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Three hours into my first big tech project, I broke down crying. I was helping re-code several functions on a website, and it was hard. I felt inadequate and way out of my comfort zone; I was getting tripped up on very basic features. Was I really cut out for this? I thought. Couldn’t someone else do a way better job anyway?
The nitty gritty of tech can already be difficult enough without the self-doubt and constant feelings of rejection. These feelings are amplified for women, but I didn’t have to let them eat away at me and keep me from working.
Luckily, I wasn’t alone, and neither are you if you’re feeling the same way as you wade into the exciting but sometimes stressful waters of the tech world. And even better, plenty of successful women in the industry have gone through the same things, too, and they love sharing their wisdom.
Below are 37 motivational quotes from incredible women in tech. So whether you’re dealing with feelings of inadequacy, sexism in the tech industry, or a general lack of direction, get ready to feel inspired to move forward.
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When You Feel Inadequate
Many women suffer from imposter syndrome, so you’re definitely in good company when it comes to feeling like you’re not good enough. The reassuring news? A little mindset change can make all the difference, and these women can help.
1. Caterina Fake, Co-Founder of Flickr and Hunch:
“I think one of the big challenges is actually cultivating beginners’ minds and making sure you’re still open to the world and continue to see new things. You can actually get jaded. You can stop seeing things that are new. You can start fearing failure. Those are the things an entrepreneur needs—an open mind and the ability to see the world with new eyes.”
2. Reshma Saujani, Founder of Girls Who Code:
“I also say to my team: Do 10% of your job shittily. It’s okay to do something shittily. Perfectionism prevents us from taking double steps in our career. We think we have to be perfect, but we don’t.”
3. Kathryn Minshew, Co-Founder and CEO of The Muse:
“An ugly baby is better than no baby at all. If you wait and wait and wait for your product to be perfect before you release it out into the world, you will often never get there. I am a big supporter of the minimum viable product and taking something that is the simplest explanation of your idea and putting it into the marketplace so you can start to get feedback.”
4. Shree Bose, Co-Founder of Piper:
“I think the best piece of advice I can give to anyone with a dream is to never be afraid to share your dreams and talk about what you wish to create and see in the world. It’s often hard to share those pipedreams at the risk that they might not work out, but you never know who has the collaborations, networks, and visions to make your dreams a reality. So be careful and vigilant and protect yourself intelligently of course, but never be afraid to ask for help.”
5. Olivia Pavco-Giaccia, Founder of LabCandy:
“Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. It is easy to allow insecurities about age/experience level to prevent you from making a big demand, or asking for a meeting with an influential person, or even admitting that you need help. However, if you don’t at least pose the question, it will probably never happen. So go for it! You might be surprised at what can happen if you just ask.”
6. Tiffany Pham, Founder of Mogul:
“When I look back to my younger self, I would tell myself to be confident first and foremost, to believe in myself, before anyone else because if I believe in myself, then others will too. And ultimately, this confidence and belief in myself would enable me to enable other women around the world. It’s about believing in your goals and what you are passionate about, and from that, others will become passionate about it too.”
7. Amy Wibowo, Founder of BubbleSort Zines:
“Lots of women are shy and hesitant to promote their own projects and worry that it’s braggy. So I’m here to say that I love hearing about women doing awesome things that they really care about. I want to support and back cool projects. So you are not being braggy, you are doing people a favor by letting them know what awesome things you’ve done! Don’t be shy about sharing your projects!”
8. Sarah Friar, Chief Financial Officer at Square:
“A diversity of thought, perspective and culture is important in any field, not just engineering. Surround yourself with people who support you and get involved in [coding] programs.”
9. Vanessa Hurst, Co-Founder of Girl Develop It:
“Feeling a little uncomfortable with your skills is a sign of learning, and continuous learning is what the tech industry thrives on! It’s important to seek out environments where you are supported, but where you have the chance to be uncomfortable and learn new things.”
11. Kerry Steib, Director of Social Impact at Spotify:
“One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten is from my mom: ‘You get to choose how you react to things, and people can’t make you feel one way or another.’ You have agency over every reaction, in your work or personal life. It’s incredibly empowering to know that, and to really take advantage of that.”
12. Ara Katz, Chief Marketing Officer at Spring:
“There is no recipe, there is no one way to do things — there is only your way. And if you can recognize that in yourself and accept and appreciate that in others, you can make magic.”
When You’re Dealing With Sexism in the Tech Industry
Unfortunately, sexism in the tech industry does exist, but that doesn’t mean you have to take it. These women share their best advice and motivations for not just surviving when you’re dealing with misogyny, but also overcoming it (and thriving!).
The bottom line: Knowing that you’re not alone keeps you going.
13. Tracy Chou, Software Engineer at Pinterest:
“I have very personally felt the overwhelming loneliness, self-doubt, and frustration that often comes with the minority status of a woman in engineering. As much as I can help others get through or avoid those difficult stretches that I myself had to weather, I’d like to. As a bonus, the more women (and minorities) that enter and don’t leave the field, the better it all gets for everyone, including me!”
14. Rachel Tipograph, Founder and CEO of MikMak.TV:
“When you enter tech, you realize that there are more men than women. You can’t deny that. But, I don’t think you can make that an obstacle. You can’t get deterred as a female founder knowing that’s the landscape. You need to ignore the naysayers (of course there will be naysayers) and surround yourself with investors who believe in you, believe in your idea, believe in the market you’re going after, and believe in your ability to execute, most importantly.”
15. Shaherose Charania, Co-Founder and CEO of Women 2.0:
“Women no longer have an ‘if I can’ mindset. Now it’s more about ‘how I can’—be in tech, start something in tech, fund something in tech. That shift is exciting! And it happened because we created a network where we show, daily, that women are innovating.”
