Friday, October 3, 2008

The Imposter Panel: Another Post

Panelists: Kori Inkpen (Microsoft Research), Maria Klawe (Harvey Mudd College), Mary Czerwinski (Microsoft Research), Tiffani Williams (Texas A&M University), Tessa Lau (IBM Almaden Research Center)

I've heard about the Imposter Syndrome before, but was intrigued by this panel consisting of especially successful computer scientists. As it turned out, that was their point: almost everyone feels like a fraud at times. The huge crowd attending the session provided further support for this hypothesis. The session was a lot of fun, as each of the panelists introduced herself as an imposter and shared her experiences with both humor and sincerity.

To summarize, some of the times when the panelists feel/felt like imposters include:
* In new situations where they don't fit in yet, especially when doing things "successful people" do or women don't often do. (It was interesting to note that the first imposter experience for several panelists was in graduate school.)
* When asked to take responsibilities they don't feel qualified for.
* When surrounded by senior people.
* When they see other people working much harder.

Some tips they gave for getting over (or surviving despite) the imposter feeling are:
* Believe in yourself and the things you excel at. Remember your past successes, not your failures, and be proud of them. Speak up for yourself.
* Act like you have confidence; pretend to be competent; keep bluffing it!
* Surround yourself with people who believe in you and support you, and don't hesitate to support and help others yourself. If necessary, tell people you respond well to encouragement.
* Realize that only you can make yourself feel like an imposter. In that sense, you are the creator of your own experience, so don't give that control to anyone else. Don't let other people make you feel like a fraud.
* Work hard! And have fun at the same time.
* Listen well, especially in the first few months of a new job or situation.
* Take calculated risks that make you stand out in a good way.
* Practice!!
* Accept self-doubt as part of who you are. It keeps us humble and helps us help each other.

The main point to remember is that you are not alone. I'm with you. :) And if that's not enough, so are all the other people who were in this session!


Valerie said...

At least we're together with the several hundred other women in the room! :-)

Ananya said...

Yes, that is so reassuring! :)

Alona Fyshe said...

Hey ladies - I've started a Google Group so that we can continue the impostor conversation:

I've kept the group by-invite-only so that the discussions are not publically viewable, but if you click the link to e-mail the owner (that's me) I'd be glad to make you a member!

Ed said...

Ananya, thanks for the great post about the panel. I didn't get to go and this is a great summary. I'll definitely be keeping the tips in mind!


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