NDA’s Digital Women series is talking to leaders from across our industry to understand the particular issues faced by women. Here, Luisa Ronchi, Director of App Store Optimisation and User Acquisition at ConsultMyApp, discusses how to overcome imposter syndrome and take a leap into a tech leadership role…
“How did I get here so quickly? Was my progression down to me being good at my job, or am I just lucky? Will anyone respect me as a leader?” These are all questions I’ve asked myself throughout my career whilst paving my way as a female leader in the technology sector.
Many of us can relate to the very familiar feeling that we do not belong, especially women looking to break the glass ceiling in a notoriously male dominated tech sector. Picture this – you’re sitting in a room of your peers and suddenly get a twisting feeling in your gut that you don’t belong there or you are in some way undeserving or inadequate of your position.
In fact, the technology sector is rife with imposter syndrome, with nearly all leaders, designers and programmers suffering with it at one, or several points, in their career. And it’s not surprising. With all the acronyms, new concepts and constant advances to keep up to date with, it can be an intimidating sector – daunting for new applicants to enter and even complex for those who have been working in the sector for years.
Still, these symptoms of imposter syndrome have a huge impact on confidence, and shaking off any self-doubt is key to ensuring happiness, resilience and success in your career. So how can you squash imposter syndrome and take a leap into a role in tech?
Here’s what I’ve learnt along the way.
Practice self affirmation and own who you are
As someone who has experienced fast progression in the tech sector, starting off as an intern for Apple in Rio de Janeiro developing iOS apps, to becoming Director of ASO and UA at ConsultMyApp, I understand what it’s like to doubt my achievements and quick progression in the industry.
Along the way, I’ve struggled when it comes to my confidence around establishing authority and respect. After my internship at Apple, I was offered a full-time role, coaching around 400 interns a year to develop and market iOS apps at Apple’s Developer Academy based in Italy – the very first Apple Developer Academy in Europe. At this point, 80% or more were men, and I was often either just a couple years older , the same age or even younger at times than those I was managing so pivoting to more of a leadership role was challenging.
But I realised my self-doubt was all internal, not inflicted by those around me. We are our most prominent critics, but to flourish and advance, I had to ignore the niggling thoughts at the back of my mind telling me I’m not qualified or experienced enough to lead. To really put these thoughts to rest, I needed to remind myself of all the hard work that got me there.
I began practising self-affirmation to acknowledge my accomplishments and give myself credit. Here are a few helpful examples; “I am good enough”, “I am ready to be a leader”, “I have developed the skills I need for this role and have proved that I am capable”, “I earned this role through hard work, determination”, “I believe in myself and my abilities to lead a team”.
Since then, I’ve gone from Coach, to Team Lead, to Director and managed teams of all sizes along the way, leaning into these practices of self-affirmation to build self-assurance and self-belief.
Surround yourself with people who support you
Remember, it’s not just all on you. Those around you have a significant role in building your confidence and reminding you of the reasons why you are worthy of your position and achievements.
My friends and family have been my biggest supporters – always pushing me to reach my full potential and picking me up when my confidence wavers.
After all, they are the people who know you best – they will be honest with you, give you great advice and remind you of the reasons you are where you are in your career.
Rewire your expectations of what leadership looks like
I’ll admit, I’m not an extrovert and certainly not the loudest voice in the room. So, building presence is something I’ve battled with in the past and coaching hundreds of interns has contributed to overcoming that.
When I used to think about a leader, I’d think of someone who could command a room, was full of confidence and very assertive. I quickly realised these were all stereotypes and being a leader and establishing presence is different for each person.
For me, leadership goes hand in hand with listening, supporting, guiding and collaborating. It does not mean you need to be the loudest and boldest personality. It means remaining true to yourself and being there to manage, support and guide others in their roles. Breaking these stereotypes around leadership, and changing my perspective has been immensely helpful in combating imposter syndrome and understanding how to build presence in a way that is natural to me.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Failing to recognise or admit vulnerability often results in spiralling insecurities that can prevent you from taking new challenges or leaps. So, while you may not want to ask a question you think is ignorant or demonstrates your lack of understanding, remember, as cliche as it may sound, there is no such thing as a silly question. In fact, someone else may be having the same thought or question so you can even help someone else in the process!
Never pretend to have all the answers, and keep asking for help where you need it. Asking for help, is not admitting to failure. It is a strength. Whether that be asking a colleague for extra support on a project you’re struggling with, or looking to a mentor for guidance on management. I’ve learnt a lot from my mentees too, and today I learn every day from my team.
Keep learning, none of us are a finished product
When working at Apple, I heard the term “App Store Optimisation” for the very first time. I was immediately intrigued and determined to learn more, to build up my understanding. I became very knowledgeable in the area but only from Apple’s iOS perspective, and I had little background in Android. So, I took it upon myself to learn all there was to know about the Android side of ASO through training, self-study, watching webinars and reading articles.
I realised that overcoming imposter syndrome also required constant learning, development of skill sets and keeping informed. In the marketing and tech industry, there is no space to think someone is fully knowledgeable and ready. Every day there is something new to learn and unknown to discover.
Stay inquisitive. Keep learning. That’s my advice. Being a great leader means acknowledging that you are not a finished product, and there is so much more to learn.