I know my last post was also pretty heavy, so I apologize in advance for the “double posting” feel. First, some background.

The Background

I started in the realm of the internet with simple static sites in high school. I kept with the habit, motivated mainly by curiosity (or so I thought) as I aged and went to college. My major was originally physiology with hopes of attending medical school. Unfortunately, once I started taking physiology classes, they didn’t interest me as much as I wanted. Fortunately for me, my job as a student worker at the time for the School of Anthropology made heavy use of my skill as a web developer. At the end of my junior year, with the steeply rising costs of tuition, I was unable to continue attending school, receiving financial aid, and thus working at my job, my first big hit to my self worth/esteem/confidence. I took a position at a call center to pay the bills. It didn’t work well with my introverted nature, so I tried to transition to freelancing my web development skills. I was using Drupal pretty well to build sites for people, and I desperately needed work. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my work though, and so I charged $20/hour and tried to charge for as few hours as possible. Clearly I didn’t know enough about running a business to be an effective freelancer and not enough time to learn what I needed to. This lead to the failure of my attempts of freelancing. Failure that only served to reinforce my feelings of inadequacy. Fortunately, it was just my business skills that were terrible and I was able to get hired at the same university. I didn’t have any “formal” web development training.

Essentially the factors working against me are:

  • I’m basically a college dropout without a solid time frame for return because of the money I still owe to the University. Also, my student loans that built up over the course of my 3 years have to be repaid at the same time, making it even more difficult to pay back the University and re-attend.
  • My time in college was spent learning that the career I thought I wanted was actually not even for me and I got to take a single computer science course (in Java, no less) before having to leave; I never really was taught more than the basics of Object Oriented programming and I never had a mentor.
  • I tried to freelance and didn’t earn enough money to stay afloat. Dealing with bad clients was, obviously, bad. For a long time, I thought this was because of my skills. It was only recently (due mostly to the Freelancer’s Show) that I realized I just had terrible salesmanship and I didn’t value myself, so I couldn’t charge the appropriate value for my time.

Fortunately for me:

  • My primary learning style is self-organized learning. I can learn how to solve a problem simply given the problem and a mass of information (the internet).
  • As it turns out, a lot of people in the web development world don’t have degrees in computer science, good people.
  • I can learn my real value and charge accordingly. As a bonus, I can fire bad, demanding clients.

This in no way means that I no longer feel like an imposter at my job. I have learned to ease that feeling in the past year and a half though. Since I was hired, my biggest fear was job security. I would take on extra learning and try to show how new things could make our development easier or better. I would lie awake at night doing my best to not think about how fragile my position at the college must be. After that it was how important it must be to my boss that I go back to college and get my degree.

I still have self-confidence/self-esteem issues. I still have an unnecessary amount of self-doubt that I can’t seem to shake. I still try to learn as much as possible to make sure I am a valuable asset to any team I am working on; although the motivations for my learning have slowly shifted from defense against my imposter syndrome and low self-worth to the fact that this stuff is just awesome to me.

I’m sure I’ll write an update to this post eventually, and although I normally write all of my posts in a single pass, this one might get revised in the near future as I incubate more details.