When I got the call about my first tech internship offer, I thought it was a mistake. Did they really want me? It wasn’t possible. I wasn’t smart enough for this position. I wasn’t qualified for this position. I found myself telling people while laughing nervously “I have no idea why they hired me, I am not qualified for this at all.” It wasn’t until months later, that I realized I was suffering from impostor syndrome.
Impostor syndrome is the notion that you are not good enough for a promotion or job.
Impostor syndrome is the notion that you are not good enough for a certain promotion or job. It is the idea that you do not belong. Impostor syndrome can be felt by anyone in any situation but it is especially prevalent in the tech industry for women and minorities.
Many people say that women need to just “get over it” or “overcome” impostor syndrome. Unfortunately, it is not that easy. In most major tech companies, women hold on average 15.6% of technical jobs. It is no wonder that women feel like they don’t belong. The numbers themselves, influenced by a variety of different factors, are huge deterrents.
Luckily, many companies are aware of this disparity and are actively recruiting women for technical positions. Many large companies, including Intel, Microsoft and Pinterest are applying initiatives to increase diversity in their companies. However, this change is not something that can come about without women themselves feeling like they are not imposers.
There are a many ways to fight impostor syndrome, a few of which I have found very helpful in my personal experience:
•Talk to people about this feeling, especially other women who are in similar situations. Having someone to discuss your experiences with will give you a better sense of community.
•Stop that negative talk! By telling yourself or others that you are not qualified is just going to make you believe it even more.
•Realize that companies don’t hire people that they don’t think are qualified for their positions. The market is competitive and companies are going to hire who they believe is the best candidate. That is you.
•Find a mentor in your field.
•Be an advocate. By sharing your experience of impostor syndrome, you are opening doors for other women to feel like their own feelings are valid.
•Don’t be embarrassed if you make mistakes. Making mistakes is not a gendered thing, every human does it.
Looking back, I wish I had not told people I wasn’t qualified. I wish I would have owned this accomplishment with a smile on my face. I couldn’t believe that I had doubted myself so much when clearly, I did deserve the position that I had been selected for. Why couldn’t I just accept the fact that they did want me?
In the words of Erin Teague, Yahoo’s Director of Product Management, “Recognize and embrace your uniqueness. I don’ t think the ratios are going to change anytime soon. But, I don’t think it has to be a disadvantage. Being a black woman, being a woman in general, on a team of all men, means that you are going to have a unique voice. It’s important to embrace that.”