On June 9, 2011, Yahoo! Women in Tech SoCal brought together Yahoo! leaders to discuss a psychological phenomenon known as Imposter Syndrome. The discussion was part of WIT SoCal’s ongoing Let’s Do Lunch series of seminars focusing on topics relevant to women in the workplace. Those with Imposter Syndrome do not believe they deserve their achievement and dismiss the success as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.
WIT SoCal’s Executive Sponsor and Vice President of Products Org Transformation, Yvette Martinez-Rea moderated the panel. The panel of speakers included Senior Director of Network Quality Kim Furzer, Senior Product Marketing Manager Aislinn Hettermann, and Senior Service Engineering Manager Jyothi Sunnadkal. The panelists from different working backgrounds and cultures provided a very compelling discussion.
As attendees filled the room, grabbed lunch and took their seats, they were asked to fill out a pop quiz to find out if they have Imposter Syndrome. Many people enjoyed the speakers’ candidness in sharing their personal stories and giving advice. The audience was very engaged and the open forum allowed them to share their thoughts and experiences as well.
Yvette explained that Imposter Syndrome can occur when one’s goals are different from their family’s goals. It is also common with people in highly visible roles and women in professions that are male-dominated. Kim spoke about growing up with a non-criticizing family and how that can have the same effect. “’You can do anything you want.’ That is a lot of pressure,” said Kim.
The panelists spoke about strengths and believe that when someone is naturally good at something they do not think of it as an achievement. “If it’s not difficult, we don’t put value on it,” said Kim.
All the panelists believe it is important to set reasonable expectations with yourself as well as with managers or team members. For example, when starting a new role, identify both the job expectations and the timeframe for the learning curve.
Jyothi explained that it is important to set expectations that feel right to you. “I developed the maturity to go back to my parents and say ‘these are the new expectations,’” said Jyothi. She further explained that even if she is not completely confident, she goes with it and it works out at the end of the day. “Fake it ‘til you make it,” said Jyothi with a big smile. :)
Aislinn believes it is important to just be yourself instead of trying to measure up to someone else, because we all contribute in different ways. She also pointed out that sometimes we artificially inflate and feel badly about our perceived “failures” in the context of a group project. “It’s usually a little narcissistic to think the success of an entire project depends on you,” said Aislinn.
Yvette said that it is harder to feel confident as you move up in the company, because you get farther and farther away from the day to day business. She suggested asking someone at your peer level that you trust for feedback. External reinforcement can help cope with Imposter Syndrome.
Yvette spoke about the negative impact of self-cancelling messages. Many women say “This is a dumb question, but…” and these messages can make someone think you are not worthy. Next time you have a “dumb” question, ask it with a sense of authority.
So, are you ready to take the quiz? Click here to find out if you have Imposter Syndrome. If you do… don’t worry, these tips you read from our leaders should help! You can also click here for more tips.
To see more photos from this event, visit our Flickr page.