Hi, my name is Lavanya Sharma! I’m a five-time hackathon organizer and a Coach at Major League Hacking (MLH). I’m currently a student at the University of Southern California (USC) majoring in Computer Science & Business Administration and minoring in Cybersecurity.

In this blog post are three resources I’ve found helpful for tackling Imposter Syndrome specifically in the hackathon community. Imposter Syndrome is that nagging voice inside your head constantly saying “you’re not good enough”. It’s something that everyone has experienced at least once in their life – this holds especially true for individuals of marginalized gender identities and it’s something that can definitely be overcome with time and practice.

The important thing to keep in mind while reading my post is that imposter syndrome is not something that goes away overnight. I definitely still have moments of self-doubt, and that’s natural – I’m still very early in my career and I know I have a lot to learn! These resources are just a starting point, so let’s go ahead and dive in. 

Advice for Tackling Imposter Syndrome 

Tip #1:  Attend Diversity-Focused Hackathons

I highly recommend checking out women-centric or diversity-focused hackathons! There are so many great events out there, and a lot of them have long-standing partnerships with MLH.  Attending a gender-focused hackathon is great for a multitude of reasons! They are beginner-friendly and don’t require any prior experience. The environment is designed to be friendly and inclusive, and the events tend to have a large emphasis on learning rather than competing. 

You can find a list of upcoming diversity-focused events on the MLH website. All of the women-centric events have a banner that indicates this with the label “diversity-focused events” to help you identify them quickly on the page. Some diversity-focused events that I’ve been involved with in the past include AthenaHacks at the University of Southern California and Technica at the University of Maryland. 

Tip #2:  Participate in Coding Bootcamps

An alternative or supplement to hackathons is coding bootcamps! These camps are another great opportunity to surround yourself with like-minded students. It’s great to be in an environment that fosters learning and education without having the added stress of grades or tests. Plus, students can’t compare themselves to each other based on a number. Instead, they’re able to completely customize the functionality and design of the projects they build, and work on solving topics that they might be passionate about, such as climate change and social justice.

I did the Kode with Klossy summer camp and the Girls Who Code summer immersion program back in high school, and they both had an incredibly supportive network of instructors, teaching assistants, and alumni. I still keep in touch with them to this day – we share internship resources, resume reviews, and even compete at hackathons together! 

Tip #3:  Cultivate Study Groups

I always make sure to cultivate study groups, particularly in my computer science and engineering classes! In fact, a majority of the people that I regularly study with are actually friends that I met at hackathons and capture-the-flag tournaments at my university. It takes the pressure off by allowing me to enjoy time with friends and have difficult concepts explained to me in a safe environment where I don’t feel intimidated. It also allows me to review the concepts that I’ve already practiced by explaining them to my peers and ensure that I cover all the necessary points of the topic.