Are you an impostor?

I always felt a little bit like an impostor, that I don’t deserve to be where I am. Like I’m not special nor I ever did anything special to be where I am. That I’m just lucky.

I guess I’m not alone. According to this article, 58% of the tech field suffer from Impostor Syndrome. Surprisingly (or not), this is the highest for any field, as showed in this article.

Why do you think this number is higher in our field? Have you ever felt like an impostor yourself? What have you done, if anything, to overcome it?

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I feel like that pretty much every day! I try to own the