“How do you know your coding skills are ready for a professional setting?”

Someone asked me. I don’t have a good answer.

When I started learning how to code, my friends didn’t understand what I was working on.

Part of my motto is keep learning. My friend put it in my Tinder bio for me and it got read out on stage at a comedy show. The host said learning with a slur. Then laughed. I laughed too. It was funny. The crowd laughed along. Funny but true.

I drove Uber to pay for my studies and told people I was studying artificial intelligence.

“Is that aliens?” someone asked.

I said it wasn’t, told them it was really turning large amounts of information into numbers and then getting computers to find patterns.

“You must be really smart.”

“Not really, I’m just very curious.”

When Cam invited me to meet and talk about what I was working on, I was nervous. Cam worked for a technology company in my city. I got there first. Sat there wondering what I was going to say. What if he quizzed me on my code? I didn’t know it all off by heart. Still don’t.

Cam sat down, we talked, he told me what he was interested in, I told him what I’d been learning. The more I talked the more excited I got. I could feel it.

Three days later I was sitting next to Athon, the lead machine learning engineer. He asked me to do some data analysis. I Google’d what it was. Followed the guides. Found out how to do it and showed him at the end of the day. He was impressed.

A year into to being a machine learning engineer, I went to an event. Spoke on stage about exploratory data analysis. I’d done it a few times by then. Still nervous. Nervous but excited. They’re the same chemical in the brain. That’s my trick. When I’m nervous I flip it. I tell myself I’m excited.

The whole time, even after being there for a year. It was there. Imposter syndrome. I’d taught myself online. Created my own curriculum. I missed some things the people who studied computer science had but I more than made up for it with my ambition.

I was vain and vulnerable at the same time. Vain in thinking I could take on any problem. But vulnerable enough to admit where my weak points were.

Imposter syndrome can hold you back. It held me back before I realised.

Before I realised it’s valuable. It’s valuable because you know you could always be better.

Flip it.

Instead of believing you’re not supposed to be there because you’re not good enough, believe you’re supposed to be there because you've got the ability to improve.

That’s when you’re ready.