Over the last few weeks, I have come across a number of articles talking about or referencing “Impostor Syndrome”. It’s the idea that you feel like you don’t belong, that you’re are a fraud, and you will be found out someday. Is this a new problem and is it becoming more prevalent? In short, yes and here’s why.
Once, not that long ago, if you wanted a career, say as a swordsmith, you would go for a stroll and talk to the village weapon maker. If he liked you, or your family paid him enough money, he would take you on as an apprentice. You would spend your days stoking the fire, gathering supplies and, probably, making nails and putting swords together. Eventually, you would get the chance to make your very first weapon.
Eventually, after many years, you would know everything your master knew. This meant it was time to leave; time to seek out new teachers. You would journey around the countryside learning from all the other masters in the area. Once you knew their secrets, you would find a village and set up shop.
And then, one day, a bright-eyed kid would ask you to train him, and the cycle would repeat.
Today, we have a myth that anyone, especially young people, should be able to create Facebook or Google on their own right out of school. Apparently, people with no experience are smarter than those with a career behind them? Huh?!?! With these kinds of expectations, it’s no wonder we have a high number of people suffering from impostor syndrome. We are doing literally nothing to help them along. We throw them in the deep end and then mock them when they make mistakes.
This has got to change. We need more companies that know how to grow talent and skill. We need to re-implement the apprenticeship model and allow junior developers to be mentored by more experienced professionals. There are a few companies out there that get it. They understand the idea that strong developers need to be grown and nurtured instead of thrown to the lions to see if they will survive.