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The Power of Self-Confidence

By Enock Tuyisunge

“When someone tells me ‘no,’ it doesn't mean I can't do it, it simply means I can't do it with them.” - Karen E. Quinones Miller

“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn't try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn't need others' approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” - Lao Tzu

These are powerful quotes. With self-confidence, you can overcome your fears and work toward achieving goals and career dreams. Someone who knows this well is Mary Shakshober, a 2018 Southern New Hampshire University graduate and currently an Interaction Designer at Red Hat, a software company that creates business to business level software for IT departments. Her work involves studying user behavior on company products and websites and improving user interfaces.

“I'm often using software like Sketch or the Adobe Creative Cloud suite to actually design the things that we talked about in meetings,” Mary said. “It is just what a designer does. It involves a great amount of collaboration and then taking those things that we talked about and then turning them into tangible deliverables.”

Mary has been in her current role since March 2020. It is her third different role at Red Hat since 2018 as she was previously an Associate Visual/Interaction Designer and UX Design intern. She was also a Summer Graphic Design intern for the Fedora Engineering Team (a team within Red Hat). While at SNHU, she was a mathematics tutor. Mary’s college degree is in mathematics and graphic design. This all underscores how Mary didn’t reach her ideal role immediately. She had to gain experience, develop the skills, and build self-confidence. In the process, she had to practice patience.

“Early in my design career, as an intern and associate level designer, my own strengths and weaknesses became more clear to me," she said. "For example, during design critiques I would get feedback that I work very cleanly but that I need to provide more context around the features or user needs that I am designing for. Gaining confidence doesn't just happen when you learn what you're best at; in my case I became more confident when I accepted that there are, and will always be, aspects of my job that I can work on. Owning that fact has made me a stronger designer, thus increasing my confidence.”

Mary feels that many people don’t pursue their ideal job because of lack of self-confidence. However, she shared that there are many opportunities for young people to develop such confidence. For instance, 99% of the intern programs at Red Hat are open for college and graduate and PhD students. She also recommended that young people have a mentor aligned to their career interests. This is essential for people to develop confidence in themselves and to make the best use of their own skills and experiences to navigate their own future. As part of Red Hat’s hiring process, individuals are matched with a mentor regardless of their role.

“At Red Hat, mentoring can come in a lot of forms - some more formally organized and others more informal," Mary explained. "My most meaningful mentors have been somewhere in the middle. I have had the pleasure of working with two women in the role of 'design leads' for projects that I've been on, and they have expanded my perspective of what a woman in STEM looks like, thinks like and can achieve. One of them climbed the ranks at Red Hat while dedicated to the promise of maintaining her priorities.”

Key Lessons

Many young people do not know how to measure their success. Mary shared the following tips on how to measure personal success:

  • The level of confidence in discussing one’s role

  • Being proud of your own work and effort

  • The level of how accountable a person is at the workplace

  • The ability to overcome circumstances

  • The ability to pursue individual goals

I was really impressed to hear Mary’s advice for young people who want to boost up their level of self confidence related to their field of studies and career interests. Part of the key is building a network.

“At some point, someone is connected to someone who knows someone else who's friends with someone else,” Mary said.

She advises that young people use LinkedIn strategically and take initiative to reach out to experts in the same field to ask questions.

Key Takeaways

Below are various key takeaways from my discussion with Mary and particularly the importance of building self-confidence:

  • Accept that do not know everything and push yourself to ask for more questions to learn

  • Be choosy and never let anyone stop you from asking questions

  • Don’t be fearful and put in the effort

My goal is to work in the marketing industry, especially in online commerce. I know I need to develop self-confidence in my career and build the type of self-confidence that Mary described. I will do this by using professional sites including LinkedIn to connect to many people, seeking out a mentor and accepting that I do not know everything in order to push myself to learn more.

Mary Shakshober is a Southern New Hampshire University graduate & Interaction Designer at Red Hat. Connect with her on LinkedIn

Enock Tuyisunge is a Southern New Hampshire University graduate in Communication with a Concentration in Business. Connect with him on LinkedIn

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