How I Fought Imposter Syndrome After a Career and Came Out a Winner

How I Fought Imposter Syndrome After a Career and Came Out a Winner | Career | Emeritus

From being a middle school art teacher to becoming a Senior Engineer at NVIDIA, one might assume that I’d be confident in my skills after such a significant and unique career change. However, the reality was quite different—I felt like an imposter. I had more confidence in my colleagues, especially my manager, discovering that I didn’t belong there than in the technical skills that led me to that position. At night, I would toss and turn, battling nightmares in which I lost my new job and found myself back in the classroom. Every morning, I’d wake up and immediately check my work accounts, hoping they still functioned and that the nightmares were just that—nightmares. Thankfully, they never materialized, and I even received a promotion after my first year. This experience truly underscored for me that my imposter syndrome was the real imposter.

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What is Imposter Syndrome?

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Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where individuals doubt their abilities and have a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud” despite evidence of their competence and accomplishments. People experiencing imposter syndrome often attribute their success to luck or external factors rather than their own skills or qualifications. They may feel inadequate or unworthy of their achievements, leading to feelings of anxiety, self-doubt, and a constant fear of being “found out” as incompetent.

How I Realized That I Was Experiencing Imposter Syndrome

Every week, I would sit down with my manager for our one-on-one meetings to discuss my progress and any support I needed to excel in my role. Sometimes, these sessions involved valuable feedback on my work, delivered with care and consideration. Around four months into my new position, during one of these meetings, my manager broached the topic of imposter syndrome. Instantly, my face flushed with heat. Was this it? Had he finally found me out? I braced myself for the worst, fearing imminent termination. Instead, he recounted a recent team meeting where I downplayed my programming skills. He encouraged me to recognize and take pride in my strides since joining the team, urging me to speak confidently about my abilities. He stressed how crucial it was to convey this confidence, especially when vying for significant projects.

This revelation hit me hard. Instead of being labeled an imposter, my manager pinpointed that I was grappling with imposter syndrome—a distinction that shifted my perspective. Although I didn’t shake off those feelings of doubt overnight, I decided to heed my manager’s advice and adopt a “fake it till you make it” approach. I began actively seeking out more projects, particularly larger ones, and stopped waiting for opportunities to land in my lap. I embraced my identity as a self-starter and someone capable of mastering new skills swiftly. Yet, I also learned that it is ok to say I didn’t know something, too. 

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How I Overcame Imposter Syndrome and Succeeded at Work

advantages of data science skills for career advancement1. Observing Seniors and Peers

Playing a significant role in my journey to overcome imposter syndrome was the opportunity to attend meetings alongside esteemed colleagues who held senior positions. Witnessing their adept handling of conflicts, technical challenges, and project proposals provided me with invaluable insights and added numerous tools to my professional toolkit.

2. Mentorship

I also took full advantage of the professional development opportunities available at my workplace. One morning, as I sifted through my emails, I stumbled upon an invitation to join a one-to-many Mentorship Program. The program involved being paired with three colleagues at my level and a seasoned senior mentor for a six-month period, during which we would meet multiple times each month. Without hesitation, I signed up and was promptly accepted into the program.

3. Connecting with Others Who Also Suffered from Imposter Syndrome

Having a mentor to offer guidance and share their wealth of experience proved immensely beneficial to my professional growth. Additionally, discovering that colleagues of similar age and experience levels harbored similar fears and anxieties made me feel less isolated. This was particularly reassuring, especially when I learned that many of them had pursued computer science degrees—a path I hadn’t taken myself—reminding me that I worked hard to be at the same level as them despite our different paths. So, I am worthy of being there, too. 

From Feeling Like an Imposter to Being a Winner!

Looking back on my career change journey, I’ve faced a whirlwind of emotions. Initially, imposter syndrome loomed large as I navigated a new environment filled with tech-savvy colleagues. However, a pivotal moment shifted my perspective. Instead of succumbing to self-doubt, I decided to outsmart my imposter syndrome by diving into challenging projects and fully embracing my role as a self-starter. Engaging with senior colleagues and joining mentorship programs provided invaluable insights that fueled my growth. Through it all, I’ve learned to see imposter syndrome as a hurdle to overcome with determination. I now embrace the belief that my unconventional path is valid, and I carry forward with newfound confidence in my journey.

NOTE: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Emeritus.

About the Author

Technical Marketing Engineer Manager, NVIDIA
Ashley Goldstein strikes the perfect balance between an art enthusiast and a tech aficionado. She's got a soft spot for everything art-related, whether it's diving into art history or getting hands-on with drawing and photography. But Ashley's also a wizard in the 3D world, crafting digital environments and coding with the likes of C# and Python. Her journey from being a Middle School Art Teacher to a Senior Developer at NVIDIA is a testament to her love for the intersection of art and tech. She's a pro at online learning and loves to help others looking to shift their career gears and is an Emeritus learner herself! Plus, she'll likely sneak in a fun tidbit about her dogs when you least expect it.
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