How I overcame impostor syndrome?

Recently, I got the opportunity to speak in the python devroom at FOSDEM 2017 which was held from 4th-5th Feb, 2017 in Brussels, Belgium. I spoke about webpush notifications and WebPush Channels.

WebPush Channels is a web service that I created as part of my Outreachy internship with Mozilla. It adds PubSub capabilities to the WebPush API. The service is written using kinto.core and uses simple HTTP requests to manage user subscriptions and publish messages to them.

What is FOSDEM?

It is a non-commercial, volunteer-organized European event centered on free and open-source software development. It is aimed at developers and anyone interested in the free and open-source software movement. It aims to enable developers to meet and to promote the awareness and use of free and open-source software. FOSDEM is held annually and this year it was held at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in the southeast of Brussels, Belgium.

What is meant by a Python devroom?

The vast majority of events (talks, hacking sessions, open discussions) at FOSDEM are held in so-called developer rooms (devrooms), which are organized and managed by volunteers of the open-source project community themselves, or even associations between several such projects on a common topic in order to foster collaboration. So, a python devroom caters to python related open source projects.

My mentor Rémy Hubscher suggested that I should apply to be a speaker at FOSDEM 2017. Like most conferences, I had to submit a proposal for my talk and some details about me. I applied in December and got a confirmation about the acceptance of my talk in January.

What was my talk about?

Following is the flow of my talk:

  • Kinto
  • WebPush
  • Service Workers
  • Push Servers
  • PubSub paradigm and channels
  • How to use WebPush Channels to subscribe and publish push messages?

How the experience helped me?

Speaking on a public platform is never easy. It is an even more daunting task if you’re speaking at the first tech conference that you’re attending. I suffer(ed) from impostor syndrome. From applying to be a speaker to actually speaking at the conference and meeting so many new people, I have fought a lot of demons inside struggling to believe that I am capable of doing it.

I was reluctant to even apply to be a speaker! I constantly questioned if I really was deserving enough of being accepted as a speaker or thought I was too young to speak at such a big conference. One of my close friends, Sahil Dua, encouraged me and convinced me that I must apply without thinking about the outcome. I mean what could have been the worst outcome — they’d have rejected my proposal but what could have been the best outcome — I’d be accepted as a speaker. Hence, I gave it a shot. What I learnt:

Always give it a shot! There’s no harm in trying and there’s nothing bad in getting rejected.

When there were about 150–200 people listening to me speak about my project at the python devroom, I did get really nervous while speaking and if you’ve watched the video, you’ll realize there was a point where I took a big pause. There was a dark cloud of fear that surrounded me in that moment — I had thoughts that I couldn’t do this and I need to get off the dias. In that moment, I gathered all my courage and continued speaking with an even greater zeal. What I learnt:

If you fall down, getting up is hard but if you decide to bounce back and make the required efforts, you can do it. If you choose bouncing back over giving up, in that moment, you have overcome your self doubt. This was my moment of discovering my self belief.

After I finished delivering my talk, I had overcome my impostor syndrome. I had a new found self belief. This experience made me accept applause from people in its most genuine form and for the first time in a long time I was able to accept the praise without doubting it. I’d generally attribute my achievements to mere luck but this time I’d say it was me and not the luck. I’d generally lose heart on seeing myself make so many mistakes while speaking, fumbling and confusing things but I’m extremely happy that I’m able to accept that it’s okay not to do everything perfectly. I can go on and on about how I had all the symptoms of being an impostor and how things are different after this talk.

Public Speaking helps cure Impostor Syndrome! Yayayaya. If you think you’re an impostor, please go ahead and speak at a public platform. It’s the most liberating feeling when you don’t have to carry the baggage of “I’m not good enough” with you.

Also, there were other amazing talks that I got to attend. There was a lot of new stuff I learnt and got aware of. I also got to meet a lot of new people and engage in discussions with them. Overall, I had the time of my life at FOSDEM :D

After my talk, I worked with my team at Mozilla’s Paris office to create a working demo of WebPush Channels. I could finally see the fruit of my work for 2 months in the form of a working demo! This was an achievement as big as the talk for me. This helped me even more in battling with my habit of underestimating of my abilities.

Please feel free to contact me or comment on this post if you want to know more about my experience or have some constructive criticism related to my talk. Cheers!