Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Short Form


It doesn’t help that the industry puts some pretty unrealistic titles and requirements out there, like ninjas, rockstars, and sorceresses. Anyone heard anything like this? “Looking for a PERL Warlock, with 10+ years in Ruby, Linux kernel contributions, and experience doing isometric transformations in canvas. COBOL experience a plus.” In the early years, even the worst of us were considered wizards because we could do what others couldn’t, plain and simple. But now, people think of it as much more of a commodity position, but still expect us to have the proficiency and skill of a ninja. Somewhere along the lines, people stopped admiring rockstars and started expecting them. I am a yellow belt in two different martial arts (That’s one above I-Just-Started), I’ve played in a cover band, and still dabble in some slight of hand coin magic. This does not make me a ninja, a rockstar, or a sorcerer. Trying to live up to these standards is tough to say the least.


Imposter Syndrome is a condition in which one feels like they aren’t qualified to do what they’ve been tasked to do or have gotten to where they are through sheer luck. Not only have I personally experienced this and continue to almost 20 years into my career, but almost every developer I’ve ever met has dealt with it.

When developing/designing/managing/cooking, do you ever feel like:

  • You are faking your skills

  • You are only where you are due to circumstances and/or luck

  • Anyone could do what you’re doing 

  • You don’t understand why you’re being trusted with the task

  • At any moment someone is going to discover how bad you are at your job

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may be suffering from Imposter Syndrome. Congratulations. Acceptance is the first step to recovery.

In my presentation, I’ll talk about common ways that Imposter Syndrome expresses itself and some concrete tips & tricks on how to deal with it, both for yourself and coworkers or employees.

Not convinced that other people actually suffer from this too? We’ll talk about some specific examples of mine and other’s bouts with Imposter Syndrome in what I like to call Disasterpiece Theater.

We’ll also get an assist from Dr. Seuss as we go along with a satirical dev-flavored reading of “Oh, The Places You’ll Code”. Turns out that it’s an amazing allegory for development.

Another takeaway is the Test-Driven Personal Development flowchart, which breaks down complicated emotions into a simple diagram that can be followed with logic. No more pesky emotions getting in the way of your work!

This session is for developers of all ages and experience levels, especially the ones who have battles with self-doubt, but even if you don’t struggle with it often, you will come away with ways that you can help other developers on your team.


imposter syndrome, mental health

Speaking experience

Dan has given this presentation at numerous conferences and meet ups including a keynote at DrupalCon 2016. Although I've given it many times, I've yet to get a great recording of this, but a sample recording can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nq-HNF63LvA


  • Dan color

    Dan Linn

    Hello World


    Dan Linn has been involved in all aspects of software development for 20 years and has a passion for helping others in the field. In addition to running his company Hello World, which focuses on utilizing junior talent, he runs a program called Mentorship Saturdays to help people enter or progress in the field http://meetup.com/mentorship-saturdays

    Dan has given this presentation at numerous conferences and meet ups including a keynote at DrupalCon 2016.