Pretty much about to give up

Warning: incoming torrent of thoughts and generally being annoyed at my situation.

I’ve been doing this for years and feel like I’m getting nowhere. I can throw together something pretty decent and still not really remember what I did. I’m beginning to feel I wasn’t “made” for this.

On the one hand, I’m seriously good at analyzing and systemizing, but on the other… I could swear I just wouldn’t “cut it”. I have a crappy min-wage job and it’s been a few years since I graduated. I planned this long ago, I had visions I’d be a front end developer, and now I’m at a crossroads, wondering how I can transfer these skills to a different career or whether I should stick to it.

Here are some of my major concerns (I’m freaking out):

-> My degree is in IT. I know this is okay as long as you know your stuff, but 1) this means you have to try harder than a CompSci major (and I either don’t try that hard or I do but it’s ineffective), and 2) I seem to not really know my stuff. I sound like I know what I’m talking about when I speak in technical terms, but when it comes time to walk the walk… that’s when it hits the fan. Why? Read the next point.

-> I “intuit” through a lot of my projects. They’re all pretty much a blend of copy-paste, refactoring, looking up methods, abstracting from tutorials, and my own/new code. This means if I were given a blank file, I could probably put together a responsive HTML/CSS/JS site, but I can’t for the life of me remember even some small things off the top of my head because by now they’re “boilerplate” to me and I don’t do things from scratch any longer.

I can’t, for example, remember what the Foundation grid classes are called, although I’ve used it many times in the past, just not regularly enough to recall it without looking it up. Same goes for CSS3 animations. Is this normal? Do I need to be more ‘present’? What if that’s just not how my brain works? Like… I can’t compartmentalize much and make logic leaps (I try stuff out because I somehow “know” it works), which solves the coding problems but I feel like that’s not what employers want. I’ve just realized that all this time I had been doing it out of enjoyment, and while I’ll have coded an awesome looking project, my productivity is abysmal. Which leads to my next point.

-> I either go too slow (this is when I try to understand, in depth, everything I’m coding, which is not productive and leads to hyper focusing/memorization) or too fast (this is when I “intuit” through things without paying too much attention to how I solved a certain problem unless it’s something I’m REALLY stuck on, even then I’ll ‘lose’ it after a few weeks and only remember the abstraction).

-> It scares me when I read about technical interviews, I get really afraid being put on the spot. I’m no software developer or any type of “engineer” where I know design patterns and architecture details. It seems they want someone perfect: someone who can remember all syntax (I don’t), someone who has awesome workflow (I don’t), someone who reacts well to being judged on their code and thinking process while put on the spot (I really, truly don’t), someone who can do algorithms without breaking a sweat (I don’t), etc…

-> What exactly am I supposed to know as a junior front end dev? Different people tell me different things ranging from “not that much” to “you should be able to code a clone of Facebook without looking anything up”. I don’t know where to go from here. Should I have a PhD in the DOM, or a Master’s in syntax, do I need to have photographic memory of all JavaScript array and string methods so I can recall them on the spot? Know all design patterns? Know regex by heart? Know DFS and BFS algorithms? Be an expert at React and Angular and be able to cook something up given a blank directory? Half of the time I don’t even remember the exact npm command I have to type out because those things are so routine, I just copy and paste them from a text file I created instead of memorizing them, which creates more space in my brain for other things. There’s just TOO much out there. I know I’m being humorous but I’m also quite serious.

-> At this point, I’m considering I could just start at some small agency and work my way up from there?? I can’t even intern at this point, I’m too “old” and no longer a student. It’s either that or I change careers altogether. But my resume is dripping with technical skills, how is this transferable? Even designers need to have like 2 art degrees nowadays.

Anyone want to help put me at ease? Am I right that I’m not cut out for this? I’d love to be able to Skype someone and have them quiz me and tell me what’s up with my brain because I’m about to call it quits.

Breathe… calm down.

I think you’re having an Impostor Syndrome panic attack. I think most of us go through this once or several times in our lives. Especially when trying to do a career change/switch careers.

Know what? 20+ years ago the script was like this:

I can’t be a web designer! I don’t have an art degree in design! I’m not a graphics artist, don’t know squat about design and colors and fonts. I’m just a regular programmer! I’m a fake trying to be a web designer!

Now, it’s like:

I can’t be a web developer! I don’t have a degree in Computer Science! I don’t know shit-and-stuff, so how can I be a web developer? I’m just a (fill-in-the-blank), a fake trying to be a web developer!"

