That time imposter syndrome nearly stopped me from getting an awesome job

This is part one of my story about landing on the product design team at DigitalOcean. I started work at DO in March 2016 after three months of getting to know the design team. I’ve been really impressed since the first day I toured the office and wanted to share the story of how I got the job and how DO has kept me pretty stoked since.

The backstory
DigitalOcean was one of the first companies I talked to when I got to New York at the end of 2015. Joel, DO’s Product Design Manager, reached out to tell me that he’d been using his Swipies (😁!) and that we should chat about product design. I came by the office and was really impressed by the space (namely, the badass oceanic illustrations on the walls), the way the design team was genuinely excited to meet me, and the fact that every person I met was noticeably enjoying life at DigitalOcean.

DO seemed like a perfect fit. My top job requirement was joining a company that valued learning and mentorship, and DO quickly appealed to both. We decided to move forward, and I was given homework, as all DigitalOcean potential hires are. Coming from a non-technical background, I was overwhelmed and immediately went to that dreadful, esteem-eating imposter place. Ramping up on a new industry and the DO product alone would be quite a task. I feared I wasn’t the right fit for the job, so I actually passed on the opportunity.

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A couple weeks later, my new life in New York was finally leveling out and I started to have this uneasy feeling that I missed a great opportunity. Add to that, multiple people had recommended DO to me during that time. I was introduced to Celia who had just been hired at DO and had awesome things to say, which was the final push in the right direction. So, I reached out to Joel and let him know I was still very much interested. Luckily, he was too.

The interview process
A couple days later, I received new homework with three assignment options. I worked on the project for about 4 days before submitting it. To my surprise, I got a response that (Saturday) evening. Clearly, DigitalOcean is very serious about hiring. The team liked the work and I was invited into the office for a final interview, which lasted around four hours. I was asked to present my homework and talk through my portfolio, then met with the whole design team.

I left the meeting feeling sort of unsettled. On one hand, I thought it had gone really well with the team. They were interested in my side projects, my time running my own businesses, and previous startup experience, and they had thoughtful questions about my homework. On the other hand, the day was punctuated with an unexpected examination of my HTML/CSS abilities. I’ve never used these skills professionally and admittedly, they are my weakest. Joel reassured me it was just a gauge, but as I left the office, my imposter syndrome started to boil over. Why did I get my hopes up? I read the job description. I don’t have the technical skills required. Before things could get out of hand, I heard from DO. They wanted to extend an offer.

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At this point, the recruiting team got involved, I was being scheduled for a final call with the CEO, and Joel personally called to tell me he was excited to have me join the team. I received my offer letter and was relieved that everything I’d been searching for in a role was finally falling into place. So I accepted.

Move aside, imposter
My pesky imposter syndrome consistently resurfaced during this process and almost got in the way of a really good thing. At 3 months in, I now feel confident that what I am still learning is balanced by my extensive experience and qualities in other areas. I bring expertise to my team every day, but I’m also challenged and constantly growing. And that’s the way it should be.

Each year of experience and each increase in role caliber make me feel more confident interviewing and owning my strengths, but will I continue to face imposter syndrome as I continue to strive for higher roles? Is it a healthy, humbling thing to experience, or something we outgrow with age, experience and wisdom?

When have you experienced overwhelming imposter syndrome, and how did things work out? Where are you now? I’d love to hear your experience.

This is only the beginning of my DO story! Read on to Part 2 where I talk about the fantastic DigitalOcean onboarding experience.


Feel free to reach out on Twitter, I’d love to hear from you!

Does DigitalOcean sound like something you’d be into? We’re always looking for talented people to join the team. Check out our current openings.

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Entrepreneurial product designer into startups, sports, sleeping outside, dogs, travel and mezcal old fashioneds.

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