What is a growth mindset and how can one develop your career in tech?

By Hannah McIntosh

While more and more women are getting into technology, a 2021 survey of global software developer genders found only six per cent of respondents were women. Having more women in software development adds new and unique perspectives to products and services, helps us meet the demand for skilled tech professionals and builds a culture of diversity and inclusion.

But why are women reluctant to pursue careers in software engineering?

One of the common themes we hear when discussing this topic is that coding can seem daunting. Even in experienced developers, the feeling of ‘imposter syndrome’ can be difficult to shake.

One way to overcome such mental barriers is to adopt a growth mindset.

What is a growth mindset? 

Stanford University’s Carol Dweck was the first to define the concepts of ‘growth’ and ‘fixed’ mindsets.

She says people with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence is static. Such people believe talent and intelligence are innate, they’re risk-averse and threatened by others’ success, and they see feedback as an attack. So, this mindset breeds feelings of insecurity, an obsession with perfection and feelings of stagnation.

Those with a growth mindset believe they can improve their intelligence and talents. Such people learn from failure, are resilient and excited by challenges, and believe in themselves. A growth mindset creates a love of learning that improves career success and personal evolution.

How can a growth mindset develop my career in tech? 

The idea that programming is daunting and feelings of imposter syndrome are consequences of a fixed mindset, which can inhibit our true potential. Adopting a growth mindset forces us to seek out challenges and follow pursuits we might have otherwise passed on due to fear.

Three of the qualities that make a good software developer overlap with the principles of the growth mindset: 

1.   A love of learning

Technology is constantly evolving, so it’s important to stay up to date with current trends and experiment with new technologies. 

2.      Resilience

A career in technology can be challenging. The growth mindset can alter your concept of failure by showing it’s a necessary step in your development process.

3.      Understanding the importance of feedback

Feedback is essential to a career in tech. Perfect solutions don’t exist, so it’s important to be open to learning from the inputs of others. 

How do I adopt a growth mindset? 

The truth is that nobody has a purely fixed or purely growth mindset. We tend to be a mix of both. But we should strive to have the growth mindset as our most dominant.

There are many approaches to embracing a growth mindset, but below are a few ways you can cultivate yours:

  • Change your relationship with failure

View failure as an opportunity to learn. This will encourage you to see your challenges as opportunities as you won’t fear getting things wrong.

  • Notice how you talk about talent and skill

Swap phrases like “I’m not good at this” to “I’m not good at this yet” and “They’re really talented” to “They’ve clearly put loads of effort into learning that.” 

  • Incorporate reflection into your lifestyle

Reflecting on our failures, rather than just our successes, helps us recognise the opportunities to learn from our mistakes.  

A misconception of the growth mindset is that it automatically guarantees results, or that the fixed mindset isn’t part of success. Motivation, commitment and time are equally important in driving success, otherwise it’s all thought and no action.

About the authors

Hannah McIntosh PA digital expert

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