Three Steps to Coping With Imposter Syndrome
This article is part of our Women in Partnerships series, highlighting female professionals in the partnerships space. To learn more about the series and the Women in Partnerships group, check out the series intro.
Today, Adrienne Coburn, Partner Program Manager at Shopify, joins us to discuss how she carved her path into the technology partnership space and what she’s learned along the way.
Adrienne Coburn started her career in the nonprofit sector before moving to partnerships in the travel industry. From there, Adrienne moved to Uberflip, where she built their partner program from the ground up.
Adrienne didn’t expect to end up in the technology partnership space. Technology was an evolving world when she graduated. Going through career options, this just wasn’t on the docket.
“I didn’t have a clear understanding of where I wanted to end up, but finding a job at a nonprofit and focusing on the travel industry fed right into my interests. Being able to see the world through a job, while gaining experience in the business world was the best of both worlds.”
As time progressed, Adrienne realized that the travel industry wasn’t growing quickly and she really wanted to learn from a fast-paced, growing organization. When the opportunity to hop into a technology company by growing the partnership organization at Uberflip opened up, Adrienne knew it was what she needed. Over the three years Adrienne spent at Uberflip, she built their agency program from the ground up, eventually transitioning to strategic partnerships at Shopify.
Adrienne shared that her validation from moving to Shopify from Uberflip is the proudest accomplishment in her career. A lot of the time, her efforts in developing the partner program were solo endeavors. “At Uberflip we had a very small team with minimal budget building an agency program. At times it felt like we were duct-taping a program together, without a ‘real’ program. I really downplayed what we were accomplishing in my mind.”
When Adrienne moved to Shopify, it was so validating to see the work they had accomplished at Uberflip. “When I got to Shopify, it was so validating to see that we had been able to build a lot of the same things, using the same strategies. Reflecting back on the work we had done at Uberflip in comparison made me incredibly proud. The concept of ‘Fake it til you make it’ rings very true.”
Like many women, Adrienne shared that imposter syndrome is a common recurrence throughout her career. “Overcoming is an overstatement. I’ve learned to cope. Imposter syndrome used to take over so much of my life that even in my personal life, when I had the flu or a cold, I had this talk track to myself, ‘It’s not as bad as you think! You’re making this up!’”
There are three things Adrienne recommends women do to cope with imposter syndrome.
- Realize no one knows what they’re doing. Adrienne pointed out that the more interactions she’s had with people in C-Suite and leadership, the more she’s realized that everyone figures things out as they go.
- Recognize that if it smells like BS, it probably is. “We have a fear of calling things out when things are invalid. If you feel like something is wrong, it likely is. Call it out.”
- Take a deep breath and say yes, even when you’re scared. “If someone is asking you to do something, it’s because they think you can do it.”
Being a Woman in Partnerships
Being a woman in the workplace, Adrienne is about to run into a whole new experience: motherhood. Adrienne shared, “Something I’m about to embark on is motherhood. While I am so excited for this next step, I’m terrified about what it means for my career – the potential momentum I lose for salary, promotions. No woman should ever have to worry about losing out on those career milestones that she deserves.”
On the year-long maternity leave in Canada, Adrienne shared, “While it’s an absolute luxury that we get so much time to dedicate to this stage of life, it’s terrifying to step away from the momentum of your career. I’m nervous for the inevitable balancing act of being a mother, while still being a badass in the workplace. I can already sense my priorities are changing. Any mamas out there – your advice is welcome!”
The Power of Female Mentors
Adrienne shared that she was lucky enough to grow up in a household full of amazing women. With a family structure made up of a career-driven mother, a wonderful father, and 3 sisters, there were no traditional gender roles in the family. “There were no ‘boy jobs’ or ‘girl jobs’ – just jobs to be done that would help out all of us. We all took out the garbage, we all cleaned. Being surrounded by strong women and a father who never imposed gender stereotypes showed me what true equality could be and I’ve never settled for anything less in my career.”
Having a group of people you trust to tell you that you can do anything and also role modeling that behavior gives you the confidence to stand your ground and fight for what you believe in.
Advice for Other Women in Partnerships
Adrienne circled back to her advice for overcoming imposter syndrome, “Realize that nobody knows what they’re doing. If it smells like bullshit, it probably is, so call it out. Take a deep breath, say yes, and figure it out later.”
Adrienne continued, “Try 10% less. Giving it 110% is not humanly possible. There is so much other stuff in our lives, especially right now.” Trying 10% has allowed her to take a step back and consider what she wants personally. “Allow yourself to leave your computer for the day early, submit a project before it’s perfect, say no to a meeting because you have a personal conflict.”
Adrienne believes that no one can be their best selves at work if they aren’t their best selves outside of work. “These allowances to try 10% less will keep you happy, sane, and ultimately better at your job in the long run. And trust me, nobody will notice.”
The Importance of Groups Like Women in Partnerships
On the importance of groups like Women in Partnerships, Adrienne shared, “At the end of the day, it’s to give each other a platform. We all have so much knowledge and have created our own unique experiences and paths. The opportunity to learn from each other is so rare.”
It’s not just about learning from others. “Not only does this give women a platform to speak about their superpowers and what makes them unique, but it also allows them to reflect on what they know. It’s hard to look at yourself in the mirror and think about your unique knowledge. Being in a group like this lets you shine a light on yourself. Giving people the experience of having the spotlight is huge.”
Women-led groups are so imperative for the collective growth of female professionals. That’s why we’ve started a new Women in Partnerships group, specifically for women in the industry.
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