Finding My Inner Rockstar

dheerja
dheerja
Jan 27, 2016 · 3 min read

I had a relatively non-traditional path into software development. I majored in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research in college — it’s a combination of applied math, comp sci, and business, so I knew how to solve problems with code, but four programming classes wasn’t enough to really consider it a career path. When senior year came around I did the finance and consulting interview loop, figuring I’d end up in the typical Columbia student career path…until ESPN came to campus.

I love sports. I really, really love sports. I had no idea what kind of job ESPN had to offer, but I was suddenly like a kid in a candy store, imagining a dream job working at the mecca of sports fandom. So I walked into an interview for a web development job with nothing but the difference between an object and a class, a few SQL tricks, and the ability to recite the Jets regular season record from the past ten years. I got the job, thanks to an awesome team taking a chance on the crazy Jets fan without a CS degree, but with a drive to learn.

I spent the next seven years at ESPN — progressing up the engineering ranks, moving to the mobile team, and ultimately growing as a product leader. I built some really awesome stuff — Grantland, the NFL Playoff Machine, some of ESPN’s flagship apps, and the ESPN.com redesign — and overall had a career I’m really proud of.

But looking back, there were only a few, distinct moments out of many where I felt like I truly deserved to be there. Part of it was due to literally knowing nothing about web development when I started, part of it was always challenging myself with new projects and roles, but part of it was this subconscious feeling that I could never be the “rockstar”.

Imposter syndrome is well-documented, and I’ve read so many accounts of women feeling like they weren’t qualified for a role they very clearly were. But it still took me a while to realize it was something I felt pretty much my entire career. I was lucky to have a wonderful team of people around me every step of the way at ESPN, some of whom are still my closest friends. I was even luckier to have extremely supportive managers who were my personal cheerleaders, promoting me and rewarding me for my efforts. Most importantly, I have parents who raised me with a real love for math and sports, and the belief that girls kick ass. Given all that, it’s so crazy to think that in the back of my head, I always had this vision of someone who could do my job better. That person was a “rockstar” — usually white, male, and with confidence through the roof. I constantly felt like I was striving to be that person, and faking it the whole way.

Realizing all this was a huge step for me. Once I did, I’d go to work every day and force myself to believe that I was that person, until it became something I truly believed. When I left ESPN last year to take on an exciting, challenging new role at theSkimm, it was so important that I felt that inner confidence, and it’s been an incredible journey so far. What’s also helped? Having some amazing women as mentors and role models — all rockstars.

I found that confidence and hope we all do more to make women, from an early age on, feel like they can rule the world.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store