Welcome to our election special of Skimm’d from The Couch, where we’re talking to women from both sides of the aisle about their careers in politics.
Deesha Dyer was the social secretary to President Obama. Think: her job meant hosting everyone from Beyoncé to the Pope. But Deesha told us her path to the White House was nonlinear, and that she actually got her start at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as a 31 year old intern. Tune in to hear how she got her foot in the door. And how she learned to tackle her imposter syndrome as she rose through the ranks.
Deesha: So I think that once I got to the White House, and even before then, my impostor syndrome definitely flared up. I mean I didn't even have a degree. I was, like, 12 credits in when I went to the White House internship. But what I had to do, what I advise people to always do, is to play up to your strengths. And what I knew how to do was I knew how to be, mature, on task, on time. I could speak up and say, "I don't understand this."
…. So I played up to what I knew how to do, which was work. And so I was like a workhorse. And I was like I can work, I can get stuff done. And for me you know, that really kind of helped me twist the belief that I didn't belong.
Carly: In researching for this interview, I was reading that you mentioned that earlier in your career you weren't as strong in networking. What weren't you good at? And then how did you tap in to get good at it?
Deesha: Again, I'm gonna keep it 100. I mean Washington is a beast. And Washington is very white, and it's very "fit in this box and look like this and go to this party and correspondence." That's hard for me…. So I feel like networking was hard for me because I never wanted to have to justify who I was to somebody else. I felt like you would see my work, and that's how we could connect, right? Or we could connect on a personal level of something else. But I didn't want to work hard to make people think that I'm worthy of their time.
Carly: How do you advise [young professionals] on how to think about networking?
Deesha: What I say, and how I approached it, is I found the places where I didn't have to open the door, they were already opened for me. And so a lot of those were circles of young people of color that were in Washington, older Black women that had been in the game for a while…. Find those pockets of people that don't make you change or question yourself first. And then, from there, it's amazing how much, then, the networking will open…. But then also knowing that the doors that may be hard for you to open may not be the door for you…. I think that finding those safe people that don't make you justify yourself and who you are is extremely important.
Skimm'd by Alex Carr and Peter Bonaventure.
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