“Congratulations! Google is a great company to work and improve your data analytics skills!! You will meet very smart and driven people doing big things that matter.” My colleagues at Visa congratulated me.
In July 2019, I was hired by Google as a data scientist to fight abuse with ML.
After hearing the news of my move to Google, my former colleagues at Visa teased me that I am special. To them, Google is an end “pilgrimage” destination for really smart tech and data professionals. It is after all, the “Google”, which achieved so many breakthroughs, from the scientific achievement of DeepMind, Alpha Go, to Quantum Computing Supremacy. In their minds, Google has been noted as the dream employer in 2019 due to their amazing benefits, compensation, and impacts. Within days of my tenure, I received many messages on LinkedIn for referrals to get into Google. Getting hired by Google as a data scientist was a great opportunity that never fails to excite the dream of my colleagues, including mine. And it is amazing! I have worked together with so many smart and driven professionals. I have projects which impact billions of lives and I have amazing perks and learning opportunities.
But sometimes, I fear for inadequacy.
The Imposter Syndrome.
“a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.” — Harvard Business School
Simply put, imposter syndrome is the persistence of self doubt comparing yourself to others.
In fact, statisticians have shown that over 70% of people in the world admit to have imposter syndromes. They spread across various industries such as medicine, business, and education.
In my case, I sometimes compare myself to the more capable senior peers who are also Kaggle and ML superstars. I sometimes have self doubt in my own skills; One time I worked long hours to crack codes that had been readily available if I just asked. I have a fear that one day HR would come and say I am a false positive in the middle of Google’s stringent hiring process. These are the kinds of thoughts that I sometimes face in large tech companies such as Visa and Google.
If this happens to you, then you are not alone.
In the technology and data world, You are evaluated objectively through your impacts. You will go through performance review and get compared with others. As data analytics is always evolving, you constantly need to learn and upgrade your skills. What you know today, might not be the best practice next month. This is why imposter syndrome is more prevalent in data and tech world where the competition is tough and there is always constant needs to learn and produce results.
Treat the imposter as your best friend
After working for 3 years in data and tech large Multinational Companies, I have learnt some critical tricks to overcome this self doubt. It gives consolation that I am growing and doing well in life.
Therefore, I sincerely hope that this article would be a resting point for you to take a breather, grow and excel through your journey in data analytics. This has worked for me, and I sincerely hope it also works for you and my fellow data juniors as well. I believe you could face your imposter with conviction, humility, and expertise.
Conviction: Know your Foundation to build your house on
The wise man builds his house on top of rock. The foolish man builds his house on top of sand — Summarized from Matthew 7:24–27, World English Bible
Matthew 7:24–27 is a great bible verse that has been my life inspirations. This verse talks about your professional and personal convictions. Just like how the wise man builds his house on top of rock, you should build your personal value on unshakable foundations rather than on fleeting aspirations. Many of my colleagues in data and tech unfortunately, build their aspiration based on career progression and money. They have high expectations of themselves and become anxious when they do not get what they want.
Let me share with you more about this. The analytics job market has been growing really fast. Just within a few years many universities started providing degrees in Data Science with thousands of sign ups from all around the world. Today, this degree has become as hard as getting into law and business school.
Unfortunately, there are so many uncertainties about where the excitement is going. The job market for data scientist is becoming more and more saturated and delusional. Many startups started to realize that they are moving too fast in data science without solid engineering and business infrastructures.
Therefore, I believe that despite the rising demands, the supply market would become more and more competitive. This will become a huge threat for you to find data analytics jobs. If you value high salary and career progression, you will be disappointed. During my talks in top universities like National University of Singapore, I received questions from a postgraduate scholar that she is desperate to find a good job in analytics. It is a tough world out there.
For me, I treat myself as an educator. I aim to learn, share, and educate my peers because I love solving business problems with analytics. When I change my mindset from professionals to educators, it changes my worldview. The over growing competitions in data analytics have become fresh ground for me to learn and share. This is how I excel in data analytics.
