Imposter Syndrome in a Remote Company

As of Friday, 2016-08-05, I will have worked for GitLab for a month. That is absolutely crazy to me how much time flies!

Because GitLab is a completely remote company, it really takes some getting used to on workflow, communication, and really just overall lifestyle changes. I absolutely love it. It is an incredibly amazing benefit that I hope to see become more common.

One of the issues I feel that I’ve faced is Imposter Syndrome. This is something that many people in the tech industry experience. In my personal experience, I’ve had these feelings for what feels like forever, so it isn’t unique to being a remote employee. However, I think being a remoteemployee adds a new element to the whole thing. This is what I want to discuss today.

Back in May, I attended DevOps Days Austin and was fortunate enough to see Jody Wolfborn’s presentation on Imposter Syndrome. This was an incredibly enlightening talk that I encourage everone to see or watch if you have a chance. In it, she discussed how many people experience imposter syndrome, despite evidence to the contrary. I am definitely in that camp. I regularly get feedback from my manager and peers that indicate I am doing a good job. Even when I receive more negative feedback, it is always constructive and never tears me down. Nonetheless, I struggle with feeling inadequate. I feel like I won’t be able to do what is asked of me. For me, this is due to a lack of confidence in my own abilities to learn, perform, and deliver.

As you may know, I am not a ‘coder’. When I started learning Linux and system administration, I never had to automate things. Why would I? I usually had like one or two servers max. They did different things. Nothing really needed to be repeatable or scripted so I never really learned. At my first job, I also never really had to script. A few bash things here and there, but nothing super DevOpsy. I got a little more into DevOps when I worked at WP Engine, but it was still a fairly minor part of my job. However, now that I am at GitLab, my scripting skills are definitely being put to the test, in part because Chef is just Ruby. That is freaking terrifying. I’m going from almost never coding to having to do it almost daily. Who wouldn’t feel overwhelmed and anxious? Compounding on that, my fear of being dumb or unable to do it just makes it worse. Then, on top of that, I am working at a remote company where it is a bit more difficult to just turn to someone and say “Hey can you help me with this?” My coworkers have, of course, been very helpful, and I’ve already discovered that working remote does NOT mean you can never communicate with anyone or get help with anything.

Regardless of all the positive things I hear, I still manage to think about it too much. I always worry that I’ve not done enough today or perhaps I’m not doing enough overall. Echoing the sentiment of the DevOps Days talk, everyone should try to find a friend or peer that you can be completely honest with and share your feelings in a way that you know you won’t be judged for. In my opinion, you should probably have several of those people, some professional and some personal. In a remote company, it might be harder to find one of those people, but it is definitely possible and encouraged.

If you are experiencing Imposter Syndrome and want to talk to me about it, please feel free to get in touch. I am not a psychologist or anything like that, but I’d be happy to share my experiences with you and give you any tips that I may not have mentioned here.

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