Staying silent when the conversation goes over your head sucks.
Feeling like an imposter is disabling, but you can get over it easily by investing in yourself and your education. Learn the core concepts that go into a CS degree and know that you do, in fact, belong here.
DON'T HAVE A CS DEGREE AND FEEL LIKE YOU SHOULD?
Hey I don't have one either and I always managed to get the job done anyway... then again...
It turns out I didn't know what I didn't know. I had a job to do! And I did that job and my clients were happy. I created open source libraries, helped people and I even got a job at Microsoft - all the time believing I could learn what I needed to learn to get the job done. And then...
I was hanging out with some colleagues one day and the topic of Big-O came up. I just sat and listened. I had absolutely no idea what it was they were going on about...
The discussion got animated. Someone mentioned graphs, another said something about Bin Packing and depth-first traversal of an optimization problem...
This had to change
I had been doing this stuff for over 15 years - how was it possible I had absolute NO IDEA what they were talking about. Did it matter that I didn't know? How was I even in the same industry as these people?
I felt like a massive imposter. So in 2014 I investigated what went into a CS degree and dug in...
Imposter Syndrome is a very real problem that can disable your career and foster toxic relationships with your colleagues. It is possible to overcome this feeling, and part of that process is to tackle, head on, the things that make you feel like you don't belong.
The Result? The Imposter's Handbook
I spent 4 months of 2014 and 7 months of 2015 and then another full year in 2018 studying all of the subjects that go into a Computer Science degree. I looked at the curriculum for Stanford and MIT (and a few others) and dove in. Computation, Complexity Theory, Encryption, Blockchain, Algorithms and Data Structures, Lambda Calculus and more. I wrote it down and decided to share it all...
Instead of a wall of theoretical text, I did my best to make them as human as possible, with hand-drawn sketches of complex topics that took me days (and sometimes months) to figure out. I wanted to write a technical book for humans that would convey the magic of our industry.
I love these books!
The Imposter's Handbook is a great resource for any programmer, self-taught or otherwise.
Such a great resource...
I really recommend Rob Conery's "The Imposter's Handbook" as a great way to reinforce those fundamentals and core concepts. Rob has been programming for years but without a CS degree. This book is about all the things he learned and all the gaps that got filled in while he was overwhelmed.
Data Structures, Algorithms and Big-O
People typically think of this as "the stuff you learn when you're about to interview" which is true, but there's so much more to it! Graph traversals can save you so much time if you know how to plug them in and using the right storage type in Redis can make or break your application!
Computation, Complexity and Machines
You ever wonder where programming languages got their start? What did the very first programming language even look like? Turns out that Alonzo Church came up with the blueprint before computers were even invented...
Patterns and principles
We've all heard of the Gang of Four and other names that get thrown around when we're accused of violating some Grand Principle of Whatever... but ... what are those principles, who made them and why should you even care?
databases and relational theory
I love databases and organizing information but for years I just winged it, organizing my database tables and collections by the seat of my pants and what I thought made sense. Then I learned how to do it right by studying a relational theory and getting to know what CAP meant...
essential tools and skills
I used to make fun of my colleagues that used shell scripts for everything ... until of course they were headed out the door hours before I was. They always seemed to know a simpler way of solving a problem...
binary, bitwise and logic
One thing I managed to avoid for most of my career was a discussion about anything binary or bitwise. XOR? Sure, whatever. I remember everyone laughing at a joke where the punchline had to do with "bit-shifting" and... I had no idea what was happening. No longer...
compression, encoding, error correction
Who decides how text is transformed into binary and then back again? Why is one file bigger than another and what does "LOSSLESS" even mean? In this section you'll writ your own encoder and then your own compression algorithm. You'll even know why you're doing it and the fundamental theories behind it!
encryption and hashing
Wow if there was one topic I knew nothing about it was encryption. So much math, so much... I really don't care which should I use MD5 or blowfish? How do hashes work and how can they be so small? Why is an RSA key secure? Such a great story...
HOOOOO THE IMPOSTER'S HANDBOOK IS SO GOOD. IT'S SO GOOD... ...Loving learning about NP(~etc) problems!
YOU GUYS THIS WAS SO WORTH IT! IT'S OFF DA CHAIN!
