From education to employment

Upskilling can overcome imposter syndrome as new technologies emerge in the workplace

Kelly Hills

In this article, Kelly Hills discusses how Generative AI is sending waves through the technology community. Kelly explains how upskilling can help workers bridge skills gaps and combat imposter syndrome.

Generative AI is sending shockwaves through the technology industry – both good and bad. While it has the potential to boost efficiency and take over repetitive administrative tasks, it’s also putting tech workers under pressure to react quickly and build new skills.

The pressure heightened by Generative AI is already making some job roles redundant, as tools like ChatGPT produce work ‘indistinguishable’ from human output, and bringing automation to writing, debugging and formatting code.

All of this will likely compound imposter syndrome if employees aren’t able to keep up and develop the skills needed to work alongside the tech as businesses embrace it.

In fact, we are already seeing employees realise the need to upskill to work with the new technology – Pluralsight’s ChatGPT and Generative AI course has jumped into the top 2% of courses learnt on the entire platform since its release in December 2022.

This feeling of needing to quickly embrace new technology or risk your role becoming redundant isn’t new. The pace of change happens very quickly, and many have felt like they were being left behind before the dawn of AI, whether that was learning a new programming language or working on a cloud migration for the first time. Especially as a software engineer, there is huge demand to react to new tech evolutions to level-up, increase efficiency and innovative capability.

Honestly, when I started my career as a junior software engineer, I was seriously struggling with imposter syndrome. I always worried that my skills weren’t up to scratch. Although imposter syndrome does still sometimes creep up on me, learning how to gain confidence through upskilling has helped keep those feelings of inadequacy in check.

Below are my five key pieces of advice for those who may be feeling similar pressure to work with Generative AI, and how leaning into a continuous learning journey can be empowering.

Accept that you can’t be an expert in everything, all at once

No matter your role, there will always be a lot to learn. Being a good software engineer is about staying on the learning curve. This is what makes the industry so exciting, but equally can be so daunting.

For example, there are currently five main cloud computing environments in use, and these are still evolving. Understanding the intricacies of each would require countless hours of learning which is simply not feasible – trying to achieve this will lead to frustration and diminished motivation.

Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the enormity, understand that there will always be new concepts, that you can keep expanding your abilities but that it won’t happen instantly. Take breaks to maintain focus and motivation while learning new technical concepts.

View skill development as a continuous learning journey

The tech skills you learnt just six months ago may be outdated now – clearly evidenced by how quickly Generative AI has come to the fore, and the speed at which it is evolving. Viewing skill development as a continuous process that can be integrated into your daily routine rather than being done once and ‘completed’, is the best way to build momentum and prevent burnout.

As well as embracing continuous learning, finding ways to put your skills into daily practice such as through the use of hands-on labs and sandboxes is also important. In fact, nearly two thirds of technologists say that these methods are the most effective at preparing them to apply new learning on the job.

Adopt a growth mindset and see learning as an opportunity

The majority of my peers, including myself, love learning and solving problems; that is what we do day in day out as software developers. Upskilling plays into that curiosity. Online learning platforms offer bite-sized courses to further your skills, and it can be incredibly rewarding to understand concepts that previously felt mysterious.

Adopting a growth mindset can be hugely empowering – see each day as an opportunity to learn something new. And in deepening your understanding of technical concepts, confidence and self-efficacy will improve.

Take small steps – don’t get overwhelmed

You can never be an expert in every single aspect of tech, and there are so many paths to upskilling which can make it overwhelming. Choose one course – whether that be one aspect of Generative AI or C# programming language – and take it one step at a time. You can always learn more or pivot your focus, but the most important thing is to start.

Celebrate success and how far you have come

Every year there will be new iterations of technology that may make workers question their expertise and feel imposter syndrome. But, celebrating success, acknowledging what you have already learnt and how far you have come since entering the industry will help remind you that you are worthy of a place in tech. 

Final words

It’s normal to feel as if you are constantly running to keep up – especially in the technology industry. The fact that there is so much to learn and there are so many areas of tech to work in can make the journey overwhelming and confusing. Finding a way that means you’re actively learning and growing each day will slowly build confidence and success. Pace yourself by integrating learning into your routine in a way that’s sustainable.

The tech community is full of people who are passionate about what they do, striving to achieve the best results which can compound pressure. Equally, the culture of the tech community is such that people are eager to help each other out, so learn on others’ expertise and support one another to move past the fear and grow.

By Kelly Hills, Pluralsight Author

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