I saw this blog the other day entitled Why I feel like a fraud and it was something to which I could immediately relate. The author does a good job of explaining about feeling like a fraud, someone who lives in fear of being exposed for not being good enough at what they paid to be good (or expert). And he covers both the positives and negatives. Fortunately, I find that I tend more toward the positive attributes of feeling like a fraud as I rarely stay up late at night worrying about being exposed as such. Frankly, anyone who knows me knows that I am far more likely to be very open (perhaps too open?) regarding when I feel less than expert at a given subject matter.
I fell into technology as a career only because I found that I was too lazy to do things manually if I could figure out a way to automate the process. I've had little formal training for most of what I do and, consequently, have often felt inadequate (or fraudulent, if you will) when compared to many of my peers with more formal training. But this is also what has driven me to try to learn as much as I can from many of those same peers and I am fortunate to know several people who are relatively accomplished in their respective professions - including more than a few members of LessThanDot.
At my previous employer, I was the senior developer and had created most of the applications we used from scratch - even mentoring the junior developer who came on board later. But this all came with the knowledge that I was a big fish in a very small pond - I was really the only technical person on the team so, if I didn't know how to do something, it didn't get done. And that was part of the reason why I left that team (as much as I otherwise really enjoyed what I did and the people I worked with and for) - to have the opportunity to learn and do more. When I came to my current employer, I quickly felt very much out of my depth and wondered if I had made a very serious error in judgment. I was now one of many developers and felt that the majority of my counterparts were far more knowledgeable both about the products built and about various coding methodologies and structures than I would ever be. I struggled to feel like I could fit in and worried at times about asking questions for fear of being found out as a fraud. It weighed very heavily on me for a long time and even now, more than two years later, it is still occasionally a struggle.
However, in that time, I feel that I have learned a great deal to which I had not previously been exposed - both coding and process-wise. I have also learned that while I am not as smart or as good as some of the more senior-level developers, I am also not as dumb or as incompetent as I have sometimes felt in the past. More open communication with my counterparts has allowed me to see that many of the questions and concerns I have regarding the work that I do is not just limited to my own mind but to see that others have similar questions and concerns. Knowing this has allowed me to emerge from my concerns and be more open about both the things I want and need to learn as well as to offer my own suggestions on different processes or methodologies where I feel they may be appropriate or applicable. While the idea of being a fraud will likely never be far removed from my concerns, I tend to use it more now as motivation to do more and to prove what I can do rather than allow it to hold me back.
And I wonder if a few of my counterparts (both here at LessThanDot and in my real-life dealings) may consider themselves frauds, too...