Finding your self-confidence in tech is like finding your voice in a black hole.
Maybe it was functioning perfectly well when you entered, but if you try and make a noise, all you will hear is the sound of air being sucked out of you.
Last summer, I reached what I felt was a dead end in my career. I went to AdaCamp as part of figuring out what was going on and why I was miserable despite putting in so much effort. It is often the case that people who look to be highly successful from the outside are actually living in their own vacuum of pain and self-doubt.
The hot, humid summer in Portland dragged through my lungs as I walked to the AdaCamp venue for the first morning of the conference. Voiceless, tired and beaten, I sat in a chair for the imposter syndrome training session. This session was the traditional kickoff for AdaCamp and had a large attendence. I made a few notes:
“The reason you have imposter syndrome is that you’ve been treated like an imposter…”
…If there are people around who are trying to learn and you say to yourself, I’m too far beyond to help them, you are treating them like they are imposters…
…We are trained to say we understand things when we don’t…
…We are trained to pretend to know the answer when we think we can look it up later…
…You need to be able to look at someone and see that they are having a hard time, even if they act ok.
This workshop kicked off a weekend of recognizing the denial happening in my own life and career. It was like looking in a mirror for the first time in ages and seeing that, indeed, the bruises were real and in no way self-inflicted. It’s not like Imposter Syndrome training and AdaCamp magically fixed everything, but it gave me permission to start believing in myself again and to start seeing that I had been dealing with some endemic problems tech likes to hang around the necks of women and people in marginalized groups.
Although there will not be an AdaCamp this summer, The Ada Initiative will be doing Imposter Syndrome Training in Oakland, California and Sydney Australia during August. I highly recommend that women working in tech, especially women in tech who do not have a developer job title attend this training.
Here is a description from the EventBrite:
Imposter Syndrome is the feeling that you aren’t qualified for the work you are doing and will be discovered as a fraud. It is prevalent among women in open tech/culture, who’ve been socialized to value others’ opinions over their own and to do things “by the book”. Imposter Syndrome is a common reaction to doing publicly visible and publicly criticised work like that done in open technology and culture. In this workshop, The Ada Initiative will discuss solutions for overcoming Imposter Syndrome. This workshop is only open to women, and those who identify as a woman.
I will miss AdaCamp, but if it means more time for The Ada Initiative to do Imposter Syndrome Training, I say it’s a net win.
Just so you know that AdaCamp wasn’t all heavy, intense moments, here is my drawing from the Riot Grrrl session.
Rock on Ada Initiative \m/\m/