8 Women In Tech Share Advice On Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

These women are ditching their inner critic and embracing growth and mistakes.

Written by Olivia Arnold
Published on May. 09, 2023
8 Women In Tech Share Advice On Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
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Imposter syndrome acts like a fun-house mirror, distorting one’s image in an unflattering and bogus way. 

Those who struggle with imposter syndrome, according to Psychology Today, feel undeserving of their achievements and the high regard that others hold them in. Regardless of their education and expertise, they believe that they are not intelligent or skilled enough and fear that others will soon find out. 

While imposter syndrome can affect anyone, it is most prevalent among people who are different from the majority of their peers — such as women, especially women of color, at technology companies. Despite making up half the U.S. workforce, women account for only 26.7 percent of tech-related jobs and fewer than 20 percent of tech leadership positions. Among science and engineering roles held by women, women of color comprise just 5 percent of positions. 

Lacking women leaders to receive guidance from and look up to, coupled with experiences being disregarded, undermined or even harassed by male colleagues and clients, high-ranking women often develop feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty. According to a study from KPMG, 75 percent of women executives say they have experienced imposter syndrome at some point in their careers. 

The eight women in tech featured below — from Capital One, Justworks, OwnBackup and more — have dealt firsthand with the pernicious effects of imposter syndrome. By adopting compassionate self-talk, seeking out mentorship and embracing growth and mistakes, these women have learned how to acknowledge their wins and strengths while silencing their inner critic. 

Those featured connected with Built In New York to share advice for how fellow women in tech can shatter self-doubt and reflect a more authentic version of themselves.  

 

Mikela Wright
Senior Software Engineering Manager for Enterprise Data Machine Learning • Capital One

Capital One infuses data and technology into the banking industry. 

 

How have you experienced imposter syndrome in your career? 

I dealt with nagging feelings of imposter syndrome for much of my early career. I worried about being a technology professional with an industrial engineering background, downplayed my accomplishments and compared my skills to others. I attributed so much of my success to faking it. I would wonder to myself, “Do I belong? Do I know as much as I should?”

I struggled because I always saw imposter syndrome framed as a one-off thing, but it’s something many people face regularly, especially in a tech career when you’re always learning new things.

 

How did you deal with imposter syndrome, and what helped change your perspective?

I developed my own solution. My ASPIRE method is a six-step program to help anyone work through their doubts and develop a more positive mindset. It’s all about slowing down to recognize your feelings and find a proof point of your success, whether that’s through internal validation or chatting with someone you trust.

For example, when I was taking on a new leadership role for Capital One’s cloud migration team, I had to acknowledge that I felt underqualified. I shifted to the positive by thinking of my excellent track record for completing complex problems. I pinpointed that my fear stemmed from a lack of knowledge and identified a solution: meeting with cloud experts. I reframed my mindset to think about the learning opportunities with the new position. Finally, I executed my plan by discussing the job with my manager and other stakeholders.

 

You’re always going to be harder on yourself than others. Think of yourself as a friend who’s not feeling their best.”

 

What advice would you give to other women who are dealing with imposter syndrome?

Realize that you don’t have to rely on yourself or be an expert to take care of something. I have so much support at Capital One. 

Find people you can trust and safe spaces where you can have honest, in-depth conversations about your doubts. You’re always going to be harder on yourself than others. Think of yourself as a friend who’s not feeling their best. Give yourself the same grace. It’s all about acknowledging the moment and lifting yourself up.

 

 

Deekshita "DK" Amaravadi
Manager, Engineering • Justworks

Justworks is a cloud-based software platform that gives access to corporate-level benefits, automated payroll, HR tools and compliance support.

 

How have you experienced imposter syndrome in your career? 

I’ve been in the software engineering industry for the past decade. It’s been challenging and rewarding. Looking back, I am grateful for everything that I went through prior to joining Justworks. 

