and how far I got.
I must say I had a lot of confidence in myself with the diploma in my pocket and I was ready to get my hands dirty with some real-life coding in a company. By then I made 4 apps (3 of which in collaboration with students of my cohort) and felt like I could take on any challenge you’d throw at me.
I was hired mid-December by a marketing company and suddenly got hit in the face with the so-called impostor syndrome. My confidence dropped. I didn’t understand the codebase, especially the backend which was in a language I didn’t know and had to familiarise myself with many services used around the department. It was really hard to accept that there was still a lot I needed to learn and I won’t be able to do some work on my own for some time.
My first two months were mostly pair programming, I learnt how to write tests, a bit of the backend language, troubleshooting when a bug was reported, and the whole process of releasing new features. It was a toll mentally, every time I understood one thing, it raised a whole bunch of new questions and it felt like I would never understand the whole codebase. But I thought it’s been less than 3 months, I’m still learning, it’s normal.
Then comes the third month: I’m still struggling but some parts of the codebase became more familiar. It was good to be able to do some of the work on my own. Even though I like pair programming, it’s rewarding to be able to complete some work without help! But I still had a long way to go and the impostor syndrome was looming over my head, ready to strike. By that time, lockdown happened because of the coronavirus and it became more difficult to ask questions and pair remotely.
An opportunity arose and I decided to move to another team. It was like starting over again: new codebases, different tasks, issues and new frameworks to learn. I was back into pair programming full time. I started to feel bad asking so many questions, using up so much of my colleagues time with pair programming. Is that normal? Am I slower than average? In other words, the impostor syndrome was alive and well.
After all the learning, pairing, coaching from my colleagues and manager, I finally reached that point when I was capable of working independently on most of the tasks we had on the board. The impostor syndrome started to weaken and my confidence soared. I’d say that was about 7 months after joining the company.
This brings me to today, nearly 12 months after graduating. I didn’t just improve my coding skills, I also learned how to work on a codebase with multiple engineers, trying my best to make the code cleaner and clearer every time I make a change to it. I familiarised myself with services like Docker, Circle CI, and many more. I also learnt to review other engineers’ pull requests, which is a much bigger part of the job than I thought.
All in all, the months of struggle and all the pairing paid off. It’s crazy how much can be learned in a year and I believe it’s important to acknowledge that. I tended to focus on everything I still need to learn (and there is so much it’s frightening) and not on what I learnt already. One year after graduation was a good time to realise how far I got.
A coding Bootcamp prepares its students for a lot of things but graduating doesn’t mean the end of learning. It’s actually just the beginning. The first months of experience are hard, the learning curve is steep and it will take time before you can work independently. You will probably get the impostor syndrome at first but it will go away.
If you recognise yourself in this post, hang in there, keep on learning and one day you will realise that you kicked the impostor syndrome out of your system!