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How I Followed my Heart, Conquered Fear and Became a Public Speaker

Posted by Mridu Bhatnagar on Wed 04 September 2019 in Learning • 6 min read

In this guest post Mridu shares with us how she got into public speaking, conquering fear and imposter syndrome. What did she learn? And what does she recommend for people starting out? Let's hear from Mridu!

I am everyday thankful for having crossed paths with individuals who are passionate to share their experience with others. Inspiration came from a teacher who loves to teach with energy and enthusiasm, making sure the student actually learned. Oftentimes I felt our teacher's enthusiasm was more than the collective enthusiasm of our batch of 200 students.

How it started

His positive influence helped me figure out a list of traits I wanted to possess. Traits, which neither a book, nor a podcast or school would ever be able to teach me. They could only be learned by practice and experience. Hence I needed to learn from him!

He shared a video on what might be holding you back. It's actually always our own thoughts that do, self-made stories of what we can do, and (above all) what we cannot do. I learned an important lesson that day!

Follow your heart. Have no apprehensions, leap

This was a quote that was shared as well. It was on me though to actually do something with it! It was August 2018 when I truly felt I should give back to the community by becoming a speaker at community events. I could do that by putting small amounts of efforts in to bridge the gap between academics and the corporate world. I could contribute to something I had seen my professor doing. Feeling like doing something is one thing, doing it though is a totally different ball game. We all have our fears. Even imagining being on the other side talking about tech was nothing less than a big leap!

Imposter Syndrome?

I am no different. The haunting feeling that every other person around me knows more than me, new tech concepts being overwhelming, stupid self-made stories, the list goes on and on. It's good to accept this, talk about it with someone you trust. Listen to a different perspective. To make sure fear was not going to hold me back, I repeated the same statement over and over again: "Have no apprehensions, leap." ... "Have no apprehensions, leap."

Talk Proposal

Just for a moment, leaving all "what if" questions aside, exploring the communities around me, I sent a talk proposal titled "Introduction to APIs" to one of them. Little did I know about how to write a proposal so I just jotted down the ideas I had. While doing so again this feeling nagged me: "This topic seems vast, what should I talk about?". I procrastinated.

A couple of weeks before the deadline I was opening a talk issue on GitHub for the PyData Delhi Meetup, I did a write-up on Virtual Environments in Python. I was fortunate that a colleague reached out to me that I must also include virtualenvwrapper, and a cousin recommended I'd cover Pipenv. With Introduction to APIs left unfinished, I opened a new issue for this topic. The talk got scheduled, so now the challenge was to come up with the full presentation on the subject!

A part of the initial write-up would be part of the presentation together with the ideas I received from my readers. Things were still not very intuitive though. All I knew was, when stuck, ask. So, I reached out to the person I met at a community workshop, sharing my ideas. I took his inputs and finished preparing the presentation. He reviewed the flow and gave me tips on how I needed to practice.

My first tech talk

The day came, December 2018, my first tech talk at a community meetup! Luckily positive influence won over the feeble voice deep inside of me which said I should fear the stage. I knew this would be the opportunity to pay it forward. This talk would teach me the traits I always wanted to have. This knowledge was thousand times more powerful than letting fear hold me back. My energy, enthusiasm and happiness during the event was different than usual. I had fun and from then on I started volunteering as a speaker every weekend, grabbing almost every opportunity I could.

8-9 months of weekend community meetups in, I submitted my first proposal to a technical conference (PyData Delhi 2019). I got selected. It was not my goal from the start to deliver a talk at such a big conference. It happened the way it did though.

Why is it worth getting over the fear and just get started?

  1. Climbing our own imaginary mountains is a never ending pursuit. Bringing others along is what makes the journey beautiful. Being able to help others even in a very small way makes you feel good about yourself.

  2. Befriend the imposter syndrome. No one knows it all, I managed to learn and accept that. I can share my learning with others and learn from others.

  3. You will be valued for your contribution. Out of the blue you will get some random messages of goodwill.

  4. The 40 minutes are all yours to experiment. Talk about something you would love to share. Expect smiling faces after your session, thank you’s and happiness overall.

  5. You cannot make an impact on everyone in the classroom. This is wisdom that somebody I look up to shared with me. Can you make an impact on at least one person who actually needs it? This alone brings great satisfaction.

  6. Feedback always helps with improving yourself and ensures you prepare better for your next presentation.

  7. When you make an attempt to explain a concept to the rest, you end up simplifying it in every possible manner so that it is easier to understand. And in that process you will actually learn a lot yourself.

  8. Questions are all about visualising one concept from different angles. They make you understand the knowledge gaps you have. This is something that is often overlooked when working in isolation.

Answers to questions that might hold you back

  1. What if someone asks me a question and I don’t know the answer?

    • Accept it. No one knows it all.
  2. How will I manage the ones who have come to attend?

    • Here is the truth. One question that I am often asked is: "Are you really able to manage the class?". The answer is, there is nothing I actually need to manage. Unlike the traditional learning environments, meetups are places where only the ones enthusiastic to learn hang out.
  3. I have never spoken before. What if I am unable to do it?

    • "For everything there is a first time. But you need to get started!" - PyBites' founders Bob and Julian told me this the first time I was hesitant to write my first guest post for them. I have followed this piece of advice ever since. If a full-blown 40 minutes presentation seems intimidating, maybe a lightning talk of 10-15 minutes may be a better place to start. Remember, the community will be supportive, no one is perfect, and everyone is there to learn!
  4. What if the topic of my talk is too obvious, something everyone already knows?

    • I read somewhere "What might be obvious to you, might be alien to someone else". So, don’t decide on your own, get feedback from others and then decide.
  5. I have no friends, or a group to go to a conference/meetup with? Will going alone be awkward?

    • Your interest and your friend’s interest might be in sync, or not. Each one of us has different priorities. Go and meet like-minded people.


Looking back, all I can say is that my journey so far is the result of guidance, encouragement and different perspectives I received throughout the process.

I have been blessed to be surrounded by people who loved to teach. Try to listen to these kind of people, then practice, learn and teach!

Moving forward, I will be working on the feedback I get, perform more speaking engagements, and organize Pyladies Delhi and DjangoGirls Indore. I hope to bring smiles to a few more faces and of course to learn more tech. :o)

Keep Calm and Code in Python!

-- Mridu

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