Leyla Norooz is a graduate of the HCIM program and currently a Ph.D. student at the College of Information Studies (iSchool) at University of Maryland, College Park. The following is reposted from Leyla's blog with her permission. If you would like to see Leyla's blog, you can access it here: leylanorooz.com/blog
I need to let you all in on a secret I've been carrying with me for a few months now: I'm an imposter.
TL;DR If you're feeling Imposter Syndrome, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Write a list of all your skills (no matter how small), realize how much you really do know, and trust that you belong where you are! Scroll to the bottom for more tips.
Last summer, one of my long time dreams came true when I was accepted for an internship at Google. I was to become a User Experience Research Intern on the YouTube Kids team, working at the YouTube headquarters and living in San Francisco proper. This was it! I was finally going to be working with the brilliant people I'd admired since I starting my Computer Science degree back in 2007.
What I didn't expect, however, was how displaced I would feel while working with those people. There I was, the first day of orientation, in a room filled with other excited and young interns eager to start an unforgettable summer. As I looked across the room, I started to feeling something strange: "All of these smart students here... do I really belong? Do I really have what it takes to be here? So many of these students are younger than me, maybe 19, 20, 21 years old. Am I just not as smart as them? I think they may have made a mistake picking me. Little did I know, I was experiencing Imposter Syndrome.
In the coming weeks, I continued to feel this sense of displacement. On the one hand, I felt like Willy Wonka's Charlie, with the Golden Ticket everyone wanted to see the mysterious and famous factory. How lucky was I?! But on the other hand, I couldn't shake the feeling that I shouldn't be attending meetings with Project Managers and Designers and Developers for the very apps I, and millions across the world, used every day. How was I supposed to reach their level? They were infallible Gods! They were Masters of design, everything I had ever hoped I would be one day. Suddenly I was an inexperienced child amongst wise, senior adults. I was sure that was the summer my career would end...
The more time passed, the more I started to notice little ways in which I could help others improve, to guide my team with the little experience I did have, and to help other expand their minds and become more well-rounded people by sharing my experiences and skills with them. I began to gain the same in return. I started learning new research techniques. I started noticing how the work I was doing was actually no different than what I normally did; it was just a matter of looking at it through a new lens. Sure I wasn't writing long conference papers detailing every minuscule part of my research. But I was creating short, clear, concise, and to-the-point deliverables for my team (which were writing and presentation skills I had learned as a student). Sure I was making tiny contributions, but they were huge ripples in the grand scheme of things.