How to Counter Imposter Syndrome, What This Means for Women in Tech and Why This Involves All of Us, with Carolyn Adagala: Podcast Transcript

Ludo Millar
Hello, and welcome to the Qualified Tutor Podcast, the podcast that brings you the latest in the world of tutoring EdTech and education and hopefully inspires in us a big change that each and every one of us is capable of.

Qualified Tutor is an industry-leading tutor training organisation and an online tutoring community for 1000s of tutors around the world. This podcast is the voice of this community, where we aim to hear from tutors, teachers, entrepreneurs, coaches, business experts, students, tutor printers, and more from the world of tutoring about what inspires them every day, how they can help tutors like you and what they’ve learned about tutoring along the way.

The question is, what will you learn today?


Hello, and welcome to the next episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast, the podcast that brings you, hopefully, the latest on the world of tutoring of EdTech, of education in general, and really gives you a flavour of the tutoring market as it currently is today. Now today’s guest is a lady called Carolyn Adagala. And as a brief introduction, Carolyn is, really, many things. I could sit here for for 10, 15 minutes introducing all of the wonderful achievements that Carolyn has had in her career, and will probably go on to have but to boil it down to a few core things, Carolyn is a writer, a coach and mentor, a self-identified student, a company founder, an automotive industry consultant, an active advocate for better racial and gender diversity in the tech world and today, Carolyn is a new thing. Carolyn is a very welcome guest on the Qualified Tutor Podcast. So with a career spanning 15 years, Carolyn has a wealth of experience to draw on in her current work. Carolyn delivers workshops on a range of topics including visibility and business, assertiveness, and importantly for today, imposter syndrome. This is a topic that we hear a lot about in the Qualified Tutor Community. And today we’ve invited Carolyn on to get to know a little bit more about the fine details, shall we say, in this area, and how we can work to overcome it in our everyday lives as tutors and educators. And finally, Carolyn also has an offer that will excite the ex-teachers among you. And I think we’ll get to that in a little bit. So welcome, Carolyn, thank you very much for coming on.

Carolyn Still 3:26
Thank you very much for that very warm welcome. Thank you.

Ludo Millar 3:30
As I said on last week’s episode, I always enjoy researching and finding out more and getting to know the guests before we bring you on because that’s a really rewarding part of the hosting process. Now that’s quite enough of my voice. A time to hear a little bit more about you, Carolyn, from your perspective. So we’re going to dive into the first question, which we always ask our guests which is, what is your why?

Carolyn Still 3:59
Interesting question. And I absolutely love it. So the reason why I do what I do, what gets me out of bed, is because I want to bring about change in the world of tech. I want to increase diversity in the world of tech. I want to see women and people of colour succeeding in tech. Now why is this so important to me? So a bit of history about me. I came to the UK so many moons ago and spent five years studying for tech, did quite well which was good. And then went straight into corporate. And I’ve been in corporate for close to 17 years now and started out quite well, Ludo. I started out on a good trajectory getting promoted, getting visible etc. And then I got to a point where I was not getting the traction that I needed. And I started to become quite frustrated with it all. And in a way I turned that towards myself, I turned that inwardly thinking, maybe I’m not good enough, maybe it’s me, which brings me to that whole thing about imposter syndrome, which is very widely spoken about in the world of tech, about women suffering from imposter syndrome. So I needed to get to a point where I needed to recognise it was not me, because I was internalising that quite a lot. And by internalising it, it was having an effect in the world, in the work I was doing. Because what that would mean is I would stop showing up, how would other work, thinking I’m not good enough, I would play small, I would hide in the shadows, because I didn’t want to get found out. And I got so frustrated with it to the point that I went out and, again, thinking I needed to do more, I went out and did a master’s degree, which cost me a whole lot of money.

And three years of hard slog and not being alive for three years, basically all in the hope that it will get me to succeed, it did to a point because if it wasn’t for the MBA, I would not be doing the work I’m doing now, I would not be talking to you. So for that I’m very, very grateful. So, Ludo, through that I decided that I wanted to empower others, so that they would not be having the same challenges that I’d had because, God forbid, I don’t want another woman spending 30 grand just to get promoted and and get visible. So the work that I do is very close to my heart.

My why is so close, because what I want to see is one, I want to see the women owning their power and recognising that there’s nothing wrong with me. Some of it is the industry. And from that is working with organisations which are very, very aware of the challenges that are sometimes faced by women in tech, and creating supportive and nurturing environments that will allow these women to thrive and succeed.

