How This Uber Engineer Navigated Impostor Syndrome

Catriona Scott - Engineer at Uber


I went to University of Washington for computer engineering and now work as a software engineer at Uber on their iOS mobile platform. In college, I had classic impostor syndrome. Unfortunately, my first engineering class was not taught very well and the students who did well were those who had prior coding experience. I was so afraid that my entire major was going to be like this, and it was really challenging for me to get past that. I actually didn’t even plan to go into engineering. My original intent was to do something in psychology and neurobiology, but I happened to do a few coding classes as a prerequisite and ended up loving it, so I switched. I was one of a few women in my class and I didn’t know anybody. I had no one to talk to and remember some of the guys from my class thinking that I was rude. It was such a horrible feeling because I had no idea what I had done to come off this way to my peers.

I was also part of a sorority. I spent my days going to male-dominated classes and then feeling out of place when I went home because I had to study a lot more than my sisters; not a lot of people in the Greek system were in computer science. I couldn’t afford to go out three to four times a week because the workload was intense. Whenever I did go to parties and people found out I was in a computing major, their immediate reaction was: “Oh, you must be really smart.” I didn’t feel like I was smarter than people I met, but they would still distance themselves from me because there was a subconscious intimidation factor after they found out I was in computer science. I didn’t try to act dumb to counteract it, but it was still weird. I tried seeking out people who were in the same boat as me and built my own network to get me through college.

I feel like college is easy in the sense that you have a clear goal. You want to graduate with your degree and get a job. Even when you’re new to the tech world, your first few years are focused on getting promoted. I think I’ve gotten past those early stages and am struggling with where I want to take my career. It’s hard to find the balance between progressing through your career and learning at the same time. Those two things have been at odds for me for the last little while. Ultimately, I want to show women that everything they need to succeed is within themselves. They don’t need a man to become successful or financially independent. I am not anti-men in any way, but I feel like society bases the success of a woman on her ability to be in a relationship, and I want to show that those are two different things.

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