Amara Kwiatkowski Headshot
Amara Kwiatkowski

Holly Taylor: Conquering imposter syndrome

Updated: Jun 12, 2024

A woman of many personal, political, and professional hats, Holly Taylor is running for Presiding Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest court for criminal cases. She currently works on Post-Conviction Matters and Complex Litigation Support at the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. In this position and in previous roles, Taylor has worked to advance the cause of the state to defend convictions, but she is most passionate about the work she does to remedy wrongful convictions: “It can be very challenging. This work is very different from the work that prosecutors usually do. But it is extremely meaningful, and I think it’s absolutely critical.”

Taylor, born and raised in Houston, Texas, saw the city change before her eyes. She explains, “As I was growing up, Houston was growing up, too. My neighborhood was becoming much more diverse, with people who came from many different countries, and spoke many different languages.” This all created the perfect environment for her to develop her own opinions and explore the world right from her backyard. “It was a wonderful place to learn and grow because you became familiar with lots of different backgrounds, ways of thinking, ways of dressing, and ways of talking. It definitely broadened my perspective.”

In school, she was heavily involved in Model United Nations, where she met her now husband. “I don’t consider myself an experienced politician at all. But I will say that maybe that was my first chance to think about international relations and other political issues.” Taylor’s mom also encouraged her to join the debate team. “As a shy kid, that was really painful. I didn’t want to do it. But it was life-changing for me. It really helped me learn how to speak to other people. It also helped me get past my paralyzing shyness and be able to express myself in public speaking, getting to know people, and also being an advocate for things that I cared about.”

Growing up, Taylor was able to meet and take inspiration from other powerful women. She met U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor through a fellowship in Washington, D.C. and met Texas Governor Ann Richards, one of her role models, in high school. At this age, Taylor was also able to exercise her own civic engagement, testifying in school board meetings for causes she cared about. When enrollment was declining and the future of her school was threatened, she attended board meetings to make sure her thoughts were heard. “That was my first encounter with real-life local politics and it was eye-opening.”

This election cycle, Taylor stepped up to run for Presiding Judge of the CCA, citing the lack of an established Democratic nominee. “I had been thinking about it for a while as a logical continuation of my career journey, and it seemed like a great time to do it. I felt like I was a well-qualified candidate.” She is now learning what it means to run for office. “I’m trying to balance a full-time job with campaigning statewide, and although my kids are mostly grown, I am still a mom. It is very challenging to keep all those balls in the air. It’s also exciting and fun. I feel honestly privileged to be able to do all of this work.” When asked what advice she had for other women running for office, Taylor simply said: “Do it!” Her goal is to inspire women to challenge any feelings of imposter syndrome. She encourages everyone to “question that first instinct to question yourself. Have faith in yourself and your ability to take on new challenges, to learn new things, and ultimately, to lead.”

					console.log( 'Code is Poetry' );