Ludo Millar 7:37
That’s that’s quite a why, Carolyn, that’s, that’s one of the most heartfelt ways I can really recall on this podcast. So thank you for giving me, our listeners, that wonderful starting point to understand where you’re coming from. Now let’s bring this to an area, a topic that you have a great deal of expertise in. How does imposter syndrome, this topic that you mentioned, that’s hugely discussed in the business world, in the tech world, how does imposter syndrome affect particularly women in business?

Carolyn Still 8:19
Okay, so imposter syndrome is talked about quite a lot and I think it’s become quite fashionable for people to talk about imposter syndrome. But something to bear in mind is that imposter syndrome does not affect just women. Imposter syndrome affects men and women. I mean, statistics on the topic say that imposter syndrome affects up to 70% of the population. So probably somebody you know has got imposter syndrome. What is said is that women may talk about it a lot more than men do, which is why there’s more talk of imposter syndrome affecting women in particular when it comes to business, so, for example, when we’re talking about entrepreneurship, thinking about it, it’s quite a masculine, to me anyway, it’s quite a masculine word, it’s quite a masculine thing about going out and starting your own business.

And some of the traits that come with starting your own business could be things like, you know, being a go-getter. I don’t really want to use the word ‘aggressive’ but really going for it. Some of these not being very associated with how some women are. So, already, it’s got a negative connotation to it. And with regard to women in business, again, if you are coming from the world of corporate and going into starting your own business, first, you’re going into new territory, so there could be so many things that you may not know. There’s marketing, there’s sales, there’s accounting, there’s communication, there’s all these different things, which are new. And already just talking about it, I can feel this sense of overwhelm, thinking, ‘Oh, my God, I need to do all these things’. And at the same time, I could be balancing a marriage, I could be balancing a family, I could be working full-time still. So I’m working this, you know, on this side, so that overwhelm already that’s coming in is really good ground for self doubt, to start cropping up. And as we know, self doubt then leads to, ‘Oh, I cannot do this, I’m not good enough. People are going to find out’, which is where imposter syndrome comes in. We also have, when you’re, say, working in business, especially in this world of social media, the whole Instagram, LinkedIn, etc, these other women or other men that are absolutely killing it in business. They’re posting about their fabulous lives. They’re posting about how much money they’re making, all these absolutely wonderful lives they’re living and their business is thriving. And you could be sat there thinking, ‘Oh, they’re doing really well’. So though you’re doing really well in your lane, you know, depending on where you are on your journey, already you’re comparing yourself to other people thinking, ‘Oh, but they’re doing so much better than me’, meaning I’m not good as they are.

So comparison is a big killer for this, because you’re internalising, and actually starting to doubt your own worth, which is a big thing. And something else, Ludo, which I come back to about, we are juggling so many different things. It could be family, it could be work, it could be school, it could be church. And for some women, there’s this need to do everything, and not just do everything, but do everything perfectly. So already, again, that sense of overwhelm, I can just feel that as I’m talking about this, because you’ve got so many things to do, and you want to check every tick box. And when you don’t do things perfectly, whatever perfect means to you, then again, you start to internalise that and that whole imposter rears its ugly head, and you start thinking, ‘Oh, I’m not good enough, I’ll get found out. I should never have done this’. So this is what I find to be some of the things that that do come into play.

But also, I think that there are not enough role models around, there’s this whole thing about you cannot be someone you cannot see. I can’t quite remember who came up with that quote. But if I see a woman who is doing well and encouraging me and mentoring me again, for example, that you know, and actually sharing their journeys, so it’s not all roses, it’s not all things are going well. But actually, these role models who are sharing, you know, any of the challenges they may have had, you know, talking about how they’ve navigated things, when we come to talk about things like funding, which I do know is a big area where women do not exactly get the same treatment, then through that support, you’re able to navigate areas that you’re having challenges with.


Ludo Millar 14:00
And now a short word from Alex Asher, the CEO of LearnCube, who will once again be sharing in the vision and delivery of the Love Tutoring Festival.

Alex Asher 14:11
Have you got your ticket to the Love Tutoring Festival? The last one was an absolute blast, you’re going to be learning about how to grow your business from world-class speakers. You’re going to be learning how to become a better tutor and joining an inspiring community of tutors that’s going to last well beyond the event itself.

