started working in a factory at age 16. Academically I got the bare minimum I needed to skip a foundation year in my apprenticeship.

 

I reckon I must be a good petri-dish for growing a culture of Imposter Syndrome. Yet I haven't really struggled with it at all.

 

Accept you cannot be good at everything

In my career I've been a test engineer, production manager, Principle Test engineer, test engineering manager (sort-of), software designer (<-- what I call myself now). 

 

In my opinion I'm a much better engineer/designer than I am a manager. So even tho' I failed at being a manager did I ever feel like an impostor?

 

Not really, I was doing the best I could in near impossible conditions, perhaps if I had carried on my feeling may have changed. In the end I decided I hated being a manager and quit. I think this is lesson #1, if you suck at something perhaps you should quit. Being honest with yourself is a good path I think.

 

Be Selfish When Presenting Your Ideas

The next area of fragility is when you start presenting your ideas to others. Standing on stage to present how you write software to a group of your peers is a good test of whether you feel you deserve to be there. If you run a small business you can get pushed into this as part of your marketing effort, this was my motivation. 

 

For the first few times I was positively phobic about presenting, mortified, terrified and frozen with fear.... but I never thought I didn't deserve to be there. There could be another lesson here, I present completely selfishly, only on things that interest me. I think selfishness gets a bad name, for me it invokes the punk ethos of just doing something for yourself. If other people like it...bonus!

 

Manage Your Own Expectations

Earlier I mentioned I was not a very good student and this may contribute to why I don't suffer from Impostor Syndrome. I just feel lucky to be invited to the party. I never worry about stopping a conversation and asking people to explain something I don't understand, I have no self-expectation that I'm the most knowledgeable person in the room.

 

This is where a bit of CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy) may help. If your self-expectation is that you should know everything, perhaps it is your thinking that is wrong.

 

Delivery is all, Delivery is freedom from self-doubt

My work is extremely transactional and I like this purity.

 

  1. I get asked to do a job.
  2. I put a cost on it.
  3. When my customer is happy I get paid. 

There's no room for impostors in this arrangement, line item 3. deals with that.

 

Heh! I was so pleased to have something to write about I forgot to put in 2 of the main points I wanted to make.

 

1) a positive use for Impostor Syndrome is to motivate you to learn
 
2) most of the problems in the world of software do not come from peeps with Impostor Syndrome ... <-- I'll leave that statement hanging there!

 

Anyways you're all brilliant, better than 99.999% of all life that has lived before.

Lots of Love

 

 

Steve


Opportunity to learn from experienced developers / entrepeneurs (Fab,Joerg and Brian amongst them):
DSH Pragmatic Software Development Workshop


Random Ramblings Index
My Profile

Comments
Bob_Schor
Knight of NI

Finding the right niche into which you fit can be a challenge, not the least to one's sense of self-worth.  I "fell into" LabVIEW when I changed positions about 15 years ago, and it gave me a new set of skills that "matched" a serious "need" in my Department and led to a dozen years of learning and productivity.  I'm now working with another group, still learning, still teaching, still finding the odd "corner case" in LabVIEW that seems to break something, still having a lot of fun.

 

Bob Schor

 

 

swatts
Active Participant

It really is luck rather than judgement for me. I struggled with electronics, but instantly took to programming (6502 microprocessor toolkit! At college and 8051 at work). 

Steve


Opportunity to learn from experienced developers / entrepeneurs (Fab,Joerg and Brian amongst them):
DSH Pragmatic Software Development Workshop


Random Ramblings Index
My Profile

Dhakkan
Member

Nice topic! Steve.

 

One of my earliest recollections of this feeling (I didn't know the term at that time), was in the morning of my dissertation defence. Long story short, my colleague - a fellow student - convinced me otherwise. I still sometimes reflect on that morning, especially in light of stories such as this.

 

Experience has certainly bolstered a level of confidence. One anecdote in particular helped me - When I was still less than two years into the world of automated test, I had accompanied a colleague on a sales call. This colleague had several years of experience in the field. At the end of the visit, I asked this person what the customer meant by some statement (I forget now). The colleague promptly said, 'I didn't understand either.' From that day onwards, I never hesitated to seek clarification. Surprisingly (or not), customers really appreciate being asked questions that they've never thought of, or paid attention to, when they realize the relevance.

 

This statement from Kent Beck also helps. 🙂

swatts
Active Participant

Experience really helps, I fully agree.

 

I think genetics help, both my sister and I will try anything, we never consider failing it just doesn't occur to us. We get that from my father.

 

And it's not complete arrogance, I know where I'm weak but I actually don't really care, because I have strengths too.

 

Whereas I see far more capable people than me wracked with self-doubt and this holds them back. I'd love to have a magic wand to get people to believe in themselves a bit more. If I could make a DSH course for this I would! Some people here would kick serious ass if that leash was removed.

