The impostor syndrome

One day I dreamed that I was in a large office room filled with programmers, and I had to test something. Everyone is counting on me, and I don’t know how to do it I have no idea how to go about it.

I could relate this dream to the feeling that often accompanies me in my professional work, recruitment, browsing the feed on LinkedIn – I am an impostor.
I cheat that I have skills that I don’t have. Other people are more competent than me, experienced, have more knowledge, can do things that I can’t, I was hired unnecessarily in the position that I currently hold.
What is more, I have not graduated from the polytechnic, I can not program in Java, and I am not a cybersecurity expert. I am an “ordinary” software tester.

Extraordinary treatment

Ola Kunysz wrote on her blog that:

Special treatment builds the image of a weak woman in need of care. All the girls I worked with in IT were great specialists. Perhaps, because they had to “prove” theirs to get to where they are.

I think this is only part of the problem, because if one of us is already proving to others that he can do something, it means that she/he has won (or is still fighting) a fight in her/his head – with her/himself, with her/his prejudices and with her/his impostor syndrome.

The impostor syndrome

The impostor syndrome – a psychological phenomenon, that causes a lack of self-confidence. Despite external evidence of their competence, those suffering from this syndrome remain convinced that they are scammers and do not deserve the success they have achieved. They see the causes of success in happiness, favorable circumstances, or as a result of being perceived as more intelligent and competent than in reality.


In Poland, I live in a patriarchal society where girls are taught from an early age to be meek, polite, and submissive. They should not raise their voices. They should not say themselves without being asked. They should not lean out, but perform their duties as best they can, leaving room for men to think creatively, decide, and set the rules of the game.

Anywhere else in the world, a similar approach to the role of women in society is additionally combined with prejudices regarding skin color, origin, religion, or sexual orientation.

Many large corporations assure that they care about balancing opportunities, diversity, and openness. It is visible in press releases and colored logos on LinkedIn, but does not always move down the organizational structure and does not either affects the work culture and the way employees communicate.

It often happens that I feel out of place. I feel like a cheat because others support this destructive feeling in me.

I do not mean that women have to be given special privileges.
My observation is that when I join a project – I – Kinga Witko – usually I’m the only woman in this project. A single woman – vs 3,4,10 men on the project team. There rarely are two of us. In my opinion, this fact alone gives rise to the feeling “I’m out of place”, “I shouldn’t be here”, “I’m cheating – they are more competent”. And no matter how hard I try to chase away such thoughts – they exist.

Why this post?

If you think that only you feel it – then know that I have the same (or at least similar), perhaps, many people in our environment feel similar emotions in the professional environment.

I don’t know if this is normal, but don’t feel lonely.

That’s it.

Don’t hit the tree

This post was inspired by a short Simon’s Sinek talk: How to Stop Holding Yourself Back.

The talk is excellent and to the point. It proves that if you focus on the obstacles – the only thing you’ll see is the obstacles – if you focus on the path – all you’ll see is the path.

I would adapt this thought into the software development world.

I am sometimes asked by managers or developers – why do we need testers anyway (and I precisely mean the role in the organization – not the act of testing) – we do have good developers, they can test their code.

For me – the major difference is in the mindset.

The example used by Simon Sinek in the talk is the skier sliding down the slope among the trees. The success of the skier depends on the fact if he follows the path on the snow or if he tells himself “don’t hit the tree”. In the first example – the only thing that he can see is plenty of snow and the road among the trees – whereas in the second example – he focuses on the threes only.

It may be similar to the project work.

Developers – when they create a piece of code – follow the path. They try hard to make their piece of art working. Sometimes, even if they test their code, they never see the obvious problems in the entire system.

On the other hand, software testers are those creatures, who focus on the obstacles. It is not even repeating “don’t hit the tree” – it’s the intentional crash every day. And I don’t only think of breaking the illusions about the code – but also asking general questions, looking for answers or tools, and improving the entire development process.

Of course, it’s possible to make the exchange sometimes and switch testing / developing roles, but I don’t believe it’s possible to do both at the same time or to achieve excellence and reliability in both.

That’s why we need developers AND testers. That’s why critical thinking is necessary for this job.

Can I say: “I like hitting the trees”? Sure I can! Do you?