As a recently married man, I did what most people like to do after getting married. We went on a honeymoon. We all have our own ideas on the ideal honeymoon. For us, we wanted some adventure and some relaxation.
The adventure landed us in Morocco (pictured above). It's a different kind of place. The hustle and bustle of cities like Fes and Marrakech might remind you of what New York City was like many years ago.
The opposite of this was without a doubt the Sahara Desert (pictured below). I've never been to Antartica nor have I climbed Kilimanjaro (both are on my to-do list), but I'm guessing the experience has similar qualities. The large expanse can leave you wondering "where is everyone? Am I the only one here?".
Of course you're not, but it can certainly feel that way.
For new developers (and even those that aren't so new), feeling like you're alone in your struggles to complete a feature or debug a production bug (git blame anyone?) can lead you to feel like an impostor.
I don't belong here.
Admittedly, I went through this myself. I would write what I thought was decent code for a feature only to find it later rewritten by another developer. No one told me why it was changed. No one told me that it happened.
Worst of all, no one would explain what the new code did and I couldn't understand it.
I must be an impostor.
It was only much later that the code that I couldn't understand was written in such a complicated way as to be obfuscated (not on purpose; this sometimes is desired). As a believer in code reviews, I also would have used this as a "teachable moment" for any junior dev. If the code is bad and it is to be corrected, show the junior dev why it was "bad". If it isn't bad, then leave it alone.
Instead of asking questions, I wallowed in my episode of impostor syndrome. If I ask what the code means, I would only further highlight my inferiority.
I stunted my own growth out of fear.
Now if I ever start feeling out of place or struggling with something that I feel that I shouldn't, I remind myself of a story I read once (the book escapes me).
An astrophysicist decided to leave his chosen career and become a Rails developer. After having picked it up, he joined a startup full of both senior and junior developers. One day, one of the junior developers asked him a question.
"Does it ever bother you that you spent all that time to become an astrophyscist and ultimately never use those skills?"
"Not at all. I use that knowledge everyday."
"Everyday?", the junior dev questioned.
"Yep. Anytime I come across a problem and start to struggle with it, I stop and remind myself I'm an astrophysicist. I can figure this out."
You may not be an astrophysicist, but if you look back at your career/life, you'll find that you've come a long way and you are most certainly not alone.
Care to share your impostor story? Let's call it group therapy...meetings happen anytime in the comments below.