Steve


Opportunity to learn from experienced developers / entrepeneurs (Fab,Joerg and Brian amongst them):
DSH Pragmatic Software Development Workshop


Random Ramblings Index
My Profile

Intaris
Proven Zealot

Great topic.

 

Sorry, I'm about to over-share some info here.

 

I suffer from Imposter Syndrome. I've no problem whatsoever admitting that. There's a disconnect between my cognitive view of myself / my work (I think I'm really quite good at what I do) and my emotions about myself in the same context (I generally think others have things figured out way more than me, so topics where I think I can have input mean I've most likely misunderstood something). It takes a certain level of "I don't give a F what others think" to be able to get involved in interesting discussions. Having a certain amount of Ego is an important thing. Ego gets a bad rap, but the absence of Ego can be hugely damaging. Cultivating Ego and getting the balance right is something that's hugely under-taught. I've tried to learn that with some mixed results. Being able to comment and post on the Forums has been hugely beneficial to me, it allows me so side-step the "self" part and operate purely in the knowledge realm.

 

One pedantic point: When Steve writes "I never thought I didn't deserve to be there". That would be true for me too, but my emotions would be screaming at me that I'm wasting people's time, that I am being stupid for thinking I could have anything worthwhile to offer. It's not a cognitive problem, it's an emotional problem. What I THINK about it and what I FEEL about it are not synchronised at all.

 

I'm not looking for sympathy (partly because I don't feel I deserve it - partly because it makes me feel like I "failed" somehow - I'm consistent if nothing else) but I hope maybe there's one or two people out there who feel the same way and I just want to say, you can do it. Face your fears, learn to cultivate a healthy ego and stop giving a F... what others think (to an extent).

swatts
Active Participant

Perfect! Your response is perfect matey!

Like most engineers I feel I'm sensitive to logical inconsistencies and I see them often in engineering. And I can only come from it from the insides of my head.

 

1) Healthy Ego <--- My daughter and I joke that we're shallow and simple, in that we don't really worry about internal things. 

2) Not caring what people think <--- Contrary to popular opinion about me I do sort of care what people think, but it's quite a limited list of people and a very limited set of subjects.

 

So you might be justified in thinking what qualifies me to talk on this, but hear me out. You see your peers suffering, under-achieving or just being unhappy and the main difference is what their brains are telling them and their brains are not being accurate. It's worth considering.

 

I'm very much into having a healthy ego! For my next book, DSH course, presentation(s) really want to look at ...

 

  1. Resilience
  2. Focus
  3. Assertiveness
  4. Ego
  5. Balance

Here's my thinking. I started my career concentrating on syntax until knowing more of it was not profitable. I then started looking at design. After that process was the next. I think I'm now onto people oriented factors.

 

By the way, your comments a few articles back about Flow state being something that needs managing have had quite an impact.

 

I have a lot to research tho'!

 

Steve


Opportunity to learn from experienced developers / entrepeneurs (Fab,Joerg and Brian amongst them):
DSH Pragmatic Software Development Workshop


Random Ramblings Index
My Profile

Intaris
Proven Zealot

@swatts wrote:

 

Here's my thinking. I started my career concentrating on syntax until knowing more of it was not profitable. I then started looking at design. After that process was the next. I think I'm now onto people oriented factors.


Same.

 

BTW, I wasn't thinking what makes you qualified at all, I was interested in your take on it. I agree wholeheartily with nearly everything you wrote.

 

swatts
Active Participant

I think I'm an impostor currently at the psych stuff I really do, that is what attracts me to it. I think it is under-served as a subject and fascinating too.

Steve


Opportunity to learn from experienced developers / entrepeneurs (Fab,Joerg and Brian amongst them):
DSH Pragmatic Software Development Workshop


Random Ramblings Index
My Profile

Intaris
Proven Zealot

I've read on various aspects of it (evolutionary, social, psychoanalytical, religious, spiritual) and I think they're all battling with the same problems, but approaching it with different tool-sets and sometimes different levels of abstraction.

 

It can be a very rewarding and truly multi-disciplinary topic. Because let's be honest, everything humans are involved in is theoretically suitable as a subject with regard to the human psyche.

Hansel
Member

Nice article.  I believe 1/2 of Software Engineering involves people skills.  Whether it be relaying to the customer what your need is or what you're trying to accomplish (with or without "sweet talking"), relaying to other programmers what is needed/expected, or even to oneself for the motivation to continue on or keep a train of thought/flow (just short of referring to yourself in third person, I mean).  But how many do you suppose end up having Imposter Syndrome because some time in their academic or professional career there was someone (or many someones) that always had to show they are the smartest/best one in the room, has to have have the best/better idea at the expense of others, and/or the one that doesn't feel like their "job" is complete without putting down or embarrassing their peers?  I'm sure everyone with some time under the belt can say they've experienced a hand full of meetings where this has occurred (and hopefully the finger isn't pointed inward).  My question is, how to handle/overcome this toxic environment?  Chances are the Imposter Syndrome stems from something that has occurred or is occurring, not "just because".   I thought maybe someone wiser and older than me has some insight.  🙂   We can all say we don't care what others think.  But in reality we really kind of do.  Point #3 in your delivery list above as a perfect example - in the end you DO care what the customer thinks or you might not get paid.

swatts
Active Participant

Hi Hansel, excellent comments!