Rather than using fleeting motivations such as salaries, benefits, and flexibility. I would use long-lasting motivations such as my faith, impacts and educations to keep learning and teaching.
In the end, I am providing more value to Visa and Google by representing myself as an educator rather than data worker/professional. I represented both companies in many internal and external conferences while solving their problems with analytics.
Similarly, you should encourage your imposter to build a house on a rock rather than on the sand. You need to pursue long lasting impacts over short term indulgences.
Humility: Acknowledge your weaknesses and seek help
Albert (My best friend) and I study for OMSCS together on Saturday morning
Admit your weaknesses, no one is perfect. Find people who can help you and thank them. Your personal connections are your biggest assets who keep you moving forward.
Don’t hide your weaknesses. Instead expose them and ask for help. This will grow and improve your resilience to overcome big challenges.
As a non English Speaker, I lacked the communication skills to communicate my thoughts fluently. Knowing my weaknesses, I sought help from internal writing classes and Toastmasters to overcome my thick accents and weak grammar. With constant help, I overcome my stutter and speak fluently. My writing and my communication skill have become my biggest assets to work in companies like Google and Visa.
To study analytics, I always invite my friends to study together. They are the same friends who stick with me in the moment of deep trouble. Furthermore, I have great managers who I could share my weak points and persevere together. Without the grace of God and these personal connections, I would not be able to excel the way I am today.
You should acknowledge your weaknesses. The more flaws you find, the more you should seek help and overcome your gap. This is how you can grow.
Confidence: Take ownership of your biggest expertise
Do not assume that you know little compared to others. You should think that there is a great value that you could contribute to others. Find and specialize on that value.
You should find the core value to bring for your company. It is important because it gives you the place where you can establish subject matter expertise (SME).
For me, I specialize in the visual recognition of phishing at Google. My motto is “To fight phishing abuse at scale”. My key results would dwell on how I could improve the quality of the ML models to catch phishing sites. This is the only thing that matters to my core performance. I greatly take ownership and spend majority of my time learning about it.
By having a specialty and becoming a Subject Matter Expert at little things that matter, you will know where you stand and take ownership of your work.
The cure of Imposter Syndrome: To acknowledge we are human
The fight against imposter syndrome is very hard. It is not physical but it is emotional. Its source is invisible and seeps through the psychological gap of your self perception. The cure is to acknowledge that we are human, thus we are limited.
- To pursue a stable and long-lasting conviction rather than tangible and fleeting goals.
- To be humble and admit we are full of flaws then seek help rather than hide them.
- To have the confidence to do little things that matter and take ownership in your impacts as data professionals.
All of these tips are simple yet hard… I encourage you to we walk our journey together to excel in data analytics.
Soli Deo Gloria.
I really hope this has been a great read and a source of inspiration for you to develop and innovate.
Please Comment out below for suggestions and feedback. Just like you, I am still learning how to become a better Data Scientist and Engineer. Please help me improve so that I could help you better in my subsequent article releases.
Thank you and Happy coding :)
About the Author
Vincent Tatan is a Data and Technology enthusiast with relevant working experiences from Google LLC, Visa Inc. and Lazada to implement microservice architectures, business intelligence, and analytics pipeline projects.
Vincent is a native Indonesian with a record of accomplishments in problem-solving with strengths in Full Stack Development, Data Analytics, and Strategic Planning.
He has been actively consulting SMU BI & Analytics Club, guiding aspiring data scientists and engineers from various backgrounds, and opening up his expertise for businesses to develop their products .
Vincent also opens up his 1 on 1 mentorship service on 10to8 and BestTop to coach how you can land your dream Data Analyst/Engineer Job at Google, Visa or other large tech companies. book your appointment with him here if you are looking for mentorship.
Lastly, please reach out to Vincent via LinkedIn, Medium or Youtube Channel
“How I Overcome Imposter Syndrome in Data Analytics | Finding Your Place in Data and Tech Companies Like Google and Visa”– Vincent Tatan Tweet