Imposter syndrome was my middle name early on in my career, being on teams where I was the only woman and the only immigrant on a work visa. I grew up believing that if you did a good job, you’d be recognized and wouldn’t need to self-advocate. That belief changed significantly when I was on teams predominantly with men, where the loudest voices and tallest men were the most heard. 

As a 5’5” woman of color, I wasn’t taken seriously and, in most cases, acted as the note-taker or sat in a corner ignored, despite having the same idea as my male counterparts. However, having been at Justworks for almost a year now, I understand what it’s like for my voice to be heard.

 

How did you deal with imposter syndrome, and what helped change your perspective?

I started practicing assertiveness and taking more risks to make my voice heard, despite how I perceived myself. I silenced my inner critic by celebrating the milestones of how many times I was able to do this in a given period of time. 

I started small by taking more space in meetings and repeating affirming mantras to myself, which gradually helped overcome my negativity. I made a conscious effort to enter any setting with a value-creation mindset. I took bigger risks as time went on, and I started to aim for roles I did not dream of early on in my career. 

Now, I’m at Justworks, celebrating inclusion and creating value. By finding an employer that puts its diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging values into practice and invites its employees to push these values forward, I’m able to regularly confront my imposter syndrome.

 

I recommend building your muscles for self-compassion; it’s the best thing you can do for yourself.”

 

What advice would you give to other women who are dealing with imposter syndrome?

I lovingly call myself a recovering perfectionist. We all have an inner critic, which is sometimes valuable, but it has the potential to be detrimental. Early in my career, I had constant anxiety about not fitting in. Recognizing this, I built a muscle for practicing self-acceptance and self-love. 

Now, the goals I set aren’t tied to my self-worth; they’re tied to my mission and service to my community. I recommend building your muscles for self-compassion; it’s the best thing you can do for yourself. It’s not selfish to seek out fulfillment and meaning first, and then share it with the world. 

I also recommend finding a values-aligned employer. Justworks has allowed me to find the right people, and it’s a place where mission and culture are at the forefront of everything we do. Not only that, but we keep thinking of ways to make space for everyone to show up authentically at work. Everyone embodies and respects the company’s values: camaraderie, openness, grit, integrity and simplicity. 

 

 

Stefana Muller
Senior Vice President, Infrastructure and Operations • Own Company

OwnBackup is a SaaS data protection platform. 

 

How have you experienced imposter syndrome in your career? 

Throughout my career, I’ve encountered numerous instances where I felt like an outsider, as if I didn’t belong. One such memory stands out vividly. I was conducting a detailed demo on eradicating computer viruses for a group of highly technical male engineers. Midway through my presentation, one of them interrupted me by doubting my knowledge. It was a blatant attempt to undermine me and my expertise. I felt off then and stumbled a bit through the next few minutes. 

It took a lot of underlying confidence to remind myself that I was worthy of standing up in front of that room and that the group there had something they could learn from me. After a short break, I walked back to the front of the room and directly addressed that person’s comment. I was careful not to attack the person but to share that while their comment was correct, it did not apply to the situation I was demonstrating.

This is a recurring scenario that I’ve encountered time and again. I have to prove myself in front of rooms full of people who look and act nothing like me. This is what imposter syndrome looks like to me.

 

How did you deal with imposter syndrome, and what helped change your perspective?

Early on, I realized that if I didn’t advocate for myself and muster some semblance of confidence, I would be easily overlooked and dismissed. I refused to let my self-doubt and shyness hinder me, especially when I already had enough people attempting to tear me down.

Perhaps it was a sense of defiance that fueled my determination to push through imposter syndrome, but I also owe credit to the guidance of some incredible leaders who supported me during the most challenging moments. Their mentorship and encouragement gave me the strength and resilience to overcome self-doubt and keep moving forward.

