August 6, 2019

Moving forward the impostor syndrome

This article is a transcript of the eponymous talk I gave to Riviera Dev in Nice on May 16, 2019 and at VoxxedDays Luxembourg on June 22, 2019.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - riviera dev

The talk was filmed at Luxembourg, so you can watch it on Youtube (in french):

Slides are also available online:

The principle of this transcript is simple: I first put the slide and then below the associated text / speech.

Are you ready? Let’s go!

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 1ere slide

Hello, before starting, who has ever heard of the impostor syndrome? (raise your hand, do not be shy ^^)

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 2eme slide

I will ask you three questions, raise your hand if you feel concerned, if the questions affect you:

  • Are you (sometimes) afraid to ask “stupid” questions?

  • Do you feel comfortable speaking to juniors but not to your peers?

  • Do you feel that at any time someone can unveal that you are a fraud, you are not the good person? Do you feel that others think you are someone you are not? (expert, guru, ninja, rockstar, diva …)

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 3eme slide

My name is Aurélie Vache, I am a developer for more than 13 years, I am a conference organizer, invested in communities of women in tech, mentor, I write some technical articles … and I am an imposter!

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 4eme slide

I’m here in front of you but … I do not know anything about it.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 5eme slide

I suck!

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 6eme slide

I do not feel legitimate.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 7eme slide

I am not the most qualified person to do this talk.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 8eme slide

And I wonder if people were discovering that in reality I am a “pillock” / an imposter.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 9eme slide

I do not think I’m the only one thinking that and … it’s time to stop thinking about this stuff! 🙂

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 10eme slide

Let’s start with the beginning.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 11eme slide

What is the impostor syndrome?

It is above all a story of perception and comparison.

“I think that compared to others, I do not know much”.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 12eme slide

While the reality is different!

“I know a lot of things that others do not know, and vice versa”.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 13eme slide

This phenomenon was first detected in women and affects just as much men and nearly 3% of leaders. It particularly affects developers and people working in a technical job in IT.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 14eme slide

It manifests itself in the form of a small voice, which belittles us.

Some people are convinced that they do not deserve their success, despite the efforts they make to succeed. They often convince themselves that their success is not related to their work, their personal fulfillment, but simply to the luck or the work of others.

In fact, they live permanently with a feeling of deceit and are constantly afraid that someone will unmask them from one day to another.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 15eme slide

You know, this inner voice that tells you maybe you’re not in your place, you’re not as good as others, you have nothing to teach others …

This little voice is wrong! 😉

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 16eme slide

We will see some tips and tricks to fight this syndrome.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 17eme slide

Rule number 1: Knowledge, skills, wins, you have.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 18eme slide

We are very good, as a human, to self-scourge ourselves, but much less to find qualities.

You can start by listing all the things accomplished, the knowledge and skills learned so far. Think back to the days when you had trouble debugging a problem and you have managed to find the solution.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 19eme slide

To put them black on white, why not make a mind map?

A mental map is like a list but it makes both parts of your brain work. Convenient to make decisions, and in our case to know where we are.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 20eme slide

There are no small victories. Our mistakes are there to allow us to be better and we learn through them.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 21eme slide

Rule number 2: friends, peers, communities, you will find.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 22eme slide

Surround yourself with other developers, be part of an association, a community where you can exchange and communicate.

Personally, being a “duchess” (part of Duchess France - women in tech association) has allowed me to feel surrounded and supported by other processors. It allowed me to push back the limits that I had set myself and to achieve things that I never imagined.

We are stronger when we are not alone.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 23eme slide

We can not know everything, and it does not matter. Learn from your peers, from a mentor, a role model.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 24eme slide

Rule number 3: share and contribute, you can.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 25eme slide

Write articles, cheat sheets, in your personal blog and then that of your company, a specialized site and a magazine for example.

This will allow you to deepen your knowledge and you will find that you know more than what you think.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 26eme slide

Speak at a conference / Give a talk.

You will first be able to present a feedback or technology within your company, then during meetups and then at conferences.

You can go step by step to get started.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 27eme slide

You can transmit your passion, your feedbacks:

  • To children during coding taste for example,

  • By making interventions in colleges, high schools,

  • To people in redevelopment, coding cocktail or training organizations.

These meetings are always very enriching (and for people and for you).

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 28eme slide

Contribute to open source projects, on Github for example.

You can start contributing by going step by step: starting with correcting documentation, spelling mistakes, bug fixes, and adding new features.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 29eme slide

Or, just tweet what you just learned even if you think everyone knew it before you 😉.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 30eme slide

Rule number 4: feedback, rather than validation, you will ask.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 31eme slide

Ask for feedback, but avoid asking for external validation - there is a difference.

Give also, on topics you feel confident, at first.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 32eme slide

Rule number 5: peer-programming, you will do.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 33eme slide

With two persons, several.

It allows you to increase your skills and skills to your colleagues. Cela permet de monter en compétence et de faire monter en compétences vos collègues. For example, work on developing a feature with a colleague. You will learn from your colleague and your colleague will learn from you as well.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 34eme slide

Rule number 6: Accept yourself, you have to.

An important subject!

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 35eme slide

You can not be a master in containers, Java, Rust, Go, JavaScript, garbage collector, machine learning, functional programming, serverless, infra, CI/CD … nobody can! 😅

You do not have to be perfect and nobody is.

Do you find yourself in a particular skill? Cool, perfect, read on the subject, deepen it, invest a little time and the little voice, which tells you that you are bad, will gradually leave your head ;-)

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 36eme slide

You submitted a talk and you were not accepted?

You did not have the job you hope for?

It does not matter. The refusal is not a failure. We must accept it ;-).

A few years ago I wanted to do a Master, it happens in two stages. I was taken on record for the first step, cool. Then I move for the oral in Toulouse (France), I enter the room, I see a jury composed of 8 people in front of me. I do not hide that I stammered a lot. At one point, one of the jury cut me off and said, “You don’t know how to talk”. In the end I was not taken because of stuttering.

At first, this refusal hurt me a lot, but that did not stop me from doing a job I love, without the precious master degree.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 37eme slide

And in another register, everyone makes mistakes, that too must be accepted.

And I will add that those who do not make mistakes are those who do nothing.

And there is a quote from Nelson Mandela that I particularly like: “I never lose, either I win or I learn”.

And it’s true, we learn from our experiences.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 39eme slide

What this syndrome brings you is …

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 38eme slide

above all, humility!

This is a great quality for a developer (and for a person in general).

It does not matter if you do not know how to answer a question but it’s important to say it (because other people are in the same situation as you and do not dare to do it).

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 40eme slide

The impostor syndrome is not inevitable, use it to improve yourself and prove to yourself that you insure.

You do not disappoint anyone, neither the others, nor you.

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 41eme slide

The impostor syndrome, whatever one may say, is a good thing. It can push you to surpass yourself, make technology watch to improve your knowledge, share your feedback … and in the end, suffering from this syndrome reflects the fact that you are great people.

Remember, stop listening to the little voice, you are LE-GI-TIMATE !

Le syndrome de l'imposteur - 41eme slide

Thank you for allowing me to speak on this subject here, thank you also for listening to me :-).

© Aurélie Vache 2018 - 2019