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2021: Reflections, Anxiety & Impostor Syndrome

🗓 12/18/2021

Introduction 👋🏽

2021 - What a year. I think this was the most significant year of my life so far, in terms of finishing up my full time studies and entering the tech industry. This was all done during the global pandemic which we’re all acquainted with...it’s weird looking back at all the restrictions we had, and how this affected my year. This post is split up into the following sections:

  • What I achieved in 2021
  • Completing My Degree & First Developer Role
  • Mental Health & Anxiety
  • Impostor Syndrome
  • What I achieved in 2021 📈

    January - May

  • Finished my BSc Computer Science degree
  • Worked part-time as a Junior Developer at Morrow alongside final year at university
  • Delivered my first live talk to 40-60 people - “building your online brand”
  • June - December

  • Started my first full-time position in the industry as React Native Developer at Morrow
  • Received result of First Class Honours in my BSc Computer Science degree
  • September: Delivered my second live talk to 100+ people - “how to get into software engineering”
  • October: Delivered my third live talk to cohort of apprentice students, offering tips and advice on starting their first developer roles
  • Took an interview at Moonpig to practice my interviewing skills → got offered the role of Associate Software Engineer + accepted. Wasn’t expecting to actually get an offer due to my lack of interview experience.
  • Started settling in as an Associate Software Engineer at Moonpig during the last three weeks of December
  • And in general, I grew my social networks across LinkedIn, Twitter & Instagram and have met some awesome people 🙂

    Completing My Degree & First Developer Role ✍🏼

    I guess I’ll start with my Computer Science degree. The academic year September 2020 - May 2021 was mostly done remotely: there were no classes in-person, everything was delivered online, in line with lockdown restrictions in the UK during part of this period. I practically completed my entire degree from my bedroom, with the help of Microsoft Teams to communicate with teachers and students. The opportunity for social interaction was very little, which definitely made things harder.

    Alongside my degree, I was getting to grips with my new role as a part-time Junior Developer. Again, this was fully remote, where I primarily used Slack to communicate with my work colleagues. With this being my first role in the industry, there was a lot of learning I was doing whilst trying to complete my tickets.

    Mental Health & Anxiety 🧠

    Managing the final year of my degree, and trying my best in my part-time Junior Developer role really wasn’t easy. As someone who suffers with anxiety, I was really struggling with it all. As a result, I was in and out of counselling offered by my university. The most common things that I’d discuss in these sessions were: anxiety, impostor syndrome, and managing my inner critic.

    For every piece of work I did at university, to each piece of work done in my role as a Junior Developer, nothing ever felt like it was “enough”. I’d hold myself to super high, unattainable standards. Why? Because I thought that, if I wasn’t putting so much pressure on myself, I will begin to “fail” and those around me would notice. I wasn’t OK with things not being perfect, and this is something I’m still trying to work on.

    The general “anxiety” bit has been there for years, and is something I’m still trying to “unpack” as I get help every now and again. As for impostor syndrome, this only really cropped up over the last couple of years, as I near the completion of my studies and realise I need to get myself into the industry. I want to go over my journey with impostor syndrome a little bit...

    Impostor Syndrome 😟

    What is Impostor Syndrome?

    The official definition for impostor syndrome 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.”

    My Initial Experiences with Impostor Syndrome

    I started experiencing Impostor Syndrome when I started my first role in the industry, which was part-time along the final year of my Computer Science degree. Part of it came from how I landed the role in the first place, and the other was solely down to the lack of belief I had in myself to be a developer all together. I’ve written about how I landed the role in depth before, but essentially, I networked my way into this first role, bypassing the typical multi-step interview process with a quick phone call about myself & my interests with the CEO of the company I worked for at the time (Morrow).

    Due to how I got hired, I had many thoughts during my first month:

    “What if my manager made a mistake in hiring me? What if I’ve just been blagging my way through things all this time, and now it’ll be exposed? I’m working part-time as a student, what if I can’t progress quick enough due to my studies? What about my anxiety?...”

    That’s only a fraction of the thoughts that would run through my head, and honestly it was pretty exhausting. I basically just felt like I landed a role that I didn't deserve or belong in, and feeling like this made it nearly impossible to otherwise feel "excited" about landing my first developer role.

    Impostor Syndrome & Lack of Experience

    Another part of this Impostor Syndrome was simply due to my lack of experience. Anything done for the first time is bound to be difficult, but this was really playing on my mind. I only had some self-taught JavaScript & React knowledge, which I had yet to “apply”, so really, this role was the first time I was applying the knowledge I gained on my own. As a result, I felt “unready” to be taking on the role I did. I was also still a university student, making me feel even less qualified and ready.

    My first role was fairly independent, with me being tasked to complete things and using online resources to guide myself to solve issues. This is pretty common as a developer, but since I was so inexperienced, I didn’t believe that I could “do things” on my own. (My team were always on hand to help, but I was essentially responsible for each task I was completing). I often worried: “What if I just can’t solve a task?”. I thought that if I wasn’t “perfect” I’d just get fired on the spot and they’d replace me - and again, I was a part-time student, so I thought that this would be very easy for the company to do.

    Impostor Syndrome & Success

    It’s crazy looking back at the Impostor Syndrome I was experiencing, because now I can say: I successfully worked as a junior developer, got offered a full-time role after graduating, and stayed on further in the company 5 months after finishing university. I went a step further and landed my second role in the industry too.

    Despite the Impostor Syndrome, how did things seem to go well? I think the main thing was really talking about it. The counselling I accessed at university, and my extremely supportive manager and CEO of Morrow, Tom Riglar, helped me break down these feelings of inadequacy in the moment. Reflecting back, a lot of the thoughts were fairly unrealistic, like, who gets sacked after making one “mistake”? The Impostor Syndrome led me to think this was how things worked.

    Will the Impostor Syndrome ever go away? I don’t think it will, but here’s some food for thought if you feel like an impostor: if you don’t feel like you’re qualified to be doing what you’re doing, why do you believe your own inner critic telling you this, rather than the many professionals you know and work with saying otherwise? Do you not trust these people around you with more knowledge and experience? 💭

    Conclusion 💭

    A lot happened for me this year. I learned a lot about myself, and realised I can do more than I ever thought I could achieve. I learned that I’m somewhat better at the things I’m doing than I give myself credit for. I learned that, despite having anxiety and impostor syndrome, I can do some great things. Here’s to hoping that 2022 sees a more confident version of myself 🚀

    If my struggles resonate with you, please reach out to someone and speak about it. A mental health professional is a great place to start - I promise things aren’t as daunting as they seem when you’re in an anxious state. Take care of yourself 😊