I am being schooled right now and it feels like good! I cannot recommend this too much for people like myself who never went to college for compsci but wishing for proper understanding of significant concepts
The best compsci book you will ever read... Telling every dev I know to buy a copy. You really killed it @robconery!
imposter syndrome is toxic
We've all felt it: you're sitting in a room (or on a call) with a group of people you feel are smarter than you. A subject comes up, you have no idea what's going on and you wonder why you're even doing any of this. You get anxious because you feel like you don't belong and then...
Someone makes a comment that sounds directed at you. You feel shame and react strongly, perhaps overreact is a better word.
Your colleagues sense something's wrong and try to help, others roll their eyes thinking you're causing drama.
Unfortunately, you are causing drama. There's no gentle way to put this: Imposter Syndrome is a form of self-obsession and has nothing to do with other people. There are many ways to get over it (mindfulness, therapy), but it all boils down to changing your image of yourself.
This doesn't make you a bad person! The truth is that you're letting exterior influences change what you feel about yourself, and that leads to toxic relationships.
Let's change your inner conversation and embrace the things you don't know as an opportunity! When you feel better about yourself, Imposter Syndrome vanishes.
written for humans by a human
Reading about Computer Science concepts can be challenging. Academics construct sentences like an engineer might build a bridge and casual bloggers don't typically take more than 30 minutes to write a post and even then they forget the most crucial details.
My goal with this book was to make it a nice, long conversation where you and I wander through computer science history and get to know the concepts in our own time. I wrote, then rewrote, then rewrote things AGAIN with the goal of making each chapter as straightforward and human as possible.
I also busted out my iPad Pro and doodled my heart out as drawing things helps me understand and helps me use fewer words.
I faced my internal demons and decided enough was enough. I pushed through the fear and anxiety and began to ask as many questions as I could. What a wonderful experience!
There are two volumes, or "Seasons" for this book as well as videos. Lots to choose from...
The Interview Edition
If you're studying up for an interview you need all the help you can get! With this package you get 32 videos (over 6 hours) of core CS Concepts with the CompSci Basics video production, which are based on the content in both seasons of The Imposter's Handbook.
You also get 5.5 hours of interview preparation from our Coding Interview Bootcamp production, from solving practice problems by hand to strategies for what to do when you lockup. In addition, you get coaching from Jon Skeet as he solves 4 Google-inspired interview problems that I throw at him.
The premium Edition
With this package you get both seasons of The Imposter's Handbook in ePub (open standard for iOS and other digital readers), mobi (for Kindle) and PDF, covering topics from Computational Theory to Lambda Calculus to Encoding and Hashing and Cryptography. In addition you get 32 video walkthroughs that enhance and extend the books, offering concise, tightly edited visual walkthroughs of some of the tougher concepts. I also added additional examples (such as how to create a one-time pad).
The digital Edition
You get both seasons of The Imposter's Handbook in ePub (open standard for iOS and other digital readers), mobi (for Kindle) and PDF. You'll read about Complexity Theory, dive into Binary problems and brush up on your Unix skills.
You'll receive every update (as with all of the packages here) and downloadable code samples. You can download the books at any time as well - just come back here and login.
Buying for a team? I offer a massive discount for teams of 10 or so, and you can get that here
The print Edition
The print version of The Imposter's Handbook is currently available for Season 1 only and is sold through Blurb.com. Season 1 topics include:
- Data Structures and Algorithms
- Computation and Complexity Theory
- Lambda Calculus and Functional Programming
- Software Structural and Design Patterns
- Database theory and normalization
- Compilers and Language Design
- Essential Unix Skills
Yes. I will never create a "new edition" that you'll have to pay for. That said, this is only for the digital edition. The print version is sold by a different store (Blurb) and I don't have acces to that.
You very well might! It's been a few years and I've worked a lot of things out, but if you find an issue, there's a link in the front of the book where you can log an issue.
No, I hate that. I do ask that you not share, however, this book took me a long time to write.
Heck yeah! I get a lot of email from people who have let me know it helped them score a great job. All of the topics in these books directly relate to job interviews!
Yes, it should. The problem is that Kindle's have a proprietary format and it's kind of guesswork as to how to get it to layout properly. I've tried a zillion methods and the recent one as of 2019 seems to work for most Kindles.
The print version is sold through Blurb, which is a completely independent store that pays me a % of each sale. I can't do anything to control their sales process. In fact, they don't give me any sales information at all, aside from number sold.