 

To show how spoilt I've been in my career (or some would say oblivious) you are the second person to suggest I.S. might be something someone gives you. It had never occurred to me, I have certainly seen organisations, bosses etc chip away at the ego and it's a small hop and a step to go from there to seeing that manifest as I.S.

 

I think the purity of the delivery is all message helps me here, if you deliver you cannot be an impostor. But if bad actors are busy undermining your efforts they can undo that good work.

 

So can self-confidence help here, and if you are not gifted it genetically how can you acquire it....

Ditto assertiveness, I want more assertive programmers.... but again, how to obtain it if it is not natural or comfortable.

 

Your points deserve more time to mull over, I'll sleep on them.

Steve


Opportunity to learn from experienced developers / entrepeneurs (Fab,Joerg and Brian amongst them):
DSH Pragmatic Software Development Workshop


Random Ramblings Index
My Profile

Hansel
Member

Sorry.  Mull it over a pint for me and let me know what you come up with.  THEN, let me know which pint you used because I've not had any luck myself.  It always flabbergasts/amazes me when I witness and/or experience the "Top Dog Syndrome" in a professional environment.  

swatts
Active Participant

OK, I.S. goes into my pigeon-hole of ego.

Ego should be seen in terms of Healthy and Unhealthy. Not good, bad, big, small. A healthy ego will allow you to honestly assess your own capabilities without too much input from others.

 

Your ego can be made unhealthy by others. (likely their egos are unhealthy too).

 

So strategies to cope with this...

Confirm the worth of what you do by delivering the things you say you will deliver. These things must fulfil your promise to others. <-- this is a practical measure, if you say you're going to do something, doing that something confirms your professionalism.

Being Assertive with yourself <-- If you are in an environment where your ego is being damaged, make plans! Doing nothing is a form of action, it says that you think you are in a situation you deserve. 

Being Assertive with others <-- Calling out people for bad behaviour can be rewarding and fun. It can often be done in a non-confrontational way. I really need to codify some methods here, essentially positive, firm statements early in an issue can gently steer the direction of events. 

 

CBT, goal focusing, visualisation and various other Sports Psych things I'm going to be learning about come into this. There is commonality between sports psychology and programmer psychology that is very interesting here. Loads of money gets poured into sports psychology, very little gets put into programmer psychology. I have contacts and books, just need time and energy.

 

This is a very unfinished theory, more of a call for research.

 

I AN IMPOSTOR WHEN IT COMES TO PSYCHOLOGY!

Steve


Opportunity to learn from experienced developers / entrepeneurs (Fab,Joerg and Brian amongst them):
DSH Pragmatic Software Development Workshop


Random Ramblings Index
My Profile

DavidJCrawford
Active Participant

Steve,

 

I think you should take a day off and go and enjoy yourself at workshop like this.
Treating Ego Disturbance - College of Cognitive Behavioural Therapies (cbttherapies.org.uk)

David

swatts
Active Participant

I'm looking at it now!

 

Like all things there is a lot of BS in this field, my qualified psychologist friend says it doesn't look pukka to him.

Steve


Opportunity to learn from experienced developers / entrepeneurs (Fab,Joerg and Brian amongst them):
DSH Pragmatic Software Development Workshop


Random Ramblings Index
My Profile

DavidJCrawford
Active Participant

Steve,

That's really handy to have a psychologist friend.

Do you ever wonder if he analysing you while your are have a pint together? 😇

David

swatts
Active Participant

😂

Maybe I was his inspiration

Steve


Opportunity to learn from experienced developers / entrepeneurs (Fab,Joerg and Brian amongst them):
DSH Pragmatic Software Development Workshop


Random Ramblings Index
My Profile

Intaris
Proven Zealot

To stay within the realm of Freudian terms, your id can override your ego completely and get in the way of any kind of balance. Of course id, ego and superego all need to find balance. Any one of them can lead to imbalance.

 

The first step to clearing the way for a healthy ego is learning to "tame" your id. This goes in the direction of PTSD and trauma, but if attempts to be "assertive" actually trigger fight or flight responses in your emotional center, then you possibly have trauma as the cause for your problems.

 

I think it's this approach the Course mentions earlier is taking. This is NOT always the root cause of the issue. Note that "Imposter Syndrome" is not a recognised diagnostic term. It is not clearly defined.

joerg.hampel
Active Participant

That's really handy to have a psychologist friend.

imagine being married to one… 🤪


DSH Pragmatic Software Development Workshops (Fab, Steve, Brian and me)
Release Automation Tools for LabVIEW (CI/CD integration with LabVIEW)
DQMH® (The Future of Team-Based LabVIEW Development)