Sydney Norman is currently a senior studying computer science at the University of Kentucky. Last summer she worked for Amazon in Seattle, WA as a software development intern focusing on the Alexa Engine team. She currently serves as a teaching assistant for two Intro to Programming labs for CS215. She uses this medium as a way to engage her younger counterparts and stimulate interest in STEM careers. " I have been a TA for the past three semesters, and I really love it. I don’t anticipate every teaching in the future, but I really enjoy getting to work more closely with some of the younger computer science students and hopefully inspire them to continue in the field". To Sydney, working in a male dominated field isn't necessarily out of the ordinary. "I tend to take more pride in myself because I’m doing something unique for women, but that’s ridiculous because it isn’t like I’m doing anything that most women can’t do. Anyone can be a software developer, they just have to take the time to learn", she remarks.
Sydney emphasizes the importance of not only including female voices in STEM leadership, but other sources of diversity as well, " the woman’s preferences and needs will never be considered if we don’t have a seat at the table, so women need to be in these positions of power and influence and represent their fair share. This goes beyond women, too. We should aim to have all positions of leadership evenly distributed between people of different races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, genders, etc".
She spoke candidly about her experiences with imposter syndrome, recalling her reservations early on as a freshman. "I had never programmed before, so I looked around at all the other white men in my class who knew exactly what they were doing because they had been targeted as future STEM professionals and I thought I would never figure it out. Luckily, I’m a person who is driven by that kind of fear, so I easily caught up and surpassed many of them. I frequently see young women in the classes I TA get freaked out by the same thing, and unfortunately, not all of them move past it. I still get it sometimes, but I try to recognize when it is holding me back and force myself to get over it".
Her advice for women interested in pursuing a STEM career is simple: "More than anything, move past the imposter syndrome. Learn to recognize it and realize that it isn’t real—no one knows all the things you think they know, and you know more than you realize. Also, fake it until you make it. Even if you lack confidence and don’t think you can do something, just try and do it anyway. I guarantee you that most of the guys you see doing stuff are less qualified that you are, they just have an insane amount of confidence because everyone always told them how great they are".