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Imposter Syndrome is the phenomenon in which a person doubts their own competence or achievements and therefore feels like an imposter or fraud in their sphere.
Imposter Syndrome is part of our Engineering Career Leveling Framework. Explore next steps in your career from this industry-standard model.
How Organizations Can Help With Imposter Syndrome
- Mekka Okereke's Twitter Thread on Imposter SyndromeMekka challenges the concept of "imposter syndrome," suggesting that it's not the individual's problem, but rather a reflection of the environment's lack of safety and support. Imposter syndrome occurs when one feels others know more and fears harm if their inadequacies are exposed. Mekka proposes that tackling this begins by creating a safe environment where people won't be ridiculed for not knowing things. He rejects the idea that women experience imposter syndrome more than men, highlighting that women often face more backlash for asking basic questions. He recommends improving onboarding processes and fostering a supportive culture to reduce imposter syndrome. He also suggests a mental hack of becoming a subject matter expert on something small, demonstrating that everyone has unique knowledge. Lastly, he encourages experts to openly admit their knowledge gaps without dismissing others, as honesty and openness can help alleviate feelings of inadequacy.
- Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter SyndromeThe concept of "imposter syndrome" has been disproportionately applied as a diagnosis for women's feelings of self-doubt and anxiety in the workplace. However, the original research defining this syndrome in the 1970s failed to account for the impact of systemic biases related to aspects like race, class, gender and ethnicity. Rather than viewing women's experiences through a lens of individual pathology, Ruchika argues we must create more inclusive workplace environments that value diverse Leadership styles and identities.
Imposter Syndrome Case Studies
- The Imposter Syndrome: Mastering the art of pretendingJulie discusses struggling with imposter syndrome as a computer science student and startup employee. She felt inadequate when others easily grasped concepts and finished assignments faster. To fit in at her job, she pretended to be passionate about topics she didn't care about and worked extreme hours. Over time, she learned to focus on her strengths, ask for feedback instead of assuming the worst, and open up about insecurities to trusted friends. While insecurities never fully disappear, especially for women in male-dominated fields, Julie notes it gets easier to trust yourself with experience. She highlights research finding imposter syndrome is more common among women and suggests assuming best intentions when interpreting events instead of worst-case scenarios.
Imposter Syndrome in Data Science
- Imposter Syndrome in Data ScienceImposter syndrome is common in data science due to it being a new, interdisciplinary field that is constantly evolving. Data scientists come from varied backgrounds and cannot be experts in all aspects. Caitlin deals with imposter syndrome by accepting she cannot learn everything and knowing her unique experiences and skills. She advocates normalizing saying "I don't know" and encourages sharing what one is learning. To help others, the community should embrace questions, Transparency about learning, and understanding that all data scientists are continuously developing their skills.
Imposter Syndrome in Product Design
- What we misunderstand about imposter syndrome as design leadersTemi discusses imposter syndrome and argues that we often misunderstand its causes. Feeling like an imposter can sometimes simply be a result of being a beginner or experiencing temporary self-doubt. Her experience in a pottery class showed how beginners often compare themselves unfairly to experts. Environmental factors like non-inclusive work cultures can also contribute to imposter feelings by making some people feel like outsiders. To move past imposter syndrome, organizations need to focus on psychological safety, inclusive teams, and Accountability. On an individual level, identifying the root causes, comparing yourself to your own past performance, and self-advocacy can help address feelings of inadequacy. She then provides an example in the form of a story about a talented designer experiencing temporary self-doubt in a high-profile project.