I am a badass


by Maria on 01 Apr 2017 - 06:31  

I, like many people I know that suffer from Imposter Syndrome, fluctuate from feeling like a fraud and feeling like, maybe okay. Recently, I decided to give Toastmasters a try. Not because I thought it would help with Imposter Syndrome, but because I want to become a better speaker. The first assignment is to talk for five minutes about yourself. This was a revealing task for me, as I had to look at my life and come up with some sort of theme, regarding my life, to talk about. And what I learned is that, I may, in fact, be a badass. I'm trying it on for size, anyway. So, I am posting the script of my talk here, as well as I can remember it, so that when I am feeling like a fraud, I can see evidence that this may not be true.

My Ice Breaker Speech

There is a famous poem by Robert Frost about walking in the woods, and coming to a fork, and possibly taking the path less traveled. This poem has often been misinterpreted, but this is not poetry 101, so we will move on. As I look back over my life so far, it seems that I have taken the advice often ascribed to that poem to the extreme, and have more often than not, chosen the most difficult, arduous, god-awful path I could find, sometimes just making up my own. This seems related to another theme in my life, that I seem to be drawn to "guy things".

Starting about the 3rd grade, I regularly played tackle football with the boys in my neighborhood. I was always the only girl, and yes, I could usually tackle the boys, though most were bigger and older than I.

At the age of 17, I joined the U.S. Army as a truck mechanic, volunteering to go to Korea, and airborne training. I would have volunteered for ranger training, if they had let women then.

After the Army, I went to college. I majored in physics. While a student, I discovered I was pregnant, and decided to become a single mom. I did not let this stop me from applying for, receiving, and accepting a scholarship to study physics at a German University (in German, of course), taking my 9 month old girl with me for a year in Germany.

Soon after I returned, I graduated. While studying physics, I had gradually become more interested in biophysics, and since I did not feel ready for grad school, I tried to figure out how I could earn a living while learning more biophysics. I knocked on doors in the Biophysics and Physiology Dept. at the University of Washington, and eventually found a couple of professors who were willing to take me on as a software developer for them. I had almost no coding experience. I, and I must assume they, assumed I could figure it out as I went. Which is what I did. I learned coding, as well as system administration, and worked in the department for many years.

Life, it seems, sometimes does not believe that your choices are difficult enough, and after I chose to move out from the house I had shared with my long term boyfriend, I soon discovered that I was pregnant. And that my boss was moving to NYC. Once again, I was an unemployed single mom during a recession. As the tech sector started to recover and begin hiring again, it became obvious that it would be nearly impossible for a self-taught, female, software developer to move from academia to industry. I probably don't have to tell you what I decided to do. I returned to academia in order to fill in the gaps in my knowledge, both in software development and career development. I networked, gave a talk, and generally moved way out of my comfort zone. And, a year and a half ago, I was hired by Disney as a Senior Software Engineer.

One thing I have learned is that it is not strictly necessary to always travel alone down forlorn paths. And so, I am happy that all of you are joining me on my latest journey down a well-trod path to become a better speaker.


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