My career started the day I walked through the gates of that university in the name of “Let’s make Daddy happy!”
I found myself in a man dominated work environment where I felt less, unwanted, unexperienced and worthless! Most of the time I was tempted to model the behavior of men to more readily find acceptance and success. But as I have come to realize, this was a huge mistake. I failed to capitalize on my distinctive, intrinsically female characteristic and focus. As a person born in the village, the system was already against me. Being a woman, whose interest was not in the field made that even harder. It felt like bringing a knife to a gunfight – You can’t possibly come out of that unscathed.
I developed Imposter Syndrome which as explained by Dr. Pauline Rose Clance, is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized FEAR of being exposed as a "fraud". I enrolled for a Master’s class in Data Communication and Network Engineering. For some reason I had this weird sense that sooner or later people were going to find out that I had no idea what I was doing. They were going to find out that I had slipped through the cracks to get into graduate school. But this feeling wasn’t new to me. I felt the same way my first few years of undergraduate too. I remember looking around at the other students (all men) in my class and thinking, please don’t notice that I’m stupid. I did tremendously well in my master’s class than how I had performed in my undergraduate studies. Despite my external evidence of my competence, I still remained convinced that I was a fraud, and did not deserve all I had achieved.
In the years I have worked as a software engineer, I have learned to own my victories, to act before anyone else is ready and never to lose sight of the goals I want to achieve, the points I want to reach and the type of person I want to become. The only thing that separates me from anyone else in my field is time and effort. Anything that anyone else can do, I can do.
One thing I would like to tell my STEM sisters, try as much to overcome the imposter syndrome if you want to make it in this life. Do not let anyone make you feel like you don't matter, or like you don't have a place in the STEM world because you do, and you have the right to be exactly who you want to be. Embrace your individuality.
My favourite quote:
“While the place that I’ve arrived at in my life may not precisely be everyone’s idea of heavenly, I could swear sometimes — I hear angels sing.” Carrie Fisher
Vane Hezron is a woman of color, a software engineer and a proud STEMinist.