Attending the Grace Hopper Conference in the late 2000s was eye-opening. Being surrounded by women in tech inspired me to help others with imposter syndrome. It also motivated me to confront my self-doubt and push past limitations. It was a pivotal moment that fueled my drive to empower and uplift others facing similar challenges.

I came home from the conference and founded Long Island Women in Tech, a supportive community of technologists providing mentorship, career development and education to women and girls in my local area.

 

Don’t get caught comparing yourself to others. Focus on your journey and revel in your successes.”

 

What advice would you give to other women who are dealing with imposter syndrome?

There are a few things I would suggest. First, celebrate your successes, no matter how small. You can even keep a list of all of your accomplishments and reference it whenever you feel imposter syndrome creeping in. It’s important to share your accomplishments publicly as well. Sharing new learned knowledge is a great way to highlight your excitement while not feeling like you’re bragging.

Also, don’t get caught comparing yourself to others. Focus on your journey and revel in your successes. Finally, I like to tell myself to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Instead of viewing imposter syndrome as an obstacle, embrace it, prepare for it and use it as a catalyst to reach your goals. 

 

 

Valerie Phoenix
Engineering Manager • Alma

Alma connects people with affordable mental health care providers.

 

How have you experienced imposter syndrome in your career? 

When I first started in tech, I was a self-taught developer with limited connections and knowledge about how the industry operates. As a front-end engineer in my first few years, I constantly felt like there was something I didn’t know or understand. I spent much of my free time trying to fill this knowledge gap. However, I didn’t realize I was leading workshops, teaching the entire engineering department how to transition from legacy frontend frameworks to Vue.js.

After completing the workshop, the vice president of engineering praised me for my outstanding work in helping the company adopt modern architecture. Only then did I realize I had always possessed the necessary skills to excel at my job. I had been held back by my self-doubt and felt that I needed to do more to fit in.

 

How did you deal with imposter syndrome, and what helped change your perspective?

I had struggled with imposter syndrome for a while, and it wasn’t until I started helping others with the same issue that I found a way to deal with it. I noticed that a lot of people who experience imposter syndrome tend to feel uncertain about their progress and struggle to measure their growth. This lack of clarity can lead to feeling inadequate and unsure of oneself.

To overcome my imposter syndrome, I developed a structured approach to my career growth, with specific goals and milestones to work toward. This approach mimicked the structure of a school curriculum, in which I had clear expectations of what and when I should learn and what achieving those goals would look like.

With this framework in place, I found that I was better able to handle new challenges and opportunities, and I could fall back on this structure to overcome any feelings of anxiety or doubt that crept up. 

 

It’s important to celebrate your wins with your support system. Acknowledging your growth is the best way to overcome imposter syndrome.”

 

What advice would you give to other women who are dealing with imposter syndrome?

My advice to professional women dealing with imposter syndrome is to recognize that this is not just a women’s issue. Anyone can experience feelings of fraud, no matter how competent they may appear. If we believe that imposter syndrome only affects certain groups, it can exacerbate those feelings. 

The first step in overcoming imposter syndrome is to build a support system, whether it’s within or outside of the workplace. This support system can help ground you and remind you that it’s OK not to know everything. Finally, it’s important to celebrate your wins with your support system. Acknowledging your growth is the best way to overcome imposter syndrome.

 

 

Sydney Waldman
Data Integration Engineer • Riskified

Riskified runs an e-commerce platform that grows revenue, reduces operating costs and mitigates fraud. 

 

How have you experienced imposter syndrome in your career? 

When I began working at Riskified, I experienced major imposter syndrome, as this was my first job in the tech industry. While I was lucky to be on a team with four other accomplished and smart women, I still felt out of place due to my lack of experience. 

My technical expertise was limited to courses that I had taken in college, and I felt unsure of my ability to apply my skills to contribute to the success of my team and the company at large.

 

What advice would you give to other women who are dealing with imposter syndrome?

