Imposter Syndrome: How to overcome it during Code Reviews

Kendra Curtis
4 min readOct 1, 2020

The articles in this series about being an effective code reviewer have be leading to this final article on imposter syndrome. Sending your code for review or reviewing the code of a colleague can be intimidating and stress inducing. Often you feel as though, I am not qualified to do this?! In particular, when team members haven’t been working together for a long time and a senior developer asks you to review their code…. Who am I to give them advice? I’m not good enough to do this Code Review.

Stop right there, you are good enough!! In fact you may be the perfect person to do this review, specifically because you have different experience than the author of the code. The feeling you are having is imposter syndrome. Everyone experiences it and it is normal. Twenty years into my career, I still experience this.

What is imposter syndrome?

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.- wikipedia

It is important to recognize imposter syndrome and ensure you have a culture and leadership that provides the tools to overcome it. Psychological safety has been shown to be a #1 key factor to a successful team. When team members feel safe to take risks and are not scared of embarrassment during collaboration and exchange, ideas can quickly flourish.

Therefore, it is critical to build a culture where people feel safe to ask questions, share what they do not know, and share ideas when they disagree.

Some common problems:

  • I do not understand the code and I am afraid to ask for clarification
  • I am less senior and do not want to disagree with more senior people

Here are some tips to overcome imposter syndrome and contribute to the team:

  1. Imposter syndrome never goes away!! Developers with years of experience still experience it. There is always more to learn
  2. Everyone has something to add to a code review regardless of their experience. A fresh second set of eyes always has…
Kendra Curtis

Ex-Googler with 20+ years of Software Engineering Experience.