Every year at GHC there is a panel called the Imposter Panel. I remember when I first came in 2006 it was in a medium sized room, and everyone crammed into the talk, stood in the hall, and not everyone could participate. It was so popular! The one in 2008 was similar, but of course each time there are new panelists and some new take on the problem of people feeling like imposters. This year they had moved the panel to the large ballroom where keynote speeches occur. It was great that everyone who wanted to attend could be there this time.
There was a very nice opening speech describing what going to GHC can mean to a student. I think the best point was saying that we need to support a woman who doesn't know yet that she's a computer scientist, or a woman who is the only one in her department.
During the panel the panelists all made very good points about how you can combat the feeling of being an imposter. For instance, the first speaker mentioned that you need to remember all of those great things you've succeeded at even if they are small, and you should really find a mentor and a sponsor whether or not they are the same person. Many of the panelists stressed the need for your network in different ways: they support you, you support them, and you learn from each other. Great advice both about imposter syndrome and overall.
Of course the most popular comment, and probably the most tweeted, is that "there is no recognition fairy!" This point is of course that you need to make it clear what you want and what you've done, because no one will do it for you! Definitely a recurring point here at GHC, and worth the repetition!
The panel was really great, which was evident by how many more questions were left at the end. So many people had great questions, the answers that really struck me are the following:
- when you do screw up you really just have to eventually get over it. sure, you'll languish in it for awhile, but eventually you have to realize it's not the end of the world.
- if you aren't taking risks and living outside of your comfort zone, you can't move on.
- realize it's not just about you, and if it seems like everyone is smarter in class maybe they are just more driven to impress the professor (i.e. they memorize quotes from the textbook).
The last thing that really struck me about this year's Imposter Panel was that all of the panelists admitted that they felt like imposters from being on the panel! What a great example of how easy it is to feel like you aren't ready to do something when you really are the right person, especially when the audience can see that themselves.
I'm so glad the imposter panel has become such a main part of GHC, with no other competing sessions, and now a big enough room for everyone. Hopefully next time they'll do it again and maybe even find more ways to change it to keep it fresh as they have done so far!