During a mid-year review, I expressed to my manager that I was feeling imposter syndrome and that I felt insecure about my lack of experience compared to the rest of the team. My manager was extremely reassuring, emphasizing the fact that I was hired for this position because I was qualified and capable. He also gave me a great piece of advice to not compare myself to others, and he reiterated that everyone at some point in their career was just beginning. Rather than feeling behind, I shifted my mindset and began to see my teammates’ experiences as opportunities for me to continue to learn.

I’ve now been at Riskified for more than two years, and I can positively say that my technical and professional abilities, as well as my confidence, have grown and continue to grow immensely. As new hires join our team and come to me with questions and for advice, I reflect on how far I’ve come — from feeling super inadequate and out of place to becoming a mentor.

 

My advice to other professional women dealing with imposter syndrome ... is to not compare yourself to others or be afraid to ask questions.”

 

What advice would you give to other women who are dealing with imposter syndrome?

My advice to other professional women dealing with imposter syndrome, especially those who are just starting out in the field, is to not compare yourself to others or be afraid to ask questions. As someone who has overcome imposter syndrome, I advise others to remember that a lack of experience does not correlate to a lack of capability and potential. 

Everyone’s careers start from somewhere, and I feel blessed to have started mine in a place as collaborative and supportive as Riskified.

 

 

Minoo Soleymani
Client Success Manager • Canoe

Canoe uses AI technology to power alternative investments.  

 

How have you experienced imposter syndrome in your career? 

Prior to joining Canoe, I had no experience in the alternative investment space. There was definitely a lot to learn given the large range of clients we serve — from family offices to institutional investors — and how those various clients use Canoe differently. 

When joining a startup, the desire to make an impact quickly is top of mind, but this also adds pressure and feelings of imposter syndrome in the learning phase. I would say those feelings peaked during client calls when first impressions matter most.

 

How did you deal with imposter syndrome, and what helped change your perspective?

The best and most proactive actions that helped when dealing with imposter syndrome were prioritizing my learning and over-preparing for meetings to develop more confidence. 

Speaking intelligently on a topic is difficult when it’s brand new, so keeping realistic expectations is also key. A colleague helped me with this; he told me that, especially as a new team member, it’s totally OK to let clients know that I may not have the answer to their questions right away but can follow up offline to provide this information. That really helped alleviate the pressure of needing to learn everything at once.

 

The best and most proactive actions that helped when dealing with imposter syndrome were prioritizing my learning and over-preparing for meetings.”

 

What advice would you give to other women who are dealing with imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome and feelings of discomfort ultimately rise to the surface when you’re challenging yourself. 

Do what you need to do to make yourself feel as calm and confident as possible. For me, that meant prioritizing my learning, over-preparing and admitting when I didn’t know an answer, but then following up with those who did know. Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions and know that practice makes perfect. 

 

 

Allie Roseman
Vice President of People and Talent • Nomad Health

Nomad Health is a self-service digital marketplace for healthcare jobs. 

 

How have you experienced imposter syndrome in your career? 

I have experienced imposter syndrome a few times in my career journey. One story that stands out from earlier in my career is when I was promoted to director. I had a big mandate and a seat at the table for the first time. 

I was invited to many managerial meetings I had never attended. When I looked around the table, I was so impressed. I was standing shoulder to shoulder with people with much more experience than me and had done amazing things, things I didn’t know I could do. 

The rational part of me knew that I deserved to be there — I had worked hard and delivered impactful results — but it was challenging to quiet the voice telling me that I had simply gotten lucky or someone had made a mistake.

 

How did you deal with imposter syndrome, and what helped change your perspective?

One thing that helped me deal with imposter syndrome during my first experience with it as a director was the support of my manager and team. My manager took on the role of a coach, showing me how to work through my imposter feelings and talking to me about what it would take to feel like I truly belonged at the table.

This encouragement gave me the comfort and confidence I needed to express and address my insecurities and false doubts head-on. That boost from my manager reminded me that I am an expert in my domain, allowing me to step fully into my position, find my leadership voice and become comfortable speaking up as a subject matter expert.