I’m Alex Asher, the CEO of LearnCube and we’re renewing our support of the event because it aligns so closely with our own purpose to improve the quality of online tutoring worldwide. Now, in the meantime, if you’re looking to upgrade your tutoring business in 2022, why don’t you consider our professional virtual classroom made for independent tutors, or if you’re an agency, consider our online school which is an all-in-one platform for tutoring and tutoring organisations. Try it for free at


Ludo Millar 15:10
Yeah so, if we can just tap into a tiny proportion of the workshops and the talks that you give on imposter syndrome and on visibility and those kind of areas, what are some easily implementable strategies for women to overcome this imposter syndrome that you can give us here today? Just some ideas for how someone listening to this podcast, this episode today going, ‘You know what, that’s me. I feel those things. I’m that 70%, who suffers from this’. What’s my next step? How can I go about overcoming this?

Carolyn Still 15:55
Indeed, indeed. For me, Ludo, what has really worked for me and the biggest takeaway I normally give my audience is you cannot fight something you do not know. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can take steps towards resolving that in your own way. Because we’re all different; things work differently for most people. So the most important thing you can do is to raise your awareness to it; is, you know, when we talk about the, you know, how imposter syndrome shows up, for example, raise your awareness to it, know that, I guess, imposter syndrome from time to time. And when you find yourself in that imposter moment, because that’s what I always say to my audience, is it’s not an imposter life, it’s an imposter moment.

So you’re going out to pitch for example, for funding, you realise, ‘Hmm, okay, I’m going to pitch. I don’t feel very confident at the moment. However, I have done ABCD and they want to see me because I am good enough’. So take a breath and realise imposter syndrome is that yapping, telling you that you’re not good enough. Sit in that moment, and tell it where to go. And come back to the room realising you are the amazing person that you are, and this thing will just pop up from time to time. And when you really raise your awareness to imposter syndrome, it doesn’t mean that it’s not going to happen, it will. But the voice will be kind of tiny, not very loud, not taking over. It’s just that I see you, I know what you are. Now I’m in charge. I’m taking over. And that’s the biggest thing I know about what you’re dealing with and remember who you are. Because you’re in the place, you’re in it for a reason. Because you deserve to be in that position.

Ludo Millar 18:30
I think this is- you’ve given an amazing and frank and open assessment there, Carolyn, of not only the area of imposter syndrome, but also, you know, admitting there that speaking on a podcast is one big area where imposter syndrome can be felt. And I think tutors, who are often kind of almost presenting, they’re almost onstage with their students. I know many teachers feel that way. You know, they’re almost like they’re presenting. Tutors often feel a similar feeling coming over them, this kind of you’re not prepared for this, you’re not the best tutor for this, the student could be doing better with another tutor or could be doing better by themselves. And I think absolutely your words there resonate hugely with the tutoring audience because you just need to stay calm and remind yourself that you’re there for a reason, the parent has likely chosen you or the student has chosen you because you are, if not a good fit, then the best fit, for that particular situation. And as you say, you’ve done ABCD and now it’s just about E. I think that’s a really helpful way of looking at it. It’s like looking back to the past and seeing that you have in fact prepared even though your imposter syndrome can be clouding over things and trying to make you forget you’ve done ABC and D andEe is this big, individual, discrete phenomenon. So, thank you so much for opening that up. I know many people will be touched by that and will now have at least the next stone to stride on on that path of understanding their own feelings coming over them.


Ludo Millar

For those of you who know the Love Tutoring Festival, you will be delighted to hear that … we’re back!

From Monday 24th to Friday 28th of January 2022, the Love Tutoring Festival will return bigger and better than ever. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re in for a real treat. The most loved festival in tutoring, the Love Tutoring Festival is a five-day, online celebration of all things tutoring. With some of the biggest names in tutoring, education and pedagogy and hundreds of committed and motivated tutors from all four corners of the globe taking part, it really is the biggest party in tutoring. We will again be working on a freemium ticket model this year, with all our events totally free, apart from our famous, and ludicrously inexpensive, CPD-Accredited workshops. You can find out more, including the confirmed speakers so far, how to grab your place, and key information on our wonderful sponsors at

Let’s raise standards in tutoring together.


Now, I want to tell you a little bit from an area that’s linked to imposter syndrome, but which is more about the current work that you’re doing at the moment and will be doing for the foreseeable future, which is an upcoming research paper. Now, I don’t want to try and predict or introduce this too much, but can you tell us a little bit more about the scope of this research paper?

Carolyn Still 21:53
Okay so, to be completely honest with you, Ludo, I do not know what that paper is going to look like, which is I think quite interesting because it could go in any direction. But what has piqued my interest and the reason why I really want to do this paper is going back to when I first started in tech, when I went to uni. I was one of 20 boys, mostly white. Now, coming from an all-girls boarding school in Kenya, that was a big shock. I thought somebody was playing me a joke. I was thinking, ‘Where are all the girls?’. Now, before coming to England to study, tech was just starting out in Kenya so, you know, I was not familiar with tech, I was not really familiar with computing, but it was the in-thing to do at the time, which is why I went into tech. So as I’ve gone over the years, throughout my career, I have found myself to be the only woman more times than I care to count. And it’s always, where are all the women? So the more I’ve started in this work, the more of working with the community, there’s a realisation that we do not have enough women coming into the pipeline.

