Written by:
Iain Brook

Why tech professionals are at risk of imposter syndrome

We’re forever being told that “technology is moving faster than ever before”. Given that the digital tech industry is growing six times faster than any other sector, such phrases might be somewhat accurate – but for people working in it, it can feel like an impossible job trying to keep up.

Is it any real surprise, then, that so many IT professionals are suffering from imposter syndrome? Research suggests that more than half (58%) of tech workers have had that sense that they’re not up to the job.

Sometimes, we are our own worst enemies. We question our abilities more than anybody else would dare to. Why do we do it to ourselves?

According to a KPMG study, imposter syndrome “stems from a variety of factors, including personal, familial and social experiences, stereotypes and labels, corporate culture and workforce dynamics”.

‘Real Programmer’ syndrome

It can be impossible to put your finger on exactly why imposter syndrome sometimes takes hold. But, as I say, it’s not hard to see why tech professionals might struggle with feelings of self-doubt, fear of success or even self-sabotage.

As one Reddit user put it (with tongue firmly in cheek): “You know a programmer isn’t a Real Programmer when they don’t volunteer to work 60 to 80-hour weeks (for no extra monetary compensation, remember) because it’s ‘fun’. All they really need in thanks is a company T-shirt and the occasional slice of pizza on those late nights.”

Referred to ‘Real Programmer’ syndrome, it’s just another form of imposter syndrome – in this case, you only feel like you can be called a developer if you work all the hours God sends.

Somewhat ironically, research shows that professionals who regularly work extremely long hours will start to see their productivity gradually deteriorate. For developers, that fall in productivity is often mapped to an increase in poor quality and buggy code – adding to the sense that they are not up to the task.

Dealing with it

What’s very evident is that the cure for imposter syndrome is not to simply work harder. So, what can you do to bring about a sense of belonging and start to appreciate your own abilities?

As with everything, different things work for different people. Different strokes and all that!
However, my first piece of advice would be to recognise that your peers are feeling the same way. Not all of these people can be imposters – it simply doesn’t stack up. It suggests it’s the industry that is at fault rather than those who work in it!

Which brings me to my second piece of advice: get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I get it – that might not sound like particularly useful advice on the surface, but the ever-changing nature of the tech sector means we have to get used to things constantly being in flux, and that includes your skillset.

You’re not going to be able to be across everything, all of the time. But by having an open and adaptive mindset, you are accepting that learning is a constant process, and as long as you’re committed to developing your skills, you’re doing everything you can.

Feelings of inadequacy are completely normal – it’s a signal that you’re being challenged and pushed out of your comfort zone.

At the same time, you should take a moment every so often to reflect on your successes. Appreciate how far you’ve come, adding each new accomplishment to a portfolio of accomplishments.

It’s not only you that should be celebrating your achievements – so should your employer. If they’re not making you feel good about yourself, find yourself an employer who does appreciate your worth.

That’s where the team here at Revoco can help. Although we can’t promise to magic away that self-doubt, by showing you how in-demand those skills are that you possess, you might just begin to see that your CV is more impressive than perhaps you’ve given it credit for!


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