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Reframing your thoughts as a female tech leader

At the end of March, xDesign will be sponsoring Reframe Women in Tech - taking place in Manchester at Lancashire Cricket Ground. It’s the third time the event will have taken place, and this year it’ll be on an even bigger scale.

For me, it provides women from across the technology industry the opportunity to get together; hear from those that are having a positive impact in the sector when it comes to championing women and their causes, whilst also offering the chance to shine a spotlight on those issues that still need attention.

We’ve certainly come a long way from when tech was a male preserve, but there’s still more to be done to make it more inclusive and welcoming for women, and people from different backgrounds and experiences.

As a senior female tech leader, I’ve been on my own journey to overcoming some of the obstacles that were symptomatic of the way the industry was set up. In particular, the feeling that I sometimes felt like an imposter in my role.

Below I shed some light on how you can reframe the problem and override that nagging self doubt that can creep in.    

So, what is imposter syndrome?

Well, according to Time magazine, 70% of people identify with the signs of it at one point in their life.

For many people, imposter syndrome leaves them feeling like a fraud – believing that they are not worthy of the salary or role that they’ve worked so hard for. The anxiety that arises means that people often think they are going to get found out as incapable by their peers and colleagues.

I’m not sure if my own imposter syndrome will ever fully go away, but if you invest in yourself and work on your confidence, I believe you can silence any doubts very quickly. Today I want to share some of the mindset changes that helped me the most.

Live by your own rules

Firstly, you can only really be an ‘imposter’ if you’re living by the values and expectations of others. This is something I’ve learned to stop doing over the years.

My career has developed as the result of working with some exceptional bosses and peers of all genders, however, it is up to us as individuals to sift through the advice and guidance we’re given and draw our own conclusions. Without getting too philosophical, we have to live our own truth and hold ourselves to the standards that we set, not those of others.

For example, in my earlier career, I was once told by a senior colleague that a female colleague needed to “toughen up”. This statement came from what I know now was a bad people manager who thought this was the right way to motivate and push his staff to be more productive.

However, if I’d listened to this advice I would have been living in an imposter state that would have eventually worn me down. On reflection, it’s not that women in the tech industry need to ‘toughen up’, it’s that the industry itself needs to get kinder.

Thankfully, I’m now an xDesigner and know that not only can I be my true self at work, but I’ve got a team of people behind me that want me to succeed and fulfil my true potential. There’s nothing quite like a positive working environment to silence those negative imposter thoughts.

You’re a kind person…so be kind to yourself

If you’ve ever suffered from imposter syndrome, you’ll know that it’s easy to get tangled up in a negative cycle of thoughts.

I think it would be truly fascinating if we had the technology to listen in to how other people talk to themselves. I am sure we’d all be pretty shocked at how negative and vicious we can sometimes be.

As a result, I now live by the rule that we should all treat ourselves like we treat others in our lives – with kindness and respect. In a tech sector that is constantly evolving at pace – but at the same time requires diligence and discipline – it’s easy to get down on yourself from time to time when mistakes occur.

Nowadays I always think about my golden rule of kindness to one’s self. We waste enormous amounts of physical and emotional energy when we beat ourselves up.

Embrace and own that compliment

One common symptom of imposter syndrome is that people often can’t take a compliment from a colleague. They shrug off the compliment because they feel unworthy or think that their success was down to pure luck, and not as a result of their hard work.

Many years ago, this was a trait that I used to inhabit in my daily work. For a female working in a tech company surrounded by some exceptionally bright people (many males too), this is an easy behaviour to slip into.

However, my advice is this. Not only should you embrace a compliment for your sterling effort, but you should also wear that compliment with pride. I believe that every compliment you accept unquestioningly is one step on the way out of Imposterville via the Confidence Highway.

By accepting positive recognition for your hard work, you’re accepting that you’re just as good as anyone else at your job – whether as a technologist or in any other role in life.

Send that internal imposter packing

Some of my advice may not work for everyone – as we’ve highlighted, we’re all unique. However, I do think the universal moral of the story here is that like those female technologists that went before us, modern women in tech need to continue to be fearless, and free, and foster even more belief in themselves and their role within our thriving technology sector.