THIS IS ROSE.
ROSE IS A TEACHER.
ROSE IS A MUSICIAN.
HELL, ROSE IS EVEN A FLOWER.
BUT ROSE IS NOT. A DEVELOPER.
ROSE IS AN IMPOSTER.
DUN DUN DUUUUUUNNNN!
I started FlatIron School’s full stack Web Development program on 4/22 of this year and until Wednesday, halfway through my fourth week of bootcamp, I have been certain that I am an imposter. I have enjoyed every minute of the tumultuous journey to developer-ship, soaking up all of the highs and lows, in part because I wasn’t sure how long it would be before my luck ran out. And let me tell you, I’ve had a lot of luck. I have not put a single penny towards my tuition, I have not paid for a single piece of equipment including my MacBook, the band I play in has gotten gigs out of thin air that have helped me cover my living expenses, and I have had tutoring sessions with Flatiron’s founder, Avi Flombaum himself. To be honest, I figure God must be making up for the crappy 2018 I had because the journey to bootcamp has been wonder-filled!
The Journey through bootcamp is another story. Each new concept is a slap in the face of my perceived intelligence. At least 30 of the 45 hours a week that I spend on campus, the angel on my right shoulder slaps tape over the mouth of the angel on my left shoulder and then whispers in my ear “don’t listen to her, you are smart.” The time I spend poring over errors in my code is easily matched by the time I spend wondering if this whole thing has been a big fat mistake.
If I were to WebMd all my symptoms, it would explain that I have textbook Imposter Syndrome. But imposter syndrome doesn’t scare me anymore. Why? Because I’ve had it before.
I’ve had the privilege of changing my major an embarrassing number of times over the course of my educational career. In that time, I searched for a place to belong and discovered the most annoying truth about life: You will never belong anywhere at first and you can belong anywhere after a while. That fact threw a whole monkey wrench into my quest for the one true field I belong in. Places I felt I should belong, felt surprisingly foreign. Places I thought I could never belong felt eerily comfortable after a while. Everywhere I went, I was an imposter. Every new thing I tried made me feel stupid. Learning to skate backwards. Learning to crochet. Becoming a step-parent (I actually AM an imposter for that one lol). Learning to play the piano. In fact, I STILL feel like an imposter around other musicians and I teach piano and get paid to play in a jazz band. The thing is though, I only feel that way for a little while. The more I develop a new skill, the more I feel like I belong. I even begin to make other people feel like imposters. Most times without even knowing it.
See here’s the truth. You’re not going to like it. I certainly don’t.
Imposter Syndrome is like herpes. IT KEEPS COMING BACK! (LOL bad joke I know but I couldn’t help myself!)
The truth is, I’m not any more an imposter to coding than a baby is to planet earth. I belong here. I just don’t know how to do anything. Like. At all. But I’m not worried. I know that if I stay the course, that will change. Most people are not shitting their pants in college and I won’t still be struggling with MVC by my next module.
And luckily, practice makes progress. I’ve spent so much of my life learning new things, that I’ve gotten pretty good at a being a beginner. Growing out imposter-ship is kinda my thing. I never know quite how long it’ll take, but it always happens.
This time, it took me exactly 3 and a half weeks.
This past Wednesday, something awesome happened. The students starting in the next cohort came out for a study session on campus. I introduced myself and offered to help someone slay the Hashketball dragon. After a few minutes, she asked how long it took me to start thinking like a developer. She asked me if she would eventually think like one, like I did. The moment almost made me cry. I thought to myself “She thinks I’m a Developer! She thinks that I think like a developer! Awwwww Shit! Goodbye beginner! Hello Beginner[2.0]!”
What? You thought I was gonna say I’m not a beginner anymore?! Absolutely not! There’s still so much to learn! I expect to feel like an imposter again. As I learn new frameworks and programming languages. And again on the job search. And again on the job. And I’m going to love all of it.
HOW TO BE A GREAT IMPOSTER!
- Talk like an imposter
Don’t use words you don’t know the meaning of! As you learn new words, add them to your vocabulary.
- Ask imposter questions.
Imposters don’t know much but then nobody expects them to! It’s ok to ask “dumb” questions! We don’t judge toddlers for saying “what’s that” and no one is going to judge you for not knowing.
- Be curious and open to being amazed.
It’s okay to explore and wander into areas of this new field that seem interesting and fantastical. It’s okay to be blown away at new concepts that the veteran coders have been working with for years. Not only is it okay, it makes the journey more fun!
- DON’T QUIT.
The feeling of not belonging will never go away if you quit before you can grow. Stick with it! You won’t be a beginner for long! Before you know it, someone will be looking to you for inspiration.