My Imposter Syndrome, Insecurity, and Depression

August 20, 2021

Imposter syndrome is common among IT professionals, and I'm no exception. The constant feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt plagues me. Despite working as a software developer for EY, one of the most prestigious consulting firms, I often feel like a fraud. My academic background lacks a computer science component; my first job was in marketing, far removed from information technology. Initially, my role focused on frontend web development using JavaScript. However, upon being assigned to a fintech project, I became the principal Android app developer. Although I've submitted rigorously-tested, high-quality code, the fear persists: what if my colleagues discover that I'm not the most knowledgeable expert?

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As a professional, I'm expected to know about cloud computing, networking, architecture, security, and more. Mastering all these fields is nearly impossible in an ever-changing technological landscape.

Adding to the internal tension, I charge my clients a high hourly rate for answering questions they could look up online. My supervisor epitomizes the polished consultant, impressing clients with buzzwords about digital transformation, artificial intelligence, and blockchain. Meanwhile, my regular tasks often feel trivial, like adjusting the alignment of a button on different screens—a task that's more complicated than it seems.

To combat my insecurities, I pursued a part-time master's degree in computer science from 2015 to 2017 at CUHK. However, the additional education didn't alleviate my imposter syndrome; it exacerbated it. Studying academic papers and complex topics like Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) and machine learning algorithms made me feel even more inadequate.

My imposter syndrome also seeped into my personal life. I met my girlfriend, Jo, while juggling a demanding job and part-time studies. My insecurity led me to believe I didn't deserve her. I was constantly afraid of losing her, which put an immense strain on our relationship. Unfortunately, my anxieties contributed to our breakup, devastating me even further.

As time passed, I engaged in self-reflection and found solace in books like Jordan Peterson's "12 Rules for Life." I realized that my imposter syndrome and insecurities were destroying both my professional and personal lives.

People often misunderstand depression as being related to material circumstances, but my issues lay more with a pervasive sense of hopelessness. To improve my emotional well-being, I changed jobs, focused on physical fitness, and made a concerted effort to address the root causes of my problems.

Today, as an engineering manager for a large retail bank in Hong Kong, I still experience imposter syndrome. However, I've learned to accept it as a motivator for lifelong learning rather than a crippling fear. By sharing my story, I hope to offer solace to others facing similar challenges, encouraging them not to make the same mistakes I did.

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Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn