A man holds a trophy up while wearing a smiling white mask. However, his shadow casts a man touching his head looking unsure, showing imposter syndrome.
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Is imposter syndrome worse for tech workers?

14 Aug 2023

Do you feel like a fraud in your tech job? There are several reasons why that might be happening, so don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Imposter syndrome can affect us all at any point in our careers, no matter what industry we’re in. It generally describes the psychological feeling of self-doubt, even for those who have the abilities and skills they need to succeed.

There are several different types of imposter syndrome, from the perfectionist to the individualist and it can often be worse for people the higher up the ladder they go or for those from underrepresented backgrounds.

But it can also have a significant impact on tech workers specifically. In fact, a 2018 survey by tech community website Blind found that almost 58pc of tech workers who responded said they were experiencing imposter syndrome at the time. So, what is it about working in the tech sector that could be fuelling more imposter syndrome?

The changing landscape

The fast-paced environment of technology can often result in moving goal posts within your role, or it can mean what was the focus one day may not be the focus another day.

Additionally, one of the key pieces of advice leaders give those starting out on their tech career is to stay up to date with the latest industry trends. This means you’re constantly learning new things, which can make you feel like a novice no matter how far along you are in your career.

The constant need to upskill

Another element to the ever-evolving nature of technology is the skillset itself. While the skills you learn at the beginning of your career will stand to you, you may end up using a totally different programming language further along in your career.

Equally, a strong new trend in your area may mean you have to pivot to a new skillset and it can feel like you’re at the bottom of the ladder again. The constant need to upskill can be exciting and will keep your career feeling fresh but it’s understandable to also be hit with a bout of imposter syndrome when this happens.

The path to progression

While constantly improving your tech skills and building up your experience are important elements of your job in tech, the path to progression takes time and this can often make junior tech workers feel disheartened about their abilities.

Speaking to SiliconRepublic.com, Zalando engineer Ferghal Smyth said managing expectations can be a challenge for tech workers. “If you think you’re going to get there really fast, you have to realise it’s a lot of work,” he added. “Looking back at what you’ve achieved over time will help you become much more successful.”

The representation problem

Another issue that’s likely to boost imposter syndrome is underrepresentation. Feeling like you don’t belong or that you’re a fraud can be exacerbated if you have suffered at the hands of bias or if you don’t see others like you succeeding in a similar role.

And, while issues around diversity and inclusion have improved within the tech sector, there is still a lot of work to be done, which means this remains a key reason as to why imposter syndrome might be higher among tech workers.

Diverse backgrounds

Underrepresentation doesn’t just apply to the person working in tech, but also their skills and backgrounds in terms of education. Many tech leaders pride themselves on seeking candidates from diverse backgrounds so that not every tech worker needs to come from a computer science degree, and this is important when you consider how many people pivot into tech careers or develop their skills outside of formal education.

But having a non-traditional background could also increase the likelihood of imposter syndrome, especially if a worker without a computer science degree is surrounded by colleagues that do have one.

Fighting your imposter syndrome

When you’re feeling like a fraud in your tech career, it’s important to be aware of all of the above reasons that might be fuelling your feelings and recognise that they’re completely normal and understandable.

However, you then have to go about dismantling the negative self-talk that comes with it. Challenge the reasons you believe you’re a fraud with several factual statements that prove you deserve to be there. For example, being successful in your interview and getting the job, completing a technical assessment with flying colours or achieving any number of goals successfully since you started working. It’s also worth remembering that it’s OK to not know what you’re doing all the time.

It’s important to talk to your manager about how you’re feeling. There’s a good chance they have felt the very same way at some point and can help you get through it.

While a little bit of imposter syndrome might be a good thing, it’s important not to let it take over to the detriment of your own mental health.

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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