Gmail engineer: Women must overcome the impostor syndrome

By Jon Gold, Network World |  IT Management, women in IT

Nor did she confine her use of the technique to her professional life - she used it to talk herself into completing multiple triathlons and even trying to run a marathon.

"I will not try that again," she said, to some amusement. "The 'worst thing that could happen?' It's bad."

Farmer went to Google after 10 years in the industry.

"I wanted to see if I could be an individual contributor at one of the top companies in the Valley," she told the crowd. "And it was awesome. The problems were hard, but I could do them. The people I worked with were great, and they thought I was good too."

And then, kids.

Not much changed after Farmer got married - "I told my husband if he ever told me to choose him over my career, he was going to lose," she said - but parenthood was a different story, forcing her to change her priorities for the first time in a while.

"I knew things were going to have to change ... but I never thought I'd have to put my goals on the sidelines," she said.

After giving birth, Farmer said, "I came back to Google, to a new manager, to a [re-organized] team, all-new projects. ... I was ill-prepared. I was not able to maintain my productivity."

Nevertheless, she continued to work a grueling schedule and care for her child - which took its toll.

"All of a sudden I thought, 'this is why women leave!' I never understood it ... I thought I had it all figured out," Farmer said.

However, that's the reality for women in tech, she said.

"We're going to change throughout our careers," Farmer said. "You don't have to sacrifice your goals, you don't have to give up on them. But you do have to be open to changing the path to get there."

With that insight, she said, it's been easier to handle all the challenges in front of her.

"I had my daughter, I also had my son. And I've been promoted twice at Google since. That's no small feat, for anyone unfamiliar with Google," she said.

She's also had some further insights on working in production, since joining the Gmail team.

"You know when you're responsible for production, if nobody's talking about you, you rock. If people are talking about you, shit's broken," Farmer said, eliciting laughter. "[And] with Gmail, when something's broken, it's in the news."

Under pressure

Too often, according to Farmer, the isolation of being one of comparatively few women working in technology becomes a problem. That's why mentoring and professional relationships between women in tech are so important.

"If you don't have people that you can go to and talk to - not just your friends and family - but people who understand ... the role that you're in, you're really missing something," she said.


Originally published on Network World |  Click here to read the original story.
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