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I've felt imposter syndrome from seeing super talented peers - How do I deal with this?

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Senior BI Engineer at Amazon2 years ago

Across my career, I've felt bad about my skills sometimes because I'll have teammates, who are also at my level, doing as much as 2x more than me. This has led to me feeling like an imposter many times - Any thoughts on how to process all this?

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(6 comments)
  • 94
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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    2 years ago
    • Something I've learned in tech is that you should never compare yourself to other people. There's too many brilliant people working in this industry, and if you're working at a prestigious company like Amazon, you're bound to be surrounded by them.
    • On a more specific note, it's important to realize that levels, especially at strong tech companies (again, like Amazon) are very wide. This means that the best senior engineer will be way better than the weakest or even the average senior engineer at these companies. These levels are wide in order to make promotions meaningful.
    • At the end of the day, figure out what your overall goal is. Don't anchor them to other people: Find something that resonates with you. For most people, myself included back when I worked at a formal tech company, it's just: "I want to keep becoming a stronger software engineer. I want to be able to look back at myself every 6-12 months and realize that I'm now a decent amount better than I was before."
    • Everyone goes at their own pace. I've seen engineers have rockstar starts, starting off at FAANG or whatever, only to burn out a few years in. I've also seen engineers take a long time to grow initially but then hit an inflection point where things start clicking and they get promoted every year for several years, even while working at a top tech company. As long as you're getting a decent amount better every couple months, I feel like you should be proud of yourself.
    • Don't worry about performance unless you have to. Make sure to stay in sync with your manager to make sure your pace is okay and keep an eye on your performance review. As long as those things are good, don't worry!
    • Zooming out, your goal doesn't even need to be about growth! It can be something simpler like: "I want to feel happy at my job and have enough spare time afterwards to spend with friends and family." More "peaceful" goals are super underrated.

    Related resources:

  • 30
    Profile picture
    2 years ago

    Thanks Alex for your thoughts. Impostor syndrome is a reality and it’s true that it’s easy to imagine problems that aren’t real. Keeping your focus on what you control, what is important and to communicate effectively with your manager is key.

  • 50
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    Staff Software Engineer @ DoorDash, ex-FB, ex-Klaviyo
    a year ago

    Yeah, they are the worst. Wish we can just get rid of them! JK :)

    I do not care how smart / talented you are, you will always encounter someone seems to be 2x better than you in any regard. Here is how you approach it with a "winner's mindset"

    • leverage the fear

      • It's healthy to realize your shortfalls. It's a sign of confidence not a sign of weakness.
      • The core thing is you have to change your mindset to realize that admitting others are better than you in some areas does NOT equal to your incompetence.
      • You should start to relish the fact you identified areas for improvement. Leverage the fear of falling behind and make ameliorations one step at a time.
    • learn from them

      • What makes them so efficient. Do they have a framework of approaching things? Do they have unique methodologies? What's the magic behind their efficiencies?
      • You are on the same team with them. That's a great opportunity to learn from them.
      • They are not threats to you but resources for you to better yourself. I would set up regular 1-1s with them and try to learn 1-2 things from each of them.
    • find your own lane(s)

      • There is a reason why you are on a team with talented people. You are talented as well :)
      • Give yourself time and space to find the domain(s) you can become experts in. When you have learnings, do not hesitate to share with others. They can also learn from you.
  • 28
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    Senior Manager at Zoox; Meta, Snap, Google
    a year ago

    There are good answers already and I would just add my 2 cents that could be useful for such situation:

    1. Don't compare yourself against people who joined before you. And most of the companies also don't calibrate engineers of various tenures against each other.
    2. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. And one of the leader's responsibility is to find appropriate tasks for each person on their team to utilize their strengths and cover weak areas.

    So I would recommend chatting directly with your manager, express your concerns and ask for a feedback + advice to get over them.

  • 7
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    President at Comstock Software, Inc
    a year ago

    You're going to be surprised to learn that your super-talented peers often feel the same way.

    Take strength-finders and work from your strengths. Your super-talented peers are likely working from strength whether they know it or not.

    Keep a daily performance journal for perspective. You can buy this one: https://mentalmanagement.com/products/performance-analysis-the-ultimate-performance-journal or create a template in Notion or Roam that covers the same material.

  • 6
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    Associate Consultant @ Slalom
    8 months ago

    I have to constantly tell myself that I’m exactly where I should be and to ask any and all questions. Be a sponge for knowledge and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Naturally in my life, I’ve had to approach nearly everything that I do with this mask of “I know what I’m doing” when in my head I’m screaming bloody murder because I’m so overwhelmed and lost.

    For the tech industry, it is very important to remember that you will always be learning no matter how many years of experience you have. When you accept the growth mindset and approach everything as a learning experience, you will look back later and realize that you are doing just fine.

    I still battle with my inner self even with 3 years in the game, but that hunger and passion to learn has never stopped. I’m sure that if you have that same passion, you’re going to do just fine.