Overcoming Imposter Syndrome During My Time At Meta (Facebook)
I’ve been reflecting on the time I spent at Meta. In particular, how far I’ve come since my initial Imposter Syndrome when I first joined. I want to share what that experience was like for me and how I was able to overcome it (spoiler alert: it took a year of being there). I’ve written this with the hope that it helps anyone who is facing a similar situation to what I did — especially those who have recently joined a new company or have a new hire on their team.
TLDR & Key Takeaways
- Trust the people around you. Open up about how you are feeling and ask for help. Everyone at your company wants to see you succeed and are more than likely willing to help.
- Find a good mentor in your team, preferably someone who is not your manager. This way you can establish a strong relationship with someone on your team who can help onboard you and answer your questions.
- Give it time a.k.a. trust the process. It will take time to ramp up and find your place in your team where you are most effective and most enjoying yourself. You are not a “hiring mistake“ (whatever that means), you’re there for a reason.
I never studied Computer Science or programming at university. It was only after I graduated that I became interested in making apps and so I taught myself iOS development. As a result, I always felt uncertain about myself and my lack of foundational CS knowledge. I was intimidated by other “real” programmers. They knew things like test-driven development, VIM, fancy terminal commands and a whole bunch of other things that I didn’t know. So it’s no coincidence that when I joined Meta with all the “real” programmers I had doubts about myself.
Before joining I remember watching several Facebook tech talks and not having any idea what they were talking about, so I was pretty sure that once I joined I would have no idea what anybody was talking about and wouldn’t be able to keep up with all the “real” programmers. And of course, my biggest fear was that it would only be a matter of time before somebody realized it!
Note to tenured employees on a team with a new hire: Don’t forget how intimidating it can be for outsiders. Knowing this can help you empathize with new hires.
During onboarding at Meta you're bombarded with messages of “Have Impact” and “Move Fast”. This was compounding my doubts about myself and whether I would be able to keep up.
Before joining Meta I had only ever done iOS development and only ever worked in Objective C and Swift. “Real” programmers knew multiple languages and could develop on multiple platforms, so how would I be able to keep up with them? I remember overhearing fellow new hires talking about the tasks they have completed and I remember thinking to myself that I’m falling behind.
Note to new hires: Don’t compare yourself to other new hires. In fact, during onboarding at Meta they even tell you not to compare yourself to other new hires. It’s really not a good baseline. If you want to get a better feel of how you’re progressing and/or have concerns about yourself, speak to your manager or mentor. They are there to support you and help you succeed.
My First Few Months
Fast forward a few months into my first team and I was onboarding fine. However, the doubts remained. Despite having shipped a few things, I still wasn’t sure of myself. Was I having enough impact? Was I moving fast enough? Did my coworkers appreciate me joining the team? Or had they figured out that I didn’t belong there? I was feeling unhappy and anxious.
Eventually, I opened up to my manager about how I was feeling and this became a turning point for me. He put some of my concerns at ease by telling me I was onboarding fine, giving me feedback on my progress as well as collecting feedback for me from my teammates (both positive and constructive!). This helped me feel better about my ramp-up and progress at Meta.
I was also lucky to have a great mentor on my team who was very approachable and taught me how to navigate Meta. This allowed me to seek answers to my questions (technical or otherwise) and helped me progress in my career.
Key Takeaway: Open up. Trust your manager. It will be harder to help you if you don’t communicate what’s on your mind. Find a mentor on your team or ask your manager to help find you one. This will allow you to build a strong relationship with someone who is not you manager and hence will be another pillar of support. You will find yourself feeling much more comfortable if you are surrounded by people who you trust will support you.
First Year at Meta
After opening up to my manager I was feeling better but still didn't feel that I 100% belonged. I would say it took me about a year before I really started feeling fully comfortable and got over my Imposter Syndrome.
During my first year at Meta I’d had a chance to work on and successfully deliver a handful of projects. This made me feel that I had consistently shown myself that I could perform. With each project I shipped, the more confident I became. During this time, I also had a chance to build good relationships with everyone on the team which helped me feel more comfortable with them and made me less intimidated.
Key Takeaway: Trust the process. Give it time. You’ll learn how to navigate the job and you’ll soon find that things that were once difficult become much easier.
I hope this note will help others facing similar experiences with imposter syndrome. If you have doubts or feel unsure of yourself, feel free to reach out to me! I would be more than happy to chat.