Same story, same shit, same doubts…

Well, know what… Personally, I don’t have an arts and design degree, and I don’t have a CS degree… and maybe I was naive 18 years ago to quit my day job and work for myself to become a web designer (aka nowadays known as graphics + full stack). And yet here I am, today still doing this… without any damn CS/Art/web degrees or Certificates or what not…

I’ve gone through the same thoughts/doubts you’ve gone through. But I’ve stopped comparing myself to other people. The only person worth comparing to is my yesterday-self, my one-year-ago self. Am I better than that person? Yes? Then I’m on the right track…

If you constantly compare yourself against other people, you’ll always find someone better than you. Then you’ll feel bad and feel like an impostor. GUARANTEED!

-> I “intuit” through a lot of my projects.

Holy crap. That’s how I started! I’d sign up new projects/clients and I’m not 100% sure I even know what to do. I’d be so super stressed out I’ll be throwing up… really, literally. And my wife she’ll be like “calm down… you always somehow figure it out and deliver” – and she’s right. And after delivering the project and client is happy, I’ll be like “Pfft! Easy peasy.” Don’t discount your intuition on how to go through a project. It’s very valuable skill in my personal opinion.

And yes, I still intuit when tackling a new thing for me.

I can’t remember what …(fill in the blank)

Syntax? Details? Exact format of the command? Minor things… just takes a few seconds to google these stuff and look it up on the reference/documentation site. Really… nobody remembers every thing. It’s more important you have the idea and sense on how to solve something, solve the big picture problem – than worry and remember the exact syntax of a command is. You can easily google those. Open up a new browser… clicky-ty clack type on the keyboard, see the exact details… and then go back to your code editor and continue working.

even then I’ll ‘lose’ it after a few weeks and only remember the abstraction).

I think this is just normal human nature.

If it’s not being used often enough, the brain puts the gist of it in “long storage” and frees up the “short term” memory for other stuff. Happens to me, and that’s what Google is for, or reference books on my shelf… or I pull up an old project and review the code and comments I’ve written to “refresh” my brain. Then I’m good to go again.

I don’t think employers expect you know everything on top of your head. I think having google-kung-fu chops in searching is more valuable, knowing how to find things you don’t know.

Example: The .NET has over 35,000 API calls total. That’s not a typo. 35K… The new .NET Core 2.0 has 20K+ more API calls than .NET Standard 1.x. Who can remember all of these? No one. Add to that, HTML, and CSS and JS framework API calls… and it’s just mind boggling. Yes— it’s too much!

-> It scares me when I read about technical interviews,

I think this depend on the company/HR/tech guy doing the interview. I think it’s more important for them to see your thinking process, rather than a memorized ready solution with perfect syntax.

But what do I know… I’ve never been to a developer tech interview (and I have no desire of working for someone else when I’m doing my own thing.)

  • maybe others can chime in on this thing. My experience with tech interview is the interviewer asking me Computer Aided Design questions. And yes, I got the job.

-> At this point, I’m considering I could just start at some small agency and work my way up from there??

I see nothing wrong with small. (heck, I’m a one-man operation.) Being in a small organization, you may even get your hands on a lot more varied and different kinds of work… i.e. you’re not compartmentalized to do one specific thing, day in, day out in a large organization.

Over the years, I even recommended to my client the use of VMWare virtual servers for their in-house network, using switches, DMZ/firewalls, storage networks, etc. One night, when all their websites (actually all their servers) went down and their network admin guy was out of town, I got called and now I’m in their server room behind the equipment racks troubleshooting. Got all their servers up and running (major fault, UPS went out). And that was major kudos points from the client. Of course, it helped that I used to be an IT Network Administrator.

– now what did you say about skills not being transferrable?

My advice: Calm down. Take it easy. Enjoy the journey and learning process. Continue to build projects.


That is so true… step by step.

Do you like what you do? Do what you like and you´ll get better at it!

owel, you might be right. It has to be either that (Impostor Syndrome panic attack) or I don’t actually want to do this. I’m leaning towards the former right now. It seems the main problem is that i feel I have to be a certain way in order to be considered an ‘official’ developer, i.e. comparing. And to be honest, what really doesn’t help is the aggressive/competitive culture that I’ve seen in certain dev communities (not this one).

I think this is just normal human nature.

Thank goodness! lol

I think this depend on the company/HR/tech guy doing the interview. I think it’s more important for them to see your thinking process, rather than a memorized ready solution with perfect syntax.

Okay, see, this is what still scares me though. If I’m to describe my thought process, I’d still be making “leaps” and be non-linear. I feel like at that point the interviewer will just go “umm… what are you doing? I can’t quite follow.”

Do you like what you do? Do what you like and you´ll get better at it!