Okay, so if we say how many young women are entering tech, after university? Step back, how many young women are going into university to study tech? Let’s go back, how many young women are taking A levels, etc. And then finding out at what point are we losing the young women? Is it in primary school? Is it in secondary school? Is it when they’re taking their A levels? So that is where my research paper is really coming from, Ludo, to see if young women are dropping out of tech as they go into secondary school. What are the reasons behind that? And if there’s reasons behind that, what can we do to change that narrative so that the future generation generation of women can be able to see other women that look like them. Again, going back to you cannot be something that you cannot see, we know for a fact that role models are very big when it comes to encouraging women to succeed in tech. But if we do not have enough role models, then of course we’re not going to have more young women going into tech. So this is me calling out to this lovely community to say it’s something I’m very interested in. I’m very passionate about changing the landscape of tech for women. I would love to see more young women entering the field because tech is such a big part of the lives that we lead nowadays.

Ludo Millar 25:10
So that’s your call-out, tutors and educators listening. Carolyn wants to hear from you. And I’m sure more details will come out about the details of that later on. But if you are a tutor who works with girls, students under the age of 18, still in school, who- and you’re helping them with STEM subjects or science tech subjects, then Carolyn wants to know from you about how and where the drop off points are, and why there are drop off points. And perhaps the fact that this happens is part of a systemic problem and not something that individual tutors and teachers can work out. But I truly believe that this research paper has got a great scope ahead of it and could really find out some incredible things about where the drop off points are and how particular groups of educators, tutors, how they can help, how they can be deployed to counter the problem. Noe my final question, Carolyn, should be a nice simple one and should give us an insight into what’s coming next.

Carolyn Still 26:26
Okay. Sure, sure. So 2021 is soon drawing to a close. 2022 is looking very rosy and exciting for myself and the Women in Tech community that I am serving. So the first thing I’m doing is actually working on starting my own podcast. So my podcast is going to be called Women Thriving in Tech. And the why behind the podcast is to have successful women in tech, women that are doing really well in tech, to raise awareness of what it takes to succeed in tech, to talk about some of the challenges they may be having in tech, but very much a place where other women can learn about what it’s like working in tech. So going back to schools that we have spoken about, could be young women in university who are going to be starting their careers, is to have a whole raft of women who work in tech talking about their experiences of working in tech. So that will be coming in Q1 of 2022.

And I have also started working with recruitment agencies that are tech-related because, for the most part, the tech recruiters are the middle men and women between women who work in tech, and the organisations that these women are going to work in. So I believe that recruiters have a big role to play in retaining women in tech and ensuring that they’re succeeding within the area. So I’m in talks with quite a few recruiters on what this will look like, and how they can go on to influence the organisations who are their clients on how they can build really inclusive and supportive environments. And lastly, again, I’m working with organisations that are quite supportive of creating inclusive spaces and wanting to see the women that work for them succeeding and thriving.

Ludo Millar 28:42
Wow, okay, well, we’ll have to get you on soon because there’ll be so much more to cover in the first few months of 2022. Thank you so much, Carolyn, for coming on and talking about what you do and really opening the eyes and ears of many listeners. I hope people who weren’t previously listeners of the QT Podcast who hear this, who see the words imposter syndrome and know that this is for them.

You are a role model Carolyn, I’m sure, for hundreds, 1000s of people who you don’t even know. I think coming on and doing just giving 25-30 minutes on lending your expertise to a subject like imposter syndrome and also the second half of the episode about ensuring women stay in tech, that will have a long-lasting legacy, particularly in our community I’m sure of it. So thank you so much for coming on. I hope you enjoyed talking about what you do.

Carolyn Still 29:39
Absolutely loved it, Ludo and you know again, really thanks a lot for the opportunity to come here and talk to you and I hope the listeners enjoy too.

Ludo Millar 29:49
I very much did. And if you did enjoy the show, you can always go to You can review the show on any listening app of your choice. We would love to hear from you about what you thought of the show. And look out for Carolyn’s podcast coming in the first quarter of 2022.

So for one final time, thank you very much, Carolyn, and we’ll see you all next time.

Carolyn Still 30:34
Thank you. Take care.


Ludo Millar

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