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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