To Aspiring Programmers: Feel The Coding Anxiety but Don't Let It Take Over You
I sat down with one of my friends recently and for the first time, we talked about the good and the bad of becoming a software developer. To someone who has been in the industry for roughly 3 years, she certainly has those occasions where she felt absolutely over the moon about her job and countless moments where coding gave her nothing but stress, disappointment, and anxiety.
A lot of people cannot seem to understand why programming is a stressful occupation. Because, well… what is so stressful about sitting in front of the computer screens and using your hands to write some good quality codes? There are no life-or-death situations that jeopardizes your life or your safety net like medicine, construction, banking, or mechanical engineering. So technically speaking, becoming a developer should not make your adrenaline spike up all the time.
But really, coding anxiety is real. The term does not only hold true for those who are already working 9-9 in the industry, but also people who wish to become professional programmers one day.
Why does coding anxiety exist?
There are a few reasons why programming learners are stressed out. Here are some of the main root causes that I learnt through talking to them:
1. Age Barrier
Lots of people who are mid-career workers want to learn coding on purpose of broadening their future prospects. Their most common concern is whether it is too late for them to start everything from scratch. From my perspective, age limit shouldn’t be a big obstacle in coding as long as you have a can-do attitude, eagerness to learn, and enough patience. But I do understand why people don’t come to the same thinking. Browsing the Internet right now, you will easily come across news articles about clever kids who successfully build tech models that work at the age of 14. That definitely intimidates +26 year old aspiring programmers to start their coding journey. “Why would big companies hire me, who are a 30-year-old coding newbie, instead of some smart young minds out there?” They are forced to underestimate their chance of success, doubt their own capability, and limit their paycheck options.
2. Real Programmer Stereotype
Programmers are often portrayed as no-lifers, which means they devote their life to work and care little to none about taking a rest or having fun. Sitting in front of the computer screens, typing lines of unintelligent, unfathomable text, and constantly consuming coffee or energy drinks for 16 hours straight has been the social perception of software engineering. Lots of coding newbies are left wondering whether it is the right career for them because of that stereotype.“I cannot sit still and code for more than 8 hours so seeing developers staying up all night, trying to make sense of everything really stresses me out.”
3. Imposter Syndrome
Software development is a fast-paced, fluid, and constantly evolving industry. That means developers will continuously face what they don’t know and have to master new technologies as quickly as possible. It is the nature of the job that puts them in a common situation where they feel extremely inadequate and that they don’t deserve the rewards. For self-taught coders with no conventional IT degrees, it is even worse. Majority of them don’t see their ability to secure a high-paying job as an achievement but rather, an intelligent fraudulence. “For the first few days at work, I couldn’t understand why the company decided to hire someone with significant deficiencies like me.” - said my friend who is currently working at Google. “Being surrounded by people who knew so much about technology made me feel kinda fake, honestly.” They live under self-doubt and the pressure that others will discover they are just pretenders one day.
Entry-level coders find it frightening to see their code console full of red underline, or notice that the design is flawed but do not know how to fix it. After all, it takes a developer lots of effort to build up a system from scratch, especially within a short time frame. By the time it is done, their energy must be all drained out. Yet, construction is the easiest job. To be able to identify the errors, work out the solutions, and go through various tests to make sure the model performs smoothly is a long, mental pain-endured and sleepless journey that nobody wishes to experience. After all, “why would anyone do that to themselves” right?
The struggles are real and if you’re experiencing those feelings (or thinking about the worst possible scenarios in your head right now), luckily we have solutions for you. Read To Aspiring Programmers: There's a Secret to Escape Your Coding Anxiety Trap for more tips on how to handle coding anxiety and boost your learning motivation.