16. Rebecca Garcia, Technical Head of Product at Next Caller:
“It’s so easy for us to get caught up in negative patterns, versus seeing what positive change you can make. Especially for women and minorities, we need to learn to see challenges as stepping stones instead of hurdles. They really can bring you experience and closer to your goals.”
18. Erin Teague, Director of Product at Yahoo:
“Recognize and embrace your uniqueness. I don’t think the ratios are going to change anytime soon. But, I don’t think it has to be a disadvantage. Being a Black woman, being a woman in general, on a team of all men, means that you are going to have a unique voice. It’s important to embrace that.”
20. Privahini Bradoo, Co-Founder and CEO of BlueOak:
“I never believed I could or couldn’t do something because I was a woman. Focus on being the best that you possibly can be. All the people I’ve worked with, they’re looking for people who are the best at what they do. If you as a woman or a man can prove to them that you are the best at what you do, they respect you for that, and they’ll empower you to succeed.”
21. Michelle Haupt, Operations Engineer at NASA:
“One thing I always tell young girls: Never let anybody tell you you can’t do it. Growing up, they’d look at me like, Really? Even when I did my college visit, I had someone tell me most people change their minds after the first year. I never gave up. Even when I was having teachers tell me, just take a break from math, you can take this class next year. I said, ‘No, I’m going to take it now.’ I kept pushing for it.”
22. Jean Bartik, Programmer at ENIAC:
“I was told I’d never make it to VP rank because I was too outspoken. Maybe so, but I think men will always find an excuse for keeping women in their ‘place.’ So, let’s make that place the executive suite and start more of our own companies.”
24. Kim Vu, VP of Local Market Delivery at Bank of America:
“By having the courage to take the first step into rooms, circles, and conversations where you may feel like you don’t belong, you also open the door for others to contribute their diverse perspectives, creating more meaningful, collaborative solutions for today and beyond.”
When You’re Not Sure What Your Next Move Is
It’s okay to feel lost at times, especially when you’re taking on a brand new industry. But hey, lucky for you, lots of big-time founders, CEOs, and professionals have faced the exact same thing, and they’ve got mountains of advice!
25. Megan Smith, CTO of the United States:
“If you can find something you’re really passionate about, jump on that. If you’re passionate about [something] and you bring your talent, you’ll be unstoppable.”
26. Megan Berry, Head of Social Product and Community at RebelMouse:
“[The tech] industry is risk-friendly, so it’s better to take the chance or take the lead if you think something might work. Just go for it and really put yourself out there, because it’s an industry that really responds to that. When you take risks and just go for it, you tend to be rewarded and see things happen.”
27. Tracy Sun, Co-Founder of Poshmark:
“Love what you do and do what you love. Doing something new and different requires a level of drive and passion that is really hard to fake. When your heart is behind what you are doing, so much is possible.”
28. Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube:
“Life doesn’t always present you with the perfect opportunity at the perfect time. Opportunities come when you least expect them, or when you’re not ready for them. Rarely are opportunities presented to you in the perfect way, in a nice little box with a yellow bow on top. … Opportunities, the good ones, they’re messy and confusing and hard to recognize. They’re risky. They challenge you.”
29. Angie Chang, VP of Strategic Partnerships at Hackbright Academy:
“Learn to ask for things. You will constantly be figuring out how to acquire customers, investors, mentors, advisors, staff, and so on. Be concise, relevant, and brave.”
30. Terri Burns, President of Tech@NYU:
“Give [computer science] a shot. It’s okay if you don’t like it, or end up doing something else. But you never know unless you dedicate serious time and effort to trying. And if you do like it, share that with others. You have no idea how many wonderful communities exist for supporting and encouraging women to keep it up, and that’s so empowering.”
31. Michelle Zatlyn, Co-Founder of CloudFlare:
“People don’t take opportunities because the timing is bad, the financial side unsecure. Too many people are overanalyzing. Sometimes you just have to go for it.”
32. Andrea Jacobs, Director of Campus Growth at Spoon University:
“I’ve learned that time is my most valuable resource. How I spend it, where I spend it, and who I spend it with is the key to making me feel whole as a leader, parent, creative partner, and friend.”
33. Dana Donofree, Owner of AnaOno:
“Career choice and progression doesn’t have to fit into the standard societal mold. Do what you love and want to do. Find what you’re good at, what you can sell or provide that is unique to you and go for it.”
35. Rosalind Brewer, President and CEO of Sam’s Club:
“You can and should set your own limits and clearly articulate them. This takes courage, but it is also liberating and empowering, and often earns you new respect.”
36. Jess Lee, CEO of Polyvore:
“When I was interviewing at Google, one of my interviewers was Marissa Mayer, who told me to constantly challenge myself by going where I could learn and grow the most. Even if you don’t succeed, at least you’ll have learned a lot.”
37. Susan Lin, Designer and Illustrator:
“Embrace your creative blocks. Self-care is incredibly important from both a physical and mental standpoint. A creative block is nature’s way of calling in a moment of self-reflection. In order to improve, you need to stop between sessions and think about those steps.”
If these 37 women can teach you anything, it’s that nothing is impossible, and you can overcome whatever obstacle is currently in your way. So, who’s ready to tweet and Instagram some of their amazing quotes?
Lily is a writer, editor, and social media manager, as well as co-founder of The Prospect, the world’s largest student-run college access organization. She also serves in editorial capacities at The Muse, HelloFlo, and Her Campus. Recently, she was named one of Glamour’s Top 10 College Women for her work helping underserved youth get into college. You can follow Lily on Twitter at @lkherman.