Last week, there was an industry conference where I was selected to pitch for my company.
Things have been difficult for me professionally recently as I didn’t get a major contract and keep worrying that I can’t keep up. I was really putting in the time for the pitch, hoping that it would give me some clarity. I’ve never been a confident person and never really got away from the feedback cycle in university, where there were always little bits of good news.
I do my pitch. It goes fine, but there was no obvious love from the audience. The applause sounds socially obligated. I thought that I had failed and wasn’t in a good mood.
The voting URL was put on the projector with a code and everyone was to vote while we got dinner. We were going to go as a team, but two devs said they had to deal with a “server problem” and took out their laptops and went to the corner. Not too unusual so far, as things happen.
We eat and go back to our seats. 15 minutes after the voting closed, they announced that the process “had clearly not been fair” so they decided to redo the vote in a 10 minute window. The two devs had another “server fault” and went off again, returning 15 minutes later, just in time to be there when I won.
I was so happy for the first time in a long time. No longer trapped under the rubble of past failure. There was joy in my heart and confidence in my voice.
Because I didn’t feel obligated to keep working late, I went to see my mom over the weekend and we celebrated with drinks. Chatted with a friend as well and told them the good news.
Today, the boss bought me lunch, some of the guys brang a cake, and everybody gave me hugs. Life was back on track!
Later today, the other female employee came and told me about how the two male devs who suddenly had to deal with a tech problem during the event had actually gone and used a bot on the form, which is why the first set of votes were invalidated. She thought that I should know the truth.
On the one hand, I’m grateful that they cared so much (I’m one of just two women at a tech startup of 20 and have struggled to be accepted) but also concerned at how easily they congratulated me about winning and easily used it as proof that I “had what it takes” and “just had a run of bad luck.”
They casually lied to my face about how I was great and had won over everyone at the conference when I probably would have come in 5th had they not used the bot. My confidence is gone again. But had I lost, I also wouldn’t be feeling good about myself.
They also had no confidence in me that I could win it by myself. Was the bot a vote against me? Something to use to push me out later?
I also feel bad for the person who lost as he seemed so nice and genuine. I also feel like a fraud to my mother and best friend and really don’t want to have to tell them I lost (again).
Should I just keep quiet? Ask the guys about it? Talk to the boss/CEO? Should I still consider quitting? Could two software engineers even build a bot to fill in a form in 90 minutes?