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Women in IT: Conquering the Imposter Syndrome

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In an industry that moves as quickly as IT, it’s important to stay up to date and take in insights from a range of leaders in the field. Last week, I went to a lunch hosted by the NZ Technology Industry Association, in which the topic for discussion was “women in technology”. The key speaker was Victoria MacLennan, a technology leader who recently won an award at the ITx conference in July this year.

Victoria was an inspirational speaker, and her honest, open and personal approach was extremely engaging. She spoke frankly about her own experiences and what she is seeing in businesses and schools around New Zealand, discussing her experience of being nominated and winning the award, as well as “Imposter Syndrome”.

Imposter Syndrome

At this point, some of you may be asking what Imposter Syndrome is, or why anyone would feel that way. For a crash course, check out our interview last year with leadership expert Harold Hillman, who has written multiple books on the topic. This brings me onto a question that I am going to pose to you. Did you make the assumption that award Victoria won was specifically targeted for “women in technology”?

If you did, you’d be wrong, and it’s this assumption that is part of the problem within IT and Leadership roles. The award Victoria won was for New Zealand IT Professional of the Year. She was nominated against other extraordinary professionals in the field, and was the only woman to win an award at the conference. She was convinced that the award was going to go to someone else and was truly shocked and honoured to win. It was the next day that Victoria said she started to understand Imposter Syndrome for the first time in her life, still disbelieving that she had won and comparing own accomplishments to others who were nominated.

Sometimes we can find ourselves focusing too much on simply getting the job done. It takes a situation such as a client or clients nominating you for an award, a colleague congratulating you on your work, or simply being asked for your opinion, for you to stop and see that what you are doing is not just what needs to be done. You are actually doing more than what needs to be done to achieve an end result; one that you have set as the standard for yourself. With all that in mind, how do you then handle this praise? Do you brush it off, or do you accept that you have worked hard and deserve it?

Victoria decided to take her award for what it was a reflection of the hard work and success she has had, and most definitely deserved recognition for.

Own Your Achievements

In today’s IT industry, women in technology are still trying to find equality. There are many great supporters to help encourage new talent into the workplace and help push emerging talent to reach their potential. However, a mind-set is emerging that some of the women that have worked so hard to achieve their goals have somehow been given an advantage, or are there as the ‘token woman’.

In our very own Beyond Recruitment Women in Leadership series, the importance of strong mentorship has been highlighted on a number of occasions – but isn’t it true of all of us that at some point in our lives we have been helped by a mentor or someone who has encouraged us get to where we are? Why then should gender play a part in anyone’s accomplishments?

What I am saying is; do not let yourself unconsciously or consciously feel that you are an imposter. At times, we all ask ourselves how we have come to be where we are. The answer is nearly always “by hard work and determination”. Own your achievements, and do what you can to support others in achieving their dreams. This way, no one will have reason to doubt or unwittingly discredit your achievements, whether you’re their junior, peer, mentor or boss. In my role, the candidates who are able to articulate their achievements and contributions honestly but confidently are highly sought after, both for internal promotions or external roles.

Summary

Don’t underestimate the value of reflecting on your accomplishments and using them to drive your career forward. You may be surprised by the results. If you would like to read more on these topics, please check out Victoria’s blog here. Alternatively, if you feel like your career is moving forward, and you’re looking for opportunities that grow with you, feel free to get in touch with me today.