Imposter syndrome\u2014doubting your abilities to the point that you feel like a fraud\u2014is an evergreen topic of conversation among software developers. For many devs, the explosion of GenAI and AI-powered coding tools makes feeling like an imposter more inevitable than ever. Plenty of people who code for a living are scrambling to add AI prompt engineering and other related skills to their repertoires and worrying about their essential job functions being taken over by AI.\n\nIn this moment, how can tech leaders empower their developers? By building a culture that recognizes and rewards\u00a0continual learning\u00a0and treats GenAI as a powerful addition to the developer toolbox: a way to automate toil and expedite the acquisition of new skills, allowing developers to work more capably and creatively.\n\nWhy so many developers feel like frauds at work\n\nNo industry is immune to imposter syndrome, but certain aspects of how software developers work can leave them particularly vulnerable to feelings of imposterism.\n\nThere\u2019s always something to learn\n\nTechnology and best practices are constantly evolving, which means that software developers have to remain open to acquiring new skills or polishing existing ones, rather than believing they have nothing left to learn. There\u2019s alwayssomething new to learn\u2014which means there\u2019s always something you don\u2019t know how to do.\n\nIt can be hard to learn incrementally\n\nPeople tend to gain more confidence in their abilities when they can acquire new skill sets incrementally, according to Dr. Cat Hicks, Director of Pluralsight Flow\u2019s Developer Success Lab. However, software engineering doesn\u2019t always seem to reward or even allow incremental learning. \u201cIt\u2019s just \u2018learn Python,\u2019 or \u2018learn React,\u2019\u201d Hicks says.\n\nThe industry can be a pressure cooker\n\nMany devs also feel intense pressure to re\/upskill with whatever time is left over from their day jobs. They spend their time away from work learning new languages, contributing to open-source projects, and compiling a portfolio\u2014working, in other words. For plenty of developers, it feels like the choice is between sacrificing necessary recharge time and non-work obligations or faltering in their careers. \n\nEspecially with tech influencers sharing their side hustles or hobby projects on social media, some devs start to feel like everybody is working on something more complex, creative, or innovative than they are. And with so many developers working remotely, it can be hard for developers to form a realistic picture of how their peers are working or how they\u2019re really spending their time.\n\nLearning is part of the job\n\nThe runaway pressure on devs to learn new skills, languages, and frameworks can trap them in what Hicks describes as a stress cycle, \u201ca form of physiological conditioning where you associate learning with high-stress environments.\u201d When learning seems stressful, high-cost, and low-reward, people avoid situations where they\u2019re challenged to develop new skills: a vicious cycle that amplifies feelings of imposterism.\n\nStack Overflow\u2019s annual Developer Survey has shown that access to learning opportunities at work is very important to devs. But while many organizations pay lip service to developers\u2019 desire to learn at work, they too often disincentivize learning by focusing only on devs\u2019 quantifiable output: codes, commits, and PRs.\n\nIn a qualitative research project involving more than two dozen software developers and engineers, Hicks found that \u201ccode review often did not recognize code writers\u2019 effort when it did not result in lines of code.\u201d In spite of \u201cstated ideals about knowledge sharing,\u201d Hicks writes, \u201cthis work was often contradicted with negative cues from colleagues about what was \u2018truly\u2019 valued.\u201d As a result, code writers felt lonely and adrift, a state one developer described as \u201clike coding in the dark.\u201d \n\nThe genAI era\n\nThe rise of AI coding tools has the potential to exacerbate this disparity. Instead of creating the time and producing the resources required for their developers to learn at work, some employers are going to try bridging skill gaps with AI coding tools, which in a sense offer nothing but quantifiable output. GenAI doesn\u2019t suffer from imposter syndrome, though perhaps it should. It\u2019s been clearly demonstrated that large language models (LLMs) trained on incomplete, inaccurate, or out-of-date information are likely to produce erroneous and misleading results. Knowledge managementis as important for AI as it is for humans.\n\nRather than seeing the implementation of AI tools as a replacement for human learning, tech leaders who want to empower their developers should think of AI as a powerful tool for accelerating learning and upskilling while automating toil.\n\nTo learn more, visit us here.