Beat data science imposter syndrome at events

Edward Johnson
3 min readMar 19, 2023
Person in dark shadow in front of a large backdrop of abstract computer lines on a screen
Photo by Chris Yang on Unsplash

Imposter syndrome is often carried as a lone burden in the Data Science and machine learning environments. Are you (like so many of us) figuring it out as you go? Do you feel that specializing in your niche just isn’t enough and that the advent of tools like ChatGPTx puts subliminal pressure on everyone to make them feel that they should know more?

One of the best ways to combat imposter syndrome is to attend events and conferences, in a targeted manner, to increase your confidence and give reassurance in your abilities.

Disclaimer: Canada’s largest AI/ML conference details are at the end of this story, but not as an affiliate link.

Prepare yourself

Sometimes conference agendas and workshops can seem overwhelming, but rest assured that no-one can attend everything. Be strategic about what you will attend.

Sign up as an attendee and add details to your profile. Many people won’t but you should. There may be useful participants who contact you after finding something interesting in your profile.

And talking about contacts…. Don’t “collect” them, instead build relationships. Decide that you will have meaningful conversations with at least one new person every couple of hours, or four in a day. Doing so, will make you realize that most people are in the same imposter situation as you….. trying to keep up with the industry and the sea of specializations.

Research the panels and workshops

Before an event, invest an hour or so into researching the speakers, panellists and workshop leads, and pick out a few that you would like to connect to. Remember that although they often say after the panel, “if anyone wants to contact me, here is my LinkedIn”, very few people do so.

Prepare some mental questions for them so that you don’t feel in awe when you speak to them. It doesn’t have to be the most complicated machine learning question. Just make a connection perhaps relevant to something they have written previously or said during the panel.
Make sure you speak mostly about them instead of yourself. Then later on, if you request a connection, they are more likely to remember you.

Walk the exhibition booths

Walk around the exhibition booths and make contact with the vendors. Some will be bored, but ask them one or two questions about their product or service, listen attentively and take their merchandize. If you’ve heard any references to their product during a workshop or panel, then let them know. It will make them feel good about spending time in their booth.
Ask to connect if it makes sense for you.

Review your event and reduce your imposter syndrome

After the event, go through all the day’s new contacts and send out LinkedIn requests (including notes referring to the event) to the ones you want to keep. Do this within 24 hours and I guarantee that your level of “imposter syndrome” will go down.

Attend → Take in Canada’s largest AI/ML conference on June 12–14th.
Toronto Machine Learning Society (TMLS) 7th Annual Conference & Expo June 12–14, 2023

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Edward Johnson

Ikinique Ltd — Passionate about data science, mentorship, fintech, blockchain, Hyperledger, AI, Ethics ,…Agile… MIT Future Commerce…#IKEAization