As developers, we have to maintain incredibly complex mental models about how codebases work, and those models change continuously as new code is written, merged, and deployed to production. Over time it becomes harder and harder to recall what you worked on. When you think back on what you’ve built over the last few months, it may be difficult to remember everything you worked on. Days, weeks, and months go by, and you may not feel like you’ve accomplished a whole lot, which sometimes leads to impostor feelings. In reality, you complete a lot more work than you probably realize. The hard part is remembering everything you’ve done.
A simple but effective way to curb those impostor feelings is to keep a log of what you’ve worked on each week. Keeping track of what you’ve accomplished has a number of benefits:
If you’re ever feeling like an impostor, it helps to look back at all the features you’ve built, bugs you fixed, and your major accomplishments throughout your career.
When it comes time for your quarterly or annual review, you’ll already have a list of accomplishments you can refer to when asking for a promotion or a raise.
If you find yourself looking for new employment opportunities, you can refer to this list when updating your resume.
All it takes is a few minutes every week to write down what you worked on, and you’ll benefit down the road when it’s needed.
It’s never too late to start logging your accomplishments, and if you can’t remember what you worked on, you can always go back to your project management system and filter for the closed tickets that were assigned to you. There may be other things you’ve done that weren’t logged in your ticketing system, but it’s at least a good place to look if you’re just getting started.
exampleSo what things should you track?
Any goals or OKRs (objectives and key results) you reached and how you reached them, along with facts, quantifiable analytics, or financial data points to back it up. Basically, anything you improved that has a number, percentage, or dollar amount attached to it.
“I helped increase conversion rate by 1.2% last quarter by fixing multiple UX issues on our checkout flow.”
“I was able to reduce customer service calls by 19% by building out a self-service knowledge site for our customers.”
Difficult situations or challenges with coworkers, customers, or third parties that you navigated successfully. Take note of the path you took towards a resolution.
“I identified and fixed a critical bug that caused downtime for one of our largest customers.”
“I helped our team reach an agreement on a new database schema by identifying areas where one design scaled better than the other.”
Tasks or projects that you completed on time or ahead of schedule.
“I completed the rollout of our new automated invoicing system two weeks ahead of schedule.”
Take note of times when you exceeded expectations.
“During my free time, I cleaned up our internal documentation on our team wiki, removing outdated pages, adding missing sections, and including diagrams to visualize how our systems fit together.”
When you take the time to write down your accomplishments, you’ll be able to reference them any time. It’s a good habit at the end of every week, month, or team sprint. It only takes a few minutes each time, and it helps you focus on your wins rather than your gaps in skills or knowledge. And remember, anytime you’re feeling like an impostor, you can always come back to read through everything you’ve accomplished.
Hopefully, you now understand that feeling like a phony or a fraud is common among all software developers, and that you shouldn’t get too hard on yourself when you’re going through a period of feeling like an impostor. The most important part is to try to identify why you’re experiencing those feelings and accept that nobody is perfect. Once you understand the root cause of why you’re feeling a certain way, you can begin to take action to improve yourself and your skill.
With a little persistence and determination to get better, you’ll be able to build the confidence to take on any situation, no matter how daunting.