“Impostor syndrome…is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud.‘” ~ Wikipedia
“I think most everyone in the website world suffers from Impostor Syndrome.” Something that happened this past weekend clarified this.
Saturday evening a favorite client called for help.
I am building a new site for this product. It’s been a complicated, long haul. I was over my head with some of the specs. He wants the process automated from upload to near the buyer using it.
My first role in the project was to manage it. I’d find the talent who could fix his site written in an old form of .asp. The response from developers changed that.
The consensus: it will be much better and less expensive to rebuild it in PHP, that is, WordPress. They argued that PHP is a modern website language and popular with developers. WordPress is easy to keep current and for owners to learn.
The client said more than once during this time, “you can do this.”
Eventually, we agreed I could do the core and send out the automation issues that needed a developer. About then one of the developers replied that, though he didn’t want the project, he wanted to help.
The challenge interested him. He works with enterprise and corporate clients and hadn’t worked with a small business. He offered to check platforms and help with roadmaps.
With his guidance, we’ve made slow progress over the past couple of months. We haven’t had to outsource anything so far. He has a keen eye for the heart of problems and I solve them with the tools at my disposal.
But it’s taken months. That was okay as my client was on the road gathering product and not ready to use the new site until Summer.
Back to that Saturday email. He had tried to upload something and received an error. This on the old and current site. Could I see if I could fix it? I reminded him that site was not in a language I knew but I said I would look into it.
It was the sort of issue that the detective in me likes – and it was a rabbit hole.
I entered the error in Google and read the few forums on it. “It’s over my head; it’s in .asp.” The issue was something about the program not finding the folder it was looking for, that much I began to understand.
One writer suggested it was a file permission issue. Others suggested changing some virtual folder structure so the upload program could find the folder. Virtual folder? I wasn’t going to spend more of my evening lost in that tunnel.
Next stop: the site’s host – on a Saturday night. Sigh.
Most of the rest of the evening I spent with two techs who examined and tested. One ran a test that reset all the file permissions to the standard settings, ruling out that solution. The issue persisted.
The other found he could upload an image from where he was. Thus, he reasoned, it is in the program’s code. Even though the code’s untouched since it’s creation in 2010. More sighs. The client’s not going to buy this.
I returned the news to the client, glad we were only on email. I told him his choice was either pay for a developer to fix it or wait until the new site is live. It was not a happy few hours for our partnership. He vented with some justification about the host. “They never say it’s their server.” He also tried to pressure me to get the new site live asap.
I felt like I was a divorce mediator listening to a ‘he said; she said.’
Sunday morning I woke with a possible way out: call the host once again then, failing progress, ask my mentor to take a look.
Sunday mornings also brings toddling grandkids. I continued many email conversation threads with the client as the young boys were -young boys.
When it was quiet enough, I called the host again. A different tech knew the language and dove in. He found and fixed the problem in about 10 minutes.
The file was moved to a backup folder. He said it seemed someone had tried a manual backup and unwittingly moved the folder there. He moved it back. Solved. Kind of.
I intruded on a thread the client and I was on to give him the news. He vented some more about the host. But he was able to upload product. I asked when the last upload was. He thought last November. I worried whether I might have done that backup. Later I recalled I don’t back up like that.
The client pointed out that the copyright date was 2015 on his upload. “There’s code in there that automatically updates the copyright date. They still messed it up.” It felt for a while he was going to try to get me to fight that battle with the host.
The weekend ended with him holding on to wanting the site as soon as possible. I agreed that I did too but not because I was tired of the process or the client. No, I’m loving this but I have some planned time away. I’d like to finish beforehand.
Where find some clarity on impostor versus expertise.
It dawned on me. “There is a level of expertise in knowing how to solve problems.”
Later I recalled a mentor saying that if someone worries about being an impostor, they’re not.
Now months later I discover this that Carl Alexander wrote,
“You learned that you can just google a solution to your programming problems. It’s a strong self-reinforcing behaviour because it works.
Now let’s go back to this idea of improving yourself by writing more code. How does this happen? Most of us, just don’t sit down and start writing out of the blue. We find a problem that we want to solve and then start coding.
This brings us back to our googling behaviour. If you solve problems by googling solutions, you won’t gain much from writing code. You’re just practising your google-fu and your ability to assemble pieces of code.
Now, this isn’t to say that googling a solution is bad. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s an amazing (and required) tool in your toolbox. You just have to understand that the behaviour can also be a liability.”