As a developer, I constantly feel like I'm lagging behind.

Long rant incoming.

Whenever I join a new company or team, I always feel like I'm the worst developer there. No matter how much studying I do, it never seems to be enough.

Feeling inadequate is nothing new for me, I've been struggling with a severe inferiority complex for most of my life. But starting a career as a developer launched that shit into overdrive.

About 10 years ago, I started my college education as a developer. At first things were fine, I felt equal to my peers. It lasted about a day or two, until I saw a guy working on a website in notepad. Nothing too special of course, but back then as a guy whose scripting experience did not go much farther than modifying some .ini files, it blew my mind. It went downhill from there.

What followed were several stressful, yet strangely enjoyable, years in college where I constantly felt like I was lagging behind, even though my grades were acceptable. On top of college stress, I had a number of setbacks, including the fallout of divorcing parents, childhood pets, family and friends dying, little to no money coming in and my mother being in a coma for a few weeks. She's fine now, thankfully.

Through hard work, a bit of luck, and a girlfriend who helped me to study, I managed to graduate college in 2012 and found a starter job as an Asp.Net developer.
My knowledge on the topic was limited, but it was a good learning experience, I had a good mentor and some great colleagues. To teach myself, I launched a programming tutorial channel. All in all, life was good. I had a steady income, a relationship that was already going for a few years, some good friends and I was learning a lot.

Then, 3 months in, I got diagnosed with cancer.

This ruined pretty much everything I had built up so far. I spend the next 6 months in a hospital, going through very rough chemo.

When I got back to working again, my previous Asp.Net position had been (understandably) given to another colleague. While I was grateful to the company that I could come back after such a long absence, the only position available was that of a junior database manager. Not something I studied for and not something I wanted to do each day neither.

Because I was grateful for the company's support, I kept working there for another 12 - 18 months. It didn't go well. The number of times I was able to do C# jobs can be counted on both hands, while new hires got the assignments, I regularly begged my PM for.

On top of that, the stress and anxiety that going through cancer brings comes AFTER the treatment. During the treatment, the only important things were surviving and spending my potentially last days as best as I could. Those months working was spent mostly living in fear and having to come to terms with the fact that my own body tried to kill me. It caused me severe anger issues which in time cost me my relationship and some friendships.

Keeping up to date was hard in these times. I was not honing my developer skills and studying was not something I'd regularly do. 'Why spend all this time working if tomorrow the cancer might come back?'

After much soul-searching, I quit that job and pursued a career in consultancy. At first things went well. There was not a lot to do so I could do a lot of self-study. A month went by like that. Then another. Then about 4 months into the new job, still no work was there to be done. My motivation quickly dwindled.

To recuperate the costs, the company had me do shit jobs which had little to nothing to do with coding like creating labels or writing blogs. Zero coding experience required. Although I was getting a lot of self-study done, my amount of field experience remained pretty much zip.

My prayers asking for work must have been heard because suddenly the sales department started finding clients for me. Unfortunately, as salespeople do, they looked only at my theoretical years of experience, most of which were spent in a hospital or not doing .Net related tasks.
Ka-ching. Here's a developer with four years of experience. Have fun.

Those jobs never went well. My lack of experience was always an issue, no matter how many times I told the salespeople not to exaggerate my experience. In the end, I ended up resigning there too.

After all the issues a consultancy job brings, I went out to find a job I actually wanted to do. I found a .Net job in an area little traffic. I even warned them during my intake that my experience was limited, and I did my very best every day that I worked here.

It didn't help. I still feel like the worst developer on the team, even superseded by someone who took photography in college. Now on Monday, they want me to come in earlier for a talk.

Should I just quit being a developer? I really want to make this work, but it seems like every turn I take, every choice I make, stuff just won't improve. Any suggestions on how I can get out of this psychological hell?

  • 6
    Don’t give up man, you’ve fought harder battles than being a dev. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s good to recognize when people are better than you and it’s not a bad thing. Learn from them! You’re better off in a challenging environment. Keep trying and it will get better!
  • 6
    I am quite sure you have heard of impostor syndrome by this point. It is a very real thing that I see on many developers and some of them that have been brave enough to confide in us here on devrant would exhibit similar symptoms. There is nothing wrong with it, self criticism is important since I thoroughly believe that no one can be harder on him/her than himself/herself. No one would criticize you as much as yourself, you get to be your own worst enemy, and this is a very powerful thing. Do not let someone else that has more experience judge and make you feel inadequate, no one starts on this field knowing everything, and whilst some people have an easier time with development it is not, by any means, something that you should use to judge yourself.

    Don't fret too much over it, use what you can to fuel your desire to know more, practice and read as much, eventually everything falls in place :D just keep coding man, it is supposed to be fun and do not leave the field!
  • 1
    Everyone has a different learning pace. Don't be too hard on yourself.

    As for programming, something what I have followed. Always solve the problem on paper/whiteboard first. Think about what can go wrong. Once you are sure it would work, only then type it down and test it.

    If you feel vanilla coding is not working for you, try getting into AWS or Salesforce or Mulesoft or any such GUI based cloud platforms. These are in a great boom and also great for your career in the long run.
  • 5
    It sounds like you really need to go out and make a personal project that works. You feel like you are spinning your wheels because you have all these pieces of knowledge in your head, but you don’t actually have them linked in any useful way. Build something that works, even just a todo list app, and I think your confidence will start to grow. Yes it is a struggle to complete work after working, but as you see it is also a struggle to not have a strong portfolio to lean on.
  • 0
    Thanks for the kind words and advice guys. I'll be sure to keep those in mind going forward.
  • 1
    You won the fuacking fight vs cancer. The opinion other people about your skillz is irrelevant. The world is yours. :)
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