You don't need a CS degree to be a successful developer

Saturday, 14 Nov 2020 3 mins to read impostor syndrome, learning, health

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One of the biggest causes of Impostor Syndrome is not having a computer science degree.

Sure, a CS degree gives you amazing bases and knowledge. It also forces you to think and work on challenging tasks. Problems, that you might not even consider to work on, when you are taking the self-taught route.

Let me leave you with this clip from episode 4. In this episode, Jacob talks about his experience with the MET office and Nvidia. How he was working in a team with different backgrounds. How having that broad team makes a successful engineering team.

This means that no. You don't need to have a CS degree to be a successful software engineer. I've talked with many software engineers who didn't go to university. Not having a degree means that you will need to work harder and smarter to find resources for your learning. Also to find those holes in your knowledge.

You don't know something, but you can learn!

When you are starting your code journey, it seems like a failure to keep googling things. The reality of the matter is that everybody does it!

The thing is, with more experience you expose yourself to more situations. You are also more knowledgeable about where to find your answers.

Remember that reading the documentation as a beginner can be pretty scary. It might not even be the best way to learn something. Eva had a great take on this matter

"just read React documentation. I would go there. I would read it, and then like, I don't know anything, I'm sh*t at this, I should quit now! so I think as a beginner, you need to do stuff, make the mistake, figure out why this is not good. And then like, go back to the docs refer to one or two things and then that's okay."

Eva Dee - Episode 2

Also on the subject of learning, you need to accept that it's normal that you don't know something. The simple fact that you know what you don't know. It means that you can start filling those gaps in knowledge with things that matter.

I hope this makes sense for you and will be able to quiet down that feeling of not knowing enough. Also, as I said before, with experience you will be able to know where to seek your information in a more efficient way.

Everyone is on a different path

Comparing yourself to others may be a bad habit. It can increase that feeling of being an impostor. Instead, let's accept that everyone is on a different path.

Each person has strengths, various experiences and comes from different backgrounds. In tech, you work in a team and your background, your experience may bring great value to the team.

Sometimes, all we need to do is sit back. Grab a pen and write down all those experiences and how they can add value in different scenarios.

Keep track of your progress

I've asked on Twitter for tips on dealing with Impostor Syndrome and Vic had a great thing to suggest.

When you are in this journey, it is very easy to feel that you don't know enough. Months and months pass and sometimes it feels like you haven't progressed at all. The reality is that if you are learning and practising, you are progressing.

If you are like me, you aren't tracking your progress. So how would you know that you are growing? This notion of keeping track of your progress also brings another headache.

How and what should you track?

The answer to this question can be an article in itself. so I asked Vic about his recommendations for tracking code progress and he had another great way to do this.

Learning through projects is a great way to learn, but it's also a great way to track your progress. Let's say that you want to learn about Docker.

You could spend some time reading the documentation, taking courses or doing tutorials. But if you don't practice what you have learned, that knowledge will not consolidate.

Set the goal to create a project in a month. At the end of that month, you will know way more than you ever did when you started.

Keep track of those achievements somewhere. Keep stacking up achievements to have a visual map of your progress.

Matias also had a great tip to overcome impostor syndrome.

Don't hustle, look out for yourself

It will always feel that we don't know enough. That we aren't doing enough, that we need to push harder than the next person.

This is your reminder that you need to look out for yourself and your health. You might be able to push a lot of work done, but what's the point if you become burn out and need 6 months to recover?

Jhey had three great tips to overcome this Impostor feeling. I'd also recommend reading his article.

If you are in a constant hustle and exhausted mode, you will lose the passion for your learning. That can hinder your progress and can aggravate the Impostor Syndrome. When you are exhausted you won't learn as well, and you will feel unhappy about your progress.

Feeling exhausted make us irritable and prone to errors. With this in mind, make sure you take breaks, do other things and structure your time to allow days off. Your body, your mind and your future self will thank you for it.