Guides to Imposter Syndrome, Coding without a Degree, and Advocating for Developers

Our upcoming monthly Ask Engineers Anything event in February will feature a special guest speaker, Debbie O’Brien, who is highly esteemed in the engineering community and recognised as a renowned GitHub Star. In her presentation, Ms. O’Brien will share her valuable experience as a successful woman in the tech industry and the significant contributions she has made to this sector.

Deborah O’Brien has been a front-end developer for more than a decade and has extensive experience in the field. She has held notable positions such as Technical Lead and Consultant, and has been recognised as a Web Developer Expert by Google, Media Developer Expert by Cloudinary, and Most Valuable Professional in Developer Technologies by Microsoft, which you can read more about here. Recently, Ms. O’Brien left her previous position as Head of Learning and Developer Advocate at Nuxt.JS and has moved on to a new role within another organisation.

Attendees of the event will benefit from Debbie’s valuable insights on overcoming impostor syndrome, establishing a successful software career without a college degree, and getting noticed by renowned tech companies such as Google and Microsoft, allowing for a deeper comprehension of these important topics.

Stay informed about all our future events by visiting our Events page, where you can find details about our upcoming Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions, technical workshops and webinars. Don’t miss out on these great opportunities!

What steps does Nuxt.js take to support its development community?

Debbie O’Brien: The aim of our initiative is to create awareness and understanding of Nuxt.js, a free and open source web application framework inspired by Next.js. Previously, our advocacy efforts relied mostly on attending conferences, but due to the pandemic, we have switched to remote platforms to reach a broader range of countries. To expand our outreach further, I have also created a channel on YouTube. We have found that online events such as webinars and virtual sessions are more effective than in-person gatherings like conferences and meetings.

It’s unusual that you were able to become a software engineer without attending university. Could you share how you achieved this, if possible?

Debbie: I took a nine-month break from work to recharge. During this time, I realised the importance of understanding all the requirements listed in a job description to be successful in a role.

I found great value in enrolling in the online technology degree program offered by OpenClassrooms, a platform based in France, which includes weekly one-on-one tutoring sessions. Furthermore, I have completed a full-stack tech degree from Treehouse and have recently started mentoring for both these initiatives.

For young engineers who are beginning their careers and want to distinguish themselves, what advice would you offer?

Debbie: In today’s world, it’s easier and more affordable than ever for young engineers to establish an online presence. This can be achieved through methods such as creating a personal website, starting a YouTube channel, or writing blog articles. Building an online presence helps individuals showcase themselves to the world and provide evidence of their existence.

Individuals can establish a positive reputation in the professional world through various means, one of which is participating in Open Source projects. It’s crucial to keep your online presence current and highlight your positive qualities. Prospective employers may review your social media profiles on platforms such as Github, Twitter and LinkedIn, alongside your resume, so make sure to showcase your achievements and demonstrate how you can contribute to the professional world as an asset.

The question is: “What are some ways to enhance one’s time estimation skills?”

Debbie: By persistently repeating the same actions, gradual improvement can be observed in your results. However, my schedule often changes which makes it challenging to give an accurate time estimate for a task. To address this obstacle, my team and I collaborated to delegate feature responsibilities to individual members. Breaking down a task into smaller, achievable portions is a critical step in accurately forecasting its duration. As your confidence grows, you will become more at ease with revealing the actual time required for a particular job.

What steps can an individual contributor take to prepare for a leadership position within a technical team?

Debbie: It can be difficult for IT leaders to advise businesses on the most appropriate technology solutions for their requirements. To be ready for this responsibility, one must have a thorough understanding not only of programming, but also of various frameworks and platforms available, as well as when and why they should be used.

In addition, it’s important to be able to provide guidance to others in a supportive manner that motivates them. When people lack experience and are unsure, clear direction and a reliable support system can make all the difference.

What was their response when asked about the most challenging engineering project they have undertaken?

Debbie: We were given the daunting task of creating a unique infrastructure to serve our extensive customer base. Our customer was grappling with a major problem and lacked the resources to retrain their developers. As a result, we had to develop something that was simple to understand and utilize right away. Though it was a formidable challenge, the experience gained was invaluable.

What motivated you to pursue an ambassador role for Microsoft, GitHub, or Google?

Debbie: I often grapple with impostor syndrome, which has worsened as a result of the setbacks I’ve encountered. Consequently, I question whether or not I have what it takes to succeed in software development. Despite my tendency to become disheartened, I am still striving to achieve the intimidating goal of becoming a Microsoft MVP by year end.

To achieve my goals, it seems that creating a blog and actively participating in the online community is the most effective approach (tutorial on using spaCy to create your own SEN model). However, I must ask myself: what am I truly accomplishing by taking this step? The reality is that progress and development cannot occur without a certain degree of discomfort, which in this case implies stepping out of my comfort zone. Despite feeling frightened, I am resolute in my determination to push forward and pursue my ambitions.

Once you have convinced yourself that you are deserving of love and acceptance, you can hold her heart in your hands.

Switching careers can be a daunting undertaking, but receiving recognition from a prestigious organization like Google can be tremendously empowering. It can be reassuring to think, “If Google acknowledges that I possess the necessary skills and knowledge to thrive, then maybe I do too.” Such external validation can significantly increase self-confidence and make a career transition feel more comfortable and secure.

If an engineer is keen to get involved with Nuxt.js, what are the first steps?

Debbie: Making a positive impact on society by providing support to causes we care about is essential. Personally, I have a strong interest in documentation and believe I could make a significant contribution in this field. However, you may have a distinct cause that you feel passionately about and would like to assist in, in which case, your contribution could also be immensely valuable.

An often-asked question in the IT industry during interviews is, “Who has had the most significant impact on your career in tech?”

Debbie: Sarah Dranser is a remarkable professional and a source of inspiration in the industry. She is an integral member of the Vue Core team and a Netlify employee, and her skills and expertise are unparalleled. In addition to her technical proficiency, what truly sets her apart is her communication abilities and aptitude for sharing her work with the world. When I evaluate her work, I am filled with respect and motivated to strive for the same level of excellence. Sarah represents the kind of role model I aspire to emulate.

Any final thoughts?

Debbie: Your abilities as a coder should never constrain you. Everyone learns at their own rate, and there is nothing abnormal about that. As someone who has a slower learning pace, I recognize the significance of taking your time and savoring the journey, rather than feeling obligated to keep up with others. Whenever you feel overburdened or unfulfilled, take a break and pursue something that brings you pleasure. Regardless of your situation, if you believe in yourself and your abilities, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. The possibilities are endless!

If you are an exceptional software engineer, you should contemplate joining some of the most cutting-edge and inventive companies across the globe. Seize this opportunity by taking the next move and applying to Work today.

Read More: 5 Women Who Are Inspiring the Next Generation of Software Developers

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