Imposter Syndrome Decreases as Tech Pros Gain Experience

Everyone experiences imposter syndrome at some point in their career, but few people know how to deal with it. A new finding suggests tech pros might just need to wait the feeling out.

Stack Overflow’s 2018 Developer Survey touches on how connected tech pros feel with their community. As a result, it also provides insight into imposter syndrome and how it might surface throughout your career.

On a 1-5 scale (where 5 is “strongly agree” and 1 is “strongly disagree”), tech pros responded with a 3.6 to the idea that they “feel a sense of kinship or connection to other developers.” (This part of the survey had 68,577 respondents.)

“I think of myself as competing with my peers” earned a score of 2.7. “I’m not as good at programming as most of my peers” scored 2.2. At first blush, it seems as though most of us feel a camaraderie to one another as developers or engineers.

Imposter Syndrome

Ten years’ experience is the division bell for the survey: roughly half of all respondents have been coding professionally for about a decade or less, and report they’ve known how to code for roughly the same amount of time.

It’s at this ten-year mark we see imposter syndrome – the “I’m not as good at programming as most of my peers” impulse – dip dramatically. Those with no experience agree or strongly agree with that question almost 40 percent of the time; a steady decline (which means growing confidence, really) occurs until developers reach a decade of experience; by then, just over ten percent have the same feelings as new coders.

Developers also feel as though they’re competing less with peers, though that metric stays steady for about five years (over 40 percent), then dips steadily until tech pros have 20 years under their belt.

Happily, developers consistently report a better sense of kinship or connection to their communities as time goes on. But imposter syndrome never fully goes away; it even rebounds slightly for older tech pros (which coincides with a small dip in how connected developers feel to their counterparts). You can take steps to escape imposter syndrome, but you might always feel it; at least now you know you’re not alone.

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7 Responses to “Imposter Syndrome Decreases as Tech Pros Gain Experience”

  1. Again assuming that “tech pro” can ONLY equal “developer.” Sigh. So those of us who are working on the network engineering side of things are not tech pros. Got it.

    • A_developer

      Oh you poor baby. Why don’t you go take more things out of context and complain about those too. Or better yet, pull a server rack on too your self… Maybe since you feel so slighted… Try sticking your tongue on a power bay terminal… Or wrap some network cabling around your neck and pull it real, real tight… Then you won’t have to feel so slighted and maybe then people will truly respect you as a tech pro.

    • That’s one way to look at it. The other way is to look at the survey only covers coders… The meta-data is that around 10 years of doing something in 10 years into a career, one feels a assured that one is doing as well or better in equality and quality as one’s peers.

      • The original comment is valid, though. Dice’s content in general tends to treat ‘tech workers’ and ‘coders’ as interchangeable terms and rarely reaches out to include other facets of the technology industry.

  2. Michael

    Imposter syndrome? How about snowflake syndrome. Roll your sleeves up, learn how to learn, and apply your new-found aptitude on the job. This is just life. Get over it.

    • I can understand the sentiment of the article, but it’s self evident that confidence and experience go hand in hand. I’ve been in the electrical industry almost 10 years in construction, designing controls, and troubleshooting for almost 10 years and still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing from time to time, but then the experience kicks back in, and I complete whatever task is giving me problems.