Regardless of what level of success they may have achieved in their chosen field of work or study or what external proof they may have of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced internally they do not deserve the success they have achieved and are actually frauds. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they were more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.
The engineers whose intelligence I admire come from a mix of backgrounds. Some from prestigious schools, some from less so, and still more who never got a degree but you would never know it based on their top notch job performance. Sometimes I see people at my age and career path who seem to possess a better working knowledge of the equipment and I begin to question why I am even here.
Only occasionally am I surprised in the other direction. I wrote just yesterday about my struggles with report and technical writing only to be surprised today putting together a report with some of my fellow students. Granted I have a lot more experience writing reports than they likely do, but oftentimes I am impressed with their previous knowledge and experience (some a military background) as well as their creativity and innovation. However none of this made them good writers and their portions of the report were unclear and not persuasive.
So I spend a lot of time checking out books from my university library (while I still have access) and reading up on what I wish I knew more about, the thing my group does primarily. Still I don't feel this provides me with the instinct and hands on knowledge I respect from my superiors. And yet, though I feel my university gave me a good theoretical background I've seen other students from the same university and at about the same career point able to grasp theoretical workings of the equipment much faster than I can. So I know there are two paths I need improvement on.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm just not good at this. That perhaps my sparkling personality (you didn't see that coming did you) or mere determination is the only reason I'm still here. It would explain a lot of the unfair treatment I get. At other times I wonder whether I am more competent than I realize, though possibly less so than the people I compare myself to. Other times I wonder if I am excelling and just don't realize it. Then I swing back to thinking I am incompetent and a below average Engineer. One small benefit of working on an interdisciplinary team is how it exposes you to what you do know and other engineers don't. And that's one of the nice things about being surrounded by sparkies (that's EEs) on EngineerBlogs. When they talk about something electrical or build something amazing it doesn't bother me as much because I'm not an EE and I don't feel as bad by comparison. It's more a fun experience of learning a little about something I didn't already know. If only I could apply the same attitude to my own discipline.