Another thing that helped was leading a significant project. The leadership team had an idea to bring pay transparency to the organization, and I stepped up to make it happen. I worked for years to see that project through, and getting it to a successful conclusion made me feel more confident about being in charge.

One of the reasons I joined Nomad was to learn from people who had different experiences than me. When I stepped into an executive role for the first time at Nomad, I was surrounded by peers with rich backgrounds and experiences.

 

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of self-awareness and proactivity.

 

What advice would you give to other women who are dealing with imposter syndrome?

I advise other professional women with imposter syndrome to remember that your career is a work in progress. It is OK to take time to find your leadership voice. It is OK to talk to your manager and ask your mentors for advice to help you become the leader your team needs you to be. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of self-awareness and proactivity. 

Remember that being a successful leader is more about “getting in the reps” than feeling completely comfortable speaking up or standing up in every situation. So whatever you do, don’t deprive yourself of “getting in the reps.” Speak up where you can, and look for opportunities to shine as a leader.

Also, you do not need to change who you are to escape those dreaded imposter feelings. It is easy to believe that the way to beat imposter syndrome is to grow a big ego and act as if you do not care what anyone else thinks, but the truth is, humility and self-awareness go a long way. Be humble, lead by example and trust that the work will speak for itself, because it will.

 

 

Emma Humber
Principal Engineer • Conduktor

Conduktor builds tools that make Apache Kafka easy to use for developers. 

 

How have you experienced imposter syndrome in your career? 

Moving to a new role can be an intimidating experience. One of my superpowers is that I generally know how to fix a problem, and if I don’t, then I know the right person that can. Moving jobs can mean that the confidence of knowing you can sort whatever is thrown at you evaporates. You can easily feel like you’re a complete beginner, even with more than 20 years of industry experience and an excellent track record of success.

I have found myself thinking “I’m not good enough,” “I can’t keep up” and “They think I can’t do it.” You can end up trying to adjust to meet other people’s expectations, rather than demonstrating your skills and experience. If you don’t realize you are doing this and take the time to acknowledge those feelings and redirect them, you can set yourself up for failure.

 

How did you deal with imposter syndrome, and what helped change your perspective?

I take a breath and tell myself, “I’ve got this.” All those skills that I’ve honed in my career still apply here; I just need to apply them in the right way. 

The basic principles of resolving a problem — whether it’s an escalating customer support situation, a nasty code bug, a twisty design problem, a sticking point when implementing a new function or a miscommunication in the team — are broadly similar wherever you work. You just need to know that you’ve done this before. It might be in different circumstances, but the same principles apply; remember that and use it.

I’ve always made sure that I have a senior mentor to talk to. I look for someone who can bring a different perspective but has already lived through some of the things I’m figuring out, so they can share what they learned. 

The two most important things mentors have said to me are: “big girl pants” and “bring you, not them.” The first is a silly phrase, but it sums up the situation really well. Get over yourself, step up and hold your head high. You’re a grownup and you’ve got this. It’s down to you, but you can do it.

 

Remember your superpowers. Use them. You bring you to your role, not anyone else.”

 

What advice would you give to other women who are dealing with imposter syndrome?

Remember your superpowers. Use them. You bring you to your role, not anyone else.

Your perception of others’ expectations may lead you to try to conform to other people’s views on how you should do your job. That’s not always a good path to follow. If you are constantly trying to adjust, you won’t bring your best to the role. Plus, others may not even have those expectations for you.

It takes different styles of people working together, each bringing their own perspective, to make a company successful. Define how you want to make the best impact you can in your role — and do that.

While it is important to fit in with your company and do your job, remember that there is often more than one way of doing that, and what you think someone else expects may not be the best way for you to make that happen. Your company hired you. They saw in you what they needed, so let that shine.

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies and Shutterstock.

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