Shifting the Conversation with Project Shift

By Frine Carbonell

In keeping with Fidelity’s broader efforts of connecting with and giving back to the community, we love getting involved in mentoring, coaching, and panel discussions with people to offer a perspective of what it’s like to work at Fidelity in different roles. More specifically, I was recently asked to share what it’s like to be a woman in technology at Project Shift in Durham, NC.  I assembled a group of amazing women technologists from Fidelity Investments to participate in a panel discussion with the current student cohort at Project Shift .  Project Shift offers an immersive, 13-week full time coding bootcamp to adult professionals from all walks of life who are seeking to dive deeper into software engineering and start a new career path.

The Fidelity women who participated represented a wide range of disciplines– including full stack engineers, scrum masters , Agile coaches and senior technology leaders. The students appreciated the candid conversation about what it’s like to be a woman in technology today.   Laura Micek spoke about her work in robotics and automation and how she has been able to move from one team to another at Fidelity to work on concepts that interest her.  Ariel Tipton talked about the importance of professional adaptability and the breadth of technologies she’s worked with as part of her Fidelity career.  The students were also eager to hear Kim Durand and Sowmya Reddy explain what it’s like to be an Agile practitioner in different business units at Fidelity and how their backgrounds have helped shape Fidelity’s own digital transformation journey.  I touched on the opportunities I’ve been fortunate to have in my own career, in particular, the amazing experience to work within an internal startup at Fidelity Labs.

One of the topics that was candidly and enthusiastically debated was the topic of the “impostor syndrome”. The facilitator asked the group if anyone had felt the impostor syndrome before and every hand was raised, including ours.  The students were somewhat surprised to see our hands go up because they assumed that, as professionals in the field, we always had all the answers. Tech is an ever-changing, perpetually-evolving field. It’s common for many of us to feel like we are on the outskirts when bridging into new areas, that we may stand out undesirably or in many cases that we need to be a subject matter expert before we can participate and contribute. My experience as a woman in technology has taught me how to handle and neutralize impostor syndrome when I feel it, not how to avoid it.  It’s a courageous act to put yourself out there — day in and day out–  to show up always trying to be better while adding skills to your toolkit in a rapidly evolving industry.  By speaking honestly and transparently about this, we were able to encourage and build upon the students’ hopes and dreams of continuing their education and continuing to invest in themselves.

I give the Project Shift folks a ton of credit for their willingness to put themselves out there. That’s what we do every day when we work in technology and on new internal startups in Fidelity Labs. We step into unknown or uncertain situations, create new solutions, take risks and work through feeling vulnerable and uncomfortable. It is only through discomfort and bravery, and through deep and real discussions like the one we had with the Project Shifters that we can all continue to grow, reset the norms, and make a difference in the world.