I first became acquainted with Women Who Test by listening to the Women Who Change Tech podcast. After listening to every episode I decided to attend my first Women Who Test event at STAREAST 2019.

Opening Remarks

Alison Wade started the morning off by sharing an astonishing statistic: women now hold a lower share of computer science jobs than they did in the 1980s. After learning this, I was eager to hear from the speakers and participants their perspective of working in a male-dominated field.

Failing and Recovering

Isabel Evans was very vulnerable when she shared her personal experiences of failing and recovering. She had the room laughing then crying during her talk, a skill few speakers can hone as effortlessly as the way Isabel did.

Two things Isabel said really resonated with me: “failure is a matter of opinion” and “you’re your harshest critic.”

The first quote had me relate it to seeking approval from people who don’t matter. You shouldn’t let others’ opinions of you change the person you are. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but it’s up to you to let their opinion affect you.

The second quote had me relate it to the negative talk I have with myself in my personal and professional life. I have to remind myself that I’m in fact doing well in both aspects and have so much to be proud of.

I have so much respect and admiration for Isabel after learning how she failed and recovered. She’s a strong woman who is overcoming her fears and encouraging others to do the same.

Imposter Syndrome and the Art of Being Wrong

Melissa Benua and Jeanne Riley shared this topic to empower women to take risks and be confident. Projecting confidence seems to come more naturally to men. I have found that men are not shy to boast about something they accomplished while women don’t speak up often enough to take their due credit. Also, men are more comfortable taking risks than women. As women, we have to become more comfortable taking risks as this is the key to furthering our careers.

The keys to overcoming imposter syndrome include:

  • Understand ‘real’ vs. ‘perceived’ impacts of risks. You may be amplifying the risks in your head. Melissa and Jeanne presented us with a risk thermometer to help us evaluate risks.
  • Be conscious of negative self talk. Don’t let yourself spiral down that rabbit hole of listening to negative thoughts. This diminishes your ability to make positive changes in your life and affects your confidence.
  • Consider risk vs. reward when making decisions and these can change continuously. Melissa shared that after giving birth to her children she had to reevaluate the risks she was willing to take.
  • Get comfortable taking more risks. This is something we have to practice; we have to flex that muscle.

The various exercises we did during their presentation allowed us to look inward and reflect on our past decisions. This opened my eyes to the risks I was too afraid to take and empowered me to take more risks in the future.

When you are experiencing negative self talk take time to reflect on your accomplishments. Don’t measure your triumphs by other people’s triumphs when putting your list together. Also, get a reality check from your support system when you’re experiencing self-doubt. Melissa shared that her support system was her mentors, sponsors, and buddies. Each group plays a different role and helps her judge risks and challenge the negative thinking associated with failure.

The Power of Collective Experience

Dawn Haynes told the audience, “if you are whining about it, take action to resolve it. Don’t sit in your self-pity, not resolving it.” This statement made me think about my personal and work related “whining” moments and gave me the kick in the butt I needed to make changes.

She began by asking “Who are you?” Having us think about our characteristics and ‘owning it’. To figure out where you want to be you have to identify who you are. You need to know what is the right environment for you. This can pertain to your work life or personal life. But understanding this can help you take action. Rethink the things you are afraid of by characterizing them as funny. This makes them less scary and intimidating.

During our group exercise on making a list of challenges we are facing today, my group member made a comment that really stuck with me: protect your time. Fiercely own your schedule and don’t feel guilty about denying meetings. As an assistant to six managers, I often feel guilty about working on my personal development or training because I feel like I’m taking time away from helping my team. But spending time on my personal development and training should be a priority, too, so I can grow my skill set and better assist my team.

Building Your Personal Brand for Success

Jennifer Bonine started her talk by illustrating how she brands herself. Her business cards put a smile on my face. Her title listed on them is Global Solutions Princess and has a picture of a woman wearing a crown which shows us that it’s okay to be creative with your brand.

To create your personal brand you have to be authentically you. You have to think about how you want to be perceived by others. Your personal brand can change as your life changes. Jennifer shared how she reinvented her personal brand after she had children.

Another important factor in creating your personal brand is fear. Fear holds us back in our careers, and we have to make sure to set our boundaries. As Jennifer shared, after having children she had to prioritize what was important to her. This meant verbalizing what she wanted to her boss and setting boundaries. You have to be the one that says, “I want this.” You’re your own advocate, and you won’t get what you want unless you ask.

One of her exercises had the room create a vision board. To create your personal brand, you have to start with having a vision. Writing down your goals then sharing it aloud makes those goals more real. This then allows someone to hold you accountable to what you said.

Closing Remarks

Hearing the speakers’ advice and encouraging words left me feeling re-energized. I ended the day with new found strength to achieve my own personal and professional goals. I’m so glad I decided to attend Women Who Test. I now have new sponsors, mentors, and buddies that are in my corner.