How Dr. Taylor Clementoni '11 defeated the imposter within and found new opportunities with a new sense of confidence

Dr. Taylor Clementoni speaks during commencement

When Taylor Wellman stepped to the front of Mr. Gary Goga’s class to give her final senior presentation as a Steel Valley High School student, she was hit with a wave of anxiety. Her shy, quiet nature made standing up in front of 25 of her peers and talking about her future a terrifying endeavor.

Years later, married and now a doctor of occupational therapy rather than the orthodontist she once envisioned herself being, Dr. Taylor Clementoni stepped to the podium in front of a much larger crowd. Flanked by the Steel Valley High School Class of 2024 with the families and friends of graduates seated in the stands in front of her, she spoke with confidence. With her father, longtime Steel Valley teacher Ed Wellman, in the crowd and about to retire, it was a full circle moment for Dr. Clementoni.

“It was very surreal to be back to give the speech tonight. It was a very special night, especially with my dad retiring,” the Class of 2011 graduate said afterward. “It was awesome. I really enjoyed it. I like giving back to the community and to the students, so it was an honor.”

Dr. Clementoni’s commencement address to the Steel Valley seniors focused on those moments of insecurity and anxiety we all know well, that feeling of not being good enough or not being qualified. Using the popular video game “Among Us” as a metaphor, she shared examples in her own life where she battled imposter syndrome.

“That’s sort of what it feels like to be asked to give this speech tonight,” Dr. Clementoni told the graduates. “That feeling of imposter syndrome, feeling like you’re unqualified for a certain task, even if there’s evidence that is quite to the contrary. Many people will feel this way at some point or another in their careers.”

Dr. Clementoni detailed the moments where imposter syndrome hit hardest, including being the first occupational therapist to become program director at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital and again when she became the hospital's director of program development.

“How can I be the clinical leader of multiple inpatient units, supervising people who have way more experience than I do?” she recalled asking herself. “How am I going to help adults experiencing psychosis when the majority of my experience is in pediatrics?”

Dr. Clementoni receives her honorary plaque from Dalton Kraft

Through her journey, she discovered tips to help combat imposter syndrome, from advocating for yourself and showcasing your skills, being willing to ask for help, pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, and not letting others determine what you can or can’t achieve.

She also reassured the students that it’s normal for their paths and careers to change as they go through life.

“I thought dentistry was a good opportunity to utilize my strengths and make a good amount of money. Until I got to college and realized that was not at all what I wanted to do,” she told the graduates. “Occupational therapy ended up being the perfect match of the sciences, psychology, and helping others.”

Making that change can be daunting.

“It’s hard, changing your whole career path, but ultimately it was just following my heart,” she said after the ceremony. “I was lucky to have the support of my family and my boyfriend, who is now my husband.”

One of her key pieces of advice was to not be afraid to reach out for help, and it’s something she reemphasized in an interview later. Whether it’s a high school teacher, a mentor, a college professor, or someone else you trust, they can be invaluable to helping you achieve your goals.

“Reach out to those connections and share what your goals are,” she said. “People are absolutely willing to help you out.”

She encouraged everyone to continue exploring their passions, whether it’s through classes in college, talking and networking with professors and mentors, or just taking time to reflect on what you value most out of a potential career.

“It’s great to have goals, but it’s also great to be flexible and adaptable to make those turns when you need to, create new goals for yourself, and just take life as it comes and not be so stuck or rigid in what you think you should be or should be doing,” she said.

It’s possible that what you seek isn’t necessarily a career, either. It could be a complement to your career, either as a hobby or a second job. Dr. Clementoni was a member of multiple organizations in high school, including SADD, the National Honor Society, and Student Government. In the years since, she’s earned numerous certifications and received multiple honors.

At no point did she ever envision herself as a teacher. Yet that’s where she found herself earlier in 2024, teaching as an adjunct professor in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Imbued with confidence and with the imposter within defeated, she found something new to explore that has her excited to see what comes next.

“Pitt holds a really special place in my heart, as well,” she said. “And I’m so excited for the opportunity to continue teaching at Pitt and hopefully pursue more opportunities as a professor in the future.”

Dr. Taylor Clementoni speaking at commencement