The Imposter Syndrome

While at the undergraduate college, I was introduced to Linux in a workshop meant to demonstrate its installation. This was in 2008 or 2009. It was our college’s network administrator who was conducting the workshop. I respected the administrator for his technical knowledge. But at the end of the workshop, he couldn’t successfully install it. That got me intrigued because I knew this guy was good, and yet the installation didn’t complete successfully.

Unaware that I was making a decision, I decided to try and install Fedora on my laptop. I did manage to successfully setup a dual boot on my laptop with Windows Vista (don’t judge me, it came pre-installed on the laptop) on one partition and Fedora on the other. I learned the fact that Fedora had the backing of some company called Red Hat and it became my dream company to work with, because of this OS they created (I didn’t know then that Fedora was just another Linux distribution), the kind of mission critical places where Linux was used, and most importantly I always wanted to be different from others who dreamed of working with Google, Microsoft, etc. some day.

After completing a year at the first job, I decided to take a break to do RHCSA and RHCE certifications and pivot into system administration. After the certification, I joined a company in Pune as a Linux Administrator. However, the company was unable to pay salaries to its employees. What followed was a super stressful period of job hunting with a limited job experience as mine and the stubbornness of working only on Linux.

I had agreed to join a company in my hometown, Ahmedabad, in spite of less pay and bad working conditions. I agreed to join the company in a month’s time, and kept looking for a job in Pune so that I would not have to shift to Ahmedabad.

Before the train from Ahmedabad to Pune started, I got a call from someone saying they were calling for the an opening at Red Hat’s Pune office, and asked me if I was interested in trying. I thought that she was joking, but I said yes, and she mailed me the job description. Over next 15 days, I gave various rounds of interviews at Red Hat, and even visited its Pune office for the last few rounds. To my delight (read disbelief), Red Hat offered me the role of Associate Technical Support Enginer.

I was in complete disbelief about what had just happened. I was going to continue living in Pune, work at what I believed was Mecca of Linux, and live my dream life, all at the same time. I went back to my hometown for a couple of weeks before joining Red Hat.

Once at Red Hat, I quickly realized that the folks I was going to work with were really good. Before joining Red Hat, I hadn’t met anyone who knew Linux better than me. At Red Hat, everyone knew Linux a lot better than me. The 23-year old me was blown away. The nature of work was such that I learned new things everyday. Few months down the line I decided to work more on supporting Red Hat’s virtualization product. I remember staying away from the tickets/cases related to Networking and Kernel because I felt scared of them and didn’t understand them really well. Many kernel cases were about analyzing the kdump (which I never managed to even learn), while networking cases were about packets, interfaces, etc.

Seeing my amazing colleagues work on complex technical support tickets made me feel nervous because I wasn’t able to navigate the tickets without their help. Besides that, while doing the certifications, I used to solve issues faced by my friends, but at Red Hat, I was continuously seeking help. I didn’t know it then, but eventually I started feeling like an imposter. I started feeling that I landed the job at Red Hat by fluke, not because I deserved it. I moved from Support to Engineering within Red Hat, left Red Hat and rejoined it 11 months later. All the while, I have been working with some extremely talented people, and I keep telling myself that I am an imposter who is not as good as my colleagues.

In spite of this negative self talk, I kept surprising myself with the things I did - I architected a project, spoke at three conferences, created some of the most helpful content by a developer for the technical support teams, delivered high impact features. It’s time I stop this negative self talk and stop feeling like an imposter so that I can work and live with full potential that I know I am capable of.