I no longer feel like an imposter

I realised several months ago that I don’t feel imposter syndrome at my current job.

A couple of years ago I found myself writing ocaml for a certain trading firm which prides itself on only hiring the smartest people. I often felt like I somehow fluked their notoriously difficult interviews, and that I was somehow not “smart enough” to work there.

I’m trying to understand why this feeling has stopped at my current job. It’s not like I’m not still surrounded by smart people. When talking about recruiting, management still loves to say how we only hire the best.

Being a startup, I feel like I’ve had a much more direct influence on the success of this company that anywhere I’ve worked before, so there’s more immediate evidence that I’m doing something right. If I had doubts about whether I was good enough at my job, they’ve promptly been quelled.

I also find that I’ve started to reject the notion of “smart enough”. Since we have so many problems to solve, often it’s more important to write dumb, unsurprising, maintainable code quickly than it is to implement a perfect solution. Doing things the “smart way” often means writing code that takes longer to implement, and is harder for others to understand, often for little practical benefit.

A symptom of imposter syndrome is asking fewer questions for fear of appearing to not know something. This was debilitating! It’s liberating to no longer get self-conscious about whether my co-workers think I know something. I’m asking far more questions than I used to and learning a ton. Even outside of work, I find that when friend says a word I don’t know, nowadays I just ask them what it means.