This article was written by Taylor Reyes Sihapanya, UX Design graduate.
Being a parent in the tech industry has a ton of pros (hello cutting-edge benefits, remote work, and parental leave). But we know that with all pros, there are cons looming in the background.
For example: Not relating to my 20-something, single colleagues. Been there. Last minute happy hour tonight? Can’t do it; gotta pick up the kid.
Us parents may not be able to dedicate our entire lives to our work at all hours of the day (and who would want to do that, anyway?), but let me tell you — we are just as valuable, if not more, than our single, 20-something, sans-kid colleagues. Struggling with impostor syndrome is a frequent occurrence because we often stack ourselves against people who are not even playing in the same league. I would argue that they’re not even playing the same sport!
Why do I have such a strong opinion on the impostor syndrome topic? I just happen to battle it. Every. Single. Day.
My name is Taylor. I’m a mom, an avid learner, and I’m a 30-something who has been working in the tech industry (more specifically, in EdTech) for the last 3-but-feels-like-20 years.
Before EdTech, I had fairly long tenures at companies within the Health and Real Estate industries, doing your typical office administration work. I’ve always been pretty strong technically and had dabbled in code and design in my teenage years, but I had no idea how to apply these interests into a career. Quite honestly, I hardly had an idea that it was possible.
Boy, was I in for a ride after realizing that there was space for me.
But it took a long time to get there. When I became pregnant, I took my maternity leave as any gal normally would. Quickly realizing in the first month or two (when I was finally getting some sleep again) that I was not going to be able to separate from my tiny baby any time soon. It also ultimately made more sense financially for me to stay home with her.
A small salary coupled with San Francisco living & daycare expenses will do that to you.
Fortunately, my husband’s salary was enough to sustain our small family, while I took care of our daughter full time and made extra cash here and there selling my large sneaker collection and building my own small online business.
Hustle any way you can, amirite?
But when I was ready to head back into the workforce after 2 years of babytalk, play dates, and tending to a tiny human, how was I going to get out of the rut I was previously in for basically my entire career? How would I stop from going the easy route and getting yet another unfulfilling admin assistant role?
Apply like crazy, and hold on for the ride. That’s how.
I applied to tons of jobs, feverishly. I had phone interviews during nap time and in-person interviews when someone agreed to watch my kiddo. It was a long process, but eventually, I scored an interview at some place I had never heard of before; a coding Bootcamp. I thought: “Ok, a school. I can do that.” The position was for, you guessed it, an admin role. But when I stepped into the room for my interview something in my mind changed. The students were buzzing. There was staff hanging out in the common areas, looking happy while gathered around their respective MacBooks. I was refreshed. The interview was lengthy and thorough. I had never encountered, in all my years of interviewing for the many admin roles, a “working interview” where you’re given a challenge to solve, in addition to a “take home”. Apparently, I aced it, because they called me back immediately and we went into final rounds where I met the team I’d work on.
I loved working there. It brought all the challenges I had been missing for so many years. Being around students completely changing their lives was inspiring! I was stretched to the max, and my mind grew exponentially because of it. I doubted myself every single day, but I brushed it off and kept going. I had to! I wasn’t going to fail at this. I wasn’t going to miss my daughter terribly (I mean, heart-crushing longing to be home with her all day again feels) all while this being for naught. I had to press on. When I talked to my Software Engineer colleagues who were all ridiculously brilliant, I had to pretend like I had been doing this for years.
Fake it ‘til you make it.
I realized by being around these brilliant minds and hungry students, that I too, was hungry to change my career trajectory and find my place in an industry I quickly fell in love with.
With my tiny (I mean, really tiny) knowledge of code, my infatuation with all things design, and my keen desire to learn, I found out about this little thing folks call “UX Design”. I was hooked. I scoured the internet for hours trying to teach myself about what the hell UX is, and then I went into a desperate search trying to find the program that fit my needs. I had been working in the in-person Bootcamp space for a while now, and I knew how impactful it was. Though, I knew how unrealistic for me it was. Quit my job and take out a loan, to then not make money for 6 months to a year while I study? Not feasible for me.
This hunt took some time. 2 years in fact, until I came across Thinkful.
The curriculum was powerful, the mentor model was standalone, and it was all online at the pace I choose. The Designer Track was perfection for a gal like me. I had finally found my ideal place to build my skill set.
And now my story continues…
Based on my experience, I wanted to share 3 tips and tricks to follow when it comes to overcoming impostor syndrome. If I can do it, so can you.
Tip #1 — Get inspired by the people around you.
They all started out new to this, just like you. No matter how brilliant you think they are — they were all beginners once. Picture [enter brilliant person here] and where they’re at now. Now, picture what they had to do to get there. Do you think they got there with no struggles or challenges along the way? Nope! At some point somewhere, they were a beginner just like you.
We all, quite literally, have to start from somewhere. Going from novice to advanced does not happen overnight.
Tip #2 — Never stop learning.
Commit time every day towards your ultimate goal. Be a little obsessed with it. Ask questions, research answers, and then ask some more. Do you love the idea of doing this as a career? Show that love a little bit! Dedication to your outcome is going to go a long way if you are constantly immersing yourself in different topics, challenges, and viewpoints. Make yourself an expert on your own terms.
Find influential people to follow on Twitter, scour Medium for great blog posts, watch YouTube videos, find free/ low-cost resources to supplement your learning on topics, listen to podcasts.
You’ll be surprised how much you can learn when you expand your horizon a little bit.
Tip #3 — Stay humble.
I cannot stress this enough. I was listening to a podcast recently on how to ace a technical interview, and one of the tips was to stay humble. It was said that: “There is no bigger turn-off during an interview than someone who tries to pass themselves off as a know-it-all.” It’s perfectly fine to not have all the answers.
Being humble about being a learner opens yourself up to building strong relationships with those who could possibly take you under their wing.
It shows that you’re a great person to work with because you’re not afraid of being challenged; you’re not afraid of receiving feedback and growing from that. It shows that you have the experience to bring to the table, and you’re open to collaboration. It builds trust.
So, are you pursuing your dream career like I am, but unsure of yourself?
Feeling the pressure of all of your responsibilities as a parent, or an employee, all while trying to advance yourself to the next big step?
I need to remind you: This. Is. Possible.
We may struggle with flexibility more than our single colleagues do. We may need to take time off more often to care for our children. But this does not equate to being any less capable of doing the job.
I would argue that we have more hustle, more focus, and more on the line than anyone else because damnit, we have to succeed at this. We are raising the next generation of tiny capable humans, after all.
Don’t ever let being a parent hold you back from what you are capable of — being a parent is one of the greatest gifts and probably the most rewarding job we will ever have in our lifetime.
Keep at it.
Don’t lose sight of your goal.
Push through the self-doubt and the negativity.
Do it for yourself, and do it for the little eyes watching you at every step.
Taylor Reyes Sihapanya