My major is split between two related but very different fields. Half of the classes I take revolve around media production and design. The other half focus on computer programming. Every time I tell someone this they are amazed.
"That must be so useful!"
"So, you know how to code and stuff?"
"You'll have no problem getting a job."
The problem with so many facets to my education is that I am often stuck feeling lost or without a direction or specialization. When I take computer science classes I see myself as inferior to the computer science majors in the class (and the males, but that's a whole different can of worms I'll get to later). When I participate in Ithaca College Television I don't feel as though I fit in with the people who have so much experience working with the equipment in the studios. Many times I'm not quite sure where I belong or where my talents can be utilized.
I like to think I'm good at photography, but there are people that are better.
I like to think I can develop websites, but not as well as others.
I like to think my design work is okay, but other students' creations blow me away.
I feel like a fraud no matter where I go.
Thanks to a discussion with fellow members of Ithaca College Women in Computing, I learned I am not the only one who feels this way and this feeling has a name -- Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter syndrome refers to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a constant fear of being exposed as "fraud." Despite evidence of their intelligence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they do not deserve the success they have achieved. Several famous females have spoken about their experience with imposter syndrome.
“The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.” – Tina Fey
"When I receive recognition for my acting, I feel incredibly uncomfortable. I tend to turn in on myself. I feel like an imposter.” - Emma Watson
“I had impostor syndrome until the day I landed in Louisiana (for shooting 12 Years A Slave). I was certain that I was going to be fired. I was certain I was going to receive a call and they were going to say, ‘I’m sorry, we made a mistake.’ Every single day. - Lupita Nyong’o
There isn't one solution to cure Imposter Syndrome. Individuals may have little coping mechanisms but as a club we realize this is an ongoing battle for women in computing fields (and other STEM fields). Feeling like an imposter may be in our heads but the biases we face in our own industry are not. Recently I attended a panel about women in IT during the Ed Tech Day event at Ithaca College. They talked about some of the horror stories they've experienced or have heard about as a female in a male dominated industry. These stories include getting tasked with picking up dry cleaning by a male boss, being asked different questions in an interview than the male applicants, and having business meetings at a strip club. My favorite quote from the panel has to be:
"When women cry at work, it is not because we are fragile creatures, its because we want to punch you (sexist males). Our anger comes out through our tear ducts."
These biases towards women in technology fields only make imposter syndrome more prevalent. Half of the battle for women in technology is getting the job. The other half is feeling as though they belong. Much of my experience with imposter syndrome has been due to the fact that I am a woman in a male dominated field, but the syndrome is not a gender specific issue. Its an issue than faces many people young and old, male and female.
When I am put into a professional setting or forced to talk about my achievements I lock up. I never think I am qualified or good enough. This makes the job search and networking processes very difficult. I am currently in the most intense internship application and interview period thus far in my (fairly short) career. I'm looking to work at a major media agency in New York City for the Summer of 2016. This has forced me to think of my value as an intern and a member of a team. I can no longer think of my laundry list of interests as unfocused, because it isn't. Having some knowledge in many different fields doesn't make me confused, it makes me valuable. It allows me to think across disciplines and understand the many departments within a company. I am not an imposter to the digital media world. I am not a fraud. I belong somewhere, even if I haven't found it yet.