It depends. There are days when I’m clear headed and I love doing it, really love doing it. Other days, I dread it, because there’s a voice in the back of my head talking down on me repeatedly – I think that ruins practically any task I’m working on, whether it’s coding or otherwise. It doesn’t feel good to believe you’re shit. It actually makes me worse at doing whatever it is I’m doing, since I’m lost in an ocean of worthlessness.

This just hit real deep, real quick.

yeah, the technical interview (and the interview in general) is daunting to me as well. i read a lot of other’s posts describing the process, and it sounds stressful. but i do find owel’s response of HR looking for your thought process to be most important. they’re looking for the ability to problem solve

A lot of what you wrote applied to me back when I was trying to become a web developer, and I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t for me. I actually got as far as doing interviews, and the interviews were basically what kind of “cemented” it in my mind that this is not what I need to be doing. I never had any two interviews that were alike and none were anything like what most people describe technical interviews to be, but most of them went horribly. I’m not saying that to scare you. But I signed up with freecodecamp a few years ago, I think with a different account, and did some of it…it was not my main method of learning. I did a lot of different things, and it was after completing an online bootcamp that I started trying to get a job. I just felt like the bootcamp and the other things I did were not good enough to get me job-ready, even if they claimed they were, and I’d have to work more/harder than it was worth to me, personally, to ever get job-ready for web development jobs. And two of my interviews asked questions that you were just not going to be ready for via self-teaching through online resources like this one or bootcamps.

I was eventually able to get a job managing a store’s online sales channels…so, basically, their main web site, their Amazon, their eBay. Managing their web site has allowed me to use some of the things I’ve learned in trying to become a developer without ever having to do stuff I can’t handle, like starting from scratch on building a highly-functional site 100% on my own (i.e. no copying/pasting and such) or writing totally original code to add new functions to the site. Basically, what I do with code is edit and manipulate existing code, and sometimes add in code to tweak something. It’s pretty much an ideal job for me, i.e. a job where knowing how to code/writing code is not necessarily required or the entire job but is more so something that is “helpful to know” or a “plus.” Many eCommerce Manager, Web Content Manager, Web Content Specialist jobs and the like are that way, and you can eventually make about as much money doing those jobs as you can as a web developer. And they don’t tend to care about you knowing all kinds of stuff off the top of your head and being able to whiteboard it or being able to use technical terms for everything you do–they seem to be more about “get it working however you can” on the job.

More about me, for reference:

I’m the type of person who knows a lot about a lot of things, but I never master anything. I think of myself as a “jack of all trades, master of none” type. I studied a lot of different subjects in school (major, two minors, grad school in a totally different area than those three, then did continuing education in IT, then started studying programming) and am very educated, so my ideal career/job is one where knowing/doing a lot of different things is more valuable than being an expert at anything or having to live and breathe one subject. I’m saying this because the way people describe what you have to do to end up being a good programmer does not fit how I am. I was never going to spend all my spare time coding; I have too many other interests for that. And there have even been times at my current job where I’ve said, “I’m sick of looking at code,” and started doing something else that needed to get done.

My resume is also “dripping with technical skills,” and I’m sure that helped me get my current job. It’s better than your resume being full of stuff that has nothing to do with technology. And my best web developer interview was for a paying internship, and I am and was in my 30s at the time. They would pay you a crappy hourly wage for 3 months while you were interning, and then you’d get a more normal salary afterwards. But it was still better than minimum wage.

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Thanks for sharing dwolverine. It’s definitely something to think about. Maybe I’ve been trying to be something I’m not all this time. I know exactly what you mean by being a jack of all trades, and i can relate to that. Yet, at the same time, I do feel the need to master something. But if it’s something that cannot really be “mastered” (such as software, even people with tons of experience know “little” given how much there is out there), then I might have to reconsider it. And yet still, I love the front end because it requires knowing a lot of different things, and there is design/visuals and content involved. Hmmm… maybe being an eCommerce manager would be right up my alley.

I find it hard to separate the critical voice in my head from my true preferences. But I can totally see how I’ve been pressuring myself to do this for so long, and although I have some things to show for it… maybe what I really liked is the essence of putting it all together to make my vision come true rather than solving things analytically using code (just a means to an end). Maybe the bad feelings I get aren’t impostor syndrome, but they’re literally telling me I’m an “impostor” (i.e. I don’t really want to do this). I’m not sure at this point. I think it will come to me eventually, and I’ll keep an open mind to whatever the case may be.

It also doesn’t help that, when I’m clear headed, I enjoy making stuff happen with code and I feel like I’m quick and good at it. But… being good at something doesn’t mean I like the thing itself… I might just like the fact that I’m competently making things happen but that can apply to just about anything. Ex. I’m good at accounting and I liked being challenged to solve problems and finding those solutions. But I don’t want to be an accountant.