I am a woman designer & developer with over a decade of experience in several programming languages and almost a decade of design experience, so you’d think I would be more confident in my abilities. You’d be wrong. More than ever, I find myself omitting or overtly denying how much I’ve accomplished out of embarrassment or humility.

Like many women in our culture, I am a living example of a person with Impostor Syndrome. In other words, I can’t internalize my accomplishments. When I mention my years of experience and accolades, I feel like I’m bragging because deep behind my drive to do great things is a force that compares my accomplishments to others’. This comparison makes me feel like my work is nothing special. I recently learned how common this problem is, recognized that it is a problem, and am now working hard to remedy it. Part of that journey is my attendance at the Write/Speak/Code conference, a program that aims to help women in technology become confident thought leaders & open source contributors. Today was the first session, and I already feel great.

You are an expert in something

As a person with Impostor Syndrome, it’s very hard to call myself an expert in anything. As I mentioned earlier, I have a lot of experience despite only being 23 (and a minority). I should probably feel like I’m changing the ratio in a multitude of ways, but I tend to forget that I’m any more than a web designer who just got out of college.

Hello, my name is Catt Small and I’m an expert in designing & building user experiences for web-based apps across devices because I have 11 years of coding experience in multiple languages, 8 years of design experience, & a degree in Graphic Design from SVA; I’ve also led a successful UX Design workshop for the meetup I run called Tech Under Thirty.

Wow, that’s a lot, isn’t it? The above is the output of the first exercise during the writing workshop. Two smart ladies from the Op-Ed Project helped us to feel more comfortable with listing our accomplishments. It’s not bragging, it’s the truth. If you want to be heard – to matter – you need to be confident in your hard work and well-deserved accolades.

Try the exercise for yourself.

Hello, my name is [add your name here] and I'm an expert in [add your interest] because [add your reasoning & accomplishments here].

What did you come up with? Are you a credible source of information about the topic you chose? If you have an interest in something you work on or study a lot, you are probably a credible source of information about it. You are an expert. You can add value to other peoples’ lives.

Writing gives you opportunities

In addition to that exercise, we also worked on generating ideas for future writing. I’ll probably need time, but I’ll definitely be writing about the topic I chose. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up in the New York Times next to the Op Ed columns I always read! Or maybe I won’t, and that’s not the end of the world. One great point the organizers really drilled into our heads today was the fact that failure is okay. If you don’t try, you have no chance to succeed.

So maybe you’re interested in writing an opinionated piece and have a topic ready. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Why do your topic & opinion matter?
  2. Is your topic relevant right now, and if not, how can it use timely news to become relevant?
  3. Why are you a person whose opinion matters on this topic?
  4. What are you adding to the conversation that hasn’t already been said?
  5. Is your article short enough to be reviewed while keeping the important point intact?
  6. Have you chosen your words based on truth rather than meanings you expect your readers to infer?

Make yourself matter

Lastly, work hard to build credibility for yourself. Join an email distribution list or two. Write blog posts as often as possible. Pitch ideas for posts in leading magazines and websites. Volunteer at conferences and local meetups. Voice your opinion to thought leaders on social media and their blogs. Send in proposals for talks. At some point, people will realize that you have valid ideas. If you say nothing, nothing gets heard.

Thanks to the ladies behind Write/Speak/Code for organizing such a wonderful, inspiring conference. And If you have a topic you’d like to speak about and need a platform, contact me at Tech Under Thirty. We’ll gladly be your stepping stone to greater things in life.