Insights for technology professionals

How engineers can fight imposter syndrome

Posted on March 12, 2019 by Jack Trompert


Another day, another new design and system challenge. It may seem like every day you face an obstacle that questions your merit, skill, and competence. If you can’t solve it, you may have a sinking feeling that another engineer— someone smarter or more talented than you— can. Over time, no matter how long your track record of accomplishments is, you may begin to suspect that you got lucky or that you don’t belong in your job. This nagging sense of fraudulence is known as imposter syndrome.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone; it’s common for chip engineers to question their own abilities. The daily struggle of managing a large scope of variables and circuit constraints can test any engineer’s performance and confidence. However, if it’s left unchecked, imposter syndrome can increase psychological stress and lead to faster burnout.

So how can you stop imposter syndrome from getting you down? Let’s explore four simple ways strategies you can try:

Focus on your strengths

Whether you’re a new engineer or a seasoned veteran, there are always new skills to learn to keep up in the industry.  It’s easy to feel behind when you see other people’s performance at its best. But you can add immediate value to the company if you focus on one or two things you do really well. By polishing and strengthening a small handful of skills from good to great, an engineer can improve performance, confidence, and even specialty.

Teach others

Imposter syndrome highlights a natural tendency to downplay your knowledge or your skills. After all, the more you know, the more you understand how much left there is to learn. Feeling small in the grand scheme of knowledge can breed a sense of self-doubt. But you’d be surprised by how much you can teach others as a mentor.

Consider using the rubber ducky programming method to explain your work process. Walking through each step of the problem to someone not in your specialty helps you put perspective in what you know. Using a collaborative method like pair programming can also be a great way to share insights, improve an approach, and ultimately put you on par with your colleagues.

Find a mentor

In addition to mentoring others, having someone mentor you can be a great way to help you overcome any fears and insecurities you have in your role. They can also give you perspective and guidance in your progress and career development.

Making connections with senior engineers or designers doesn’t have to be hard. Look for potential mentors in your office; is there anyone who gives you engineering help at the office or asks you about your career goals? Deepening those relationships can go a long way toward helping you develop career skills, from career mapping to confidence building.

Allow yourself to feel lost

Realize that no one has the answers to everything. Every engineer experiences a learning curve and work frustrations. Learning is a journey, and it’s important to set aside your pride and ask questions or seek direction when you feel lost. Not only will you get valuable input, but you can also see how others face the same obstacles as well. You may realize there is a big difference between how you perceive your performance and how well you’re actually doing.

As Socrates used to say, “I know one thing: that I know nothing.” Imposter syndrome affects the best of us. Fighting these can be a good reminder to stay grounded but to also celebrate the wins in your life. By taking these approaches in this article, it allows you to combat your insecurities proactively, so you don’t have to suffer in doubt.

Topics: Today's Labor Market, productivity, skills

Jack Trompert

In 2010, Jack and Janet Trompert started Talent 101 with a clear new vision on how to deliver talent to the marketplace. To work at Talent 101 is to be a part of something creative and big. From our modest roots as an ambitious startup, to becoming a global workforce solution provider to the world’s most recognized semiconductor companies, our growth and momentum owes a lot to our strong company culture of customer service, can do attitude, sense of urgency and always focus on the client and talent.