Editor's Note: This post is part of a series produced by HuffPost's Girls In STEM Mentorship Program. Join the community as we discuss issues affecting women in science, technology, engineering and math.
During my early thirties, I was pursuing management studies while working full-time as an engineer. A few months into the course, I was talking to one of my female classmates about her day at work. All of a sudden, she blurted out: "You know, I always feel like a failure at work. Every day I feel as if this will be the day that people are bound to find out that I am not good enough to be there."
I was so utterly shocked that it felt like everything around us went quiet; the air cooled down just a fraction and things got a little bit out of focus. I needed all my good upbringing not to blurt out: "WHAT!?!?!" I cannot remember what I replied. I certainly did not agree with her, and I probably told her so.
This lady was about the same age as I was. She worked for one of the most prestigious investment banks in the city. Judging by her beautiful home and car, she was doing very well financially. She was happily married and managed to work, study and find time to do volunteer work as a part of their company's corporate outreach program. Her life seemed perfect to me.
My life at that time was going fairly well, but I had a nagging sensation that I should be doing "better." I did not feel as if I was achieving as much as my peers and I was not financially, personally or professionally on track. In that management studies class, everybody there looked and sounded as if they were well on their way to the corner office. Even my modest little car looked second-rate among all the shiny ones in the parking lot.
I learned some things since that discussion:
1. Do not believe too strongly in appearances. We are inclined to measure our most insecure side to the most polished outer appearances of others.
2. It helps to have honest conversations with others. After the conversation I had with my colleague I felt less isolated. It helped to know that she also felt a little bit intimidated at times. I am sure it helped her to be reminded of all the things she was managing to do.
3. There is no road map. This is true for life, of course, but specifically so when one is in uncharted professional waters. Often, the map evolves as you forge ahead. I do not know where all those students ended up, but my life has taken some fabulous turns since then, taking me over continents and leading to wonderful new opportunities.
Even though great strides have been made by women in STEM careers, I still find myself the lone female in many meetings. One can easily feel isolated. It is invaluable to me to be able to speak to female colleagues all over the world to maintain supportive connections. It also helps to encourage others. Remember, they may be less self-assured than they appear, and they may appreciate a friend.