What is Success Syndrome? (And How To Leverage It For Your Personal Brand)

First, what does Success Syndrome look like for a software developer? It’s when you become successful at something and then subsequently become overwhelmed. This can happen if you get a promotion, become the “go-to” person for something, or take on new opportunities due to your new recognition.

You started out just wanting to be helpful or useful, and now you’re overwhelmed and can’t keep up.

sad business guy standing near a window
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

If left unchecked, Success Syndrome can actually lead to burnout and potentially depression. This can be especially bad if you pin all your hopes on productivity or accomplishments fulfilling you.

Let me just say, though, that “Success Syndrome” is an indicator you’re doing something right. It means you’ve built trust, relationships, knowledge, and the start of a personal brand within your workplace or community. I’m not saying that that Success Syndrome is all good, but I am saying that the burnout is what the real issue is here. And burnout comes particularly fast when you have to field questions from peers from the former position, as well as from the new position during promotions while also trying to complete your regular developer work.

One useful observation is that many of these questions tend to be the same. 

“Hey Ryan, how do you set up X.”

“Hey Ryan, you’re good with JavaScript, what framework should I use for this project we have coming up.”

“I got this error, what do I need to install again?”

 Requests from peers or others can usually be boiled down to a StackOverflow-style question and answer pair, which is (and here’s the secret) a content gold mine.

If you’re experiencing burnout due to a large number of questions from peers that you get over and over from different people, and particularly if they aren’t NDA-based (which project-specific questions probably are, so check with your manager first) then what you need is to write those questions down!

Often times if you’re answering questions like this and they aren’t in blog-form, posted on your personal site, then you should start one and get to writing!

If you’re experiencing Success Syndrome, it’s likely that you feel good helping others and answering questions, but if they become repetitive and you’re asked something a few times, write an article and point people to it! It’ll save you time and also allow others on the internet to find it.

Multiple people asking the same thing also validates there is an audience for the question.

Questions from peers at work that might have project-specific answers, particularly ones over email, are ideal candidates to write up in a wiki or a file right inside your repository. Then, once you have things there, send a link to it in email to them. Other team members will be glad you did.