Starting a career in technology can be equal parts exciting and terrifying. Doing work on the cutting edge—work that can change lives and the way we do business—attracts thousands to join the tech sector every year. But the constant pace of change can be challenging to keep up with. This demand is compounded by the sinister notion of imposter syndrome.
To me, imposter syndrome is the emotional and physical feeling that you do not have the knowledge, skills, or abilities to justify your presence in a particular place. This is an acute problem among tech professionals who feel like they don’t belong because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or some other component of diversity.
The truth is that more people experience imposter syndrome than you might think. Not to mention that imposter syndrome can manifest in a range of areas beyond just the professional sphere. Feeling doubt about your personal and family life compounds the feeling of not belonging at work.
While imposter syndrome is a concept that we struggle with in a personal capacity, it manifests in company interactions as well. I previously wrote about the need to act in the wake of the revelations at Activision Blizzard. Questioning whether we belong in a particular space might encourage tech professionals to avoid speaking up about uneven labor distribution, a supervisor’s inadequate response to an issue, or demanding fundamental accountability. Not being able to speak up about issues from the outset is a factor that allows toxic behavior to persist.
The key to pushing back and truly empower tech employees is empowerment in an individual and collective sense. Every employee should understand that work on the cutting edge is challenging and demands a lot from us. But you are on the team because you not only have the talent for today, but the vision that’s key for the company tomorrow. This wonderful piece by Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey makes the argument that “the answer to overcoming imposter syndrome is not to fix individuals but to create an environment that fosters a variety of leadership styles and in which diverse racial, ethnic, and gender identities are seen as just as professional.”
We should regularly take moments to highlight our successes and shout-outs for colleagues that have done awesome work. This kind of effort, when genuine, allows us to understand how each team member is integral to the company’s individual success. That’s why I’m trying to take time (aiming for at least once per week) to highlight my accomplishments, those of my team, and those near and dear to my heart. This is my moment to say “I belong. I am a tech professional, and I’m proud of the work my colleagues and I get done every day.”
I hope you’ll join me in doing this. At the end of the month, share your success on Twitter with the hashtag #IamTech. Give a virtual fist bump to as many people as you can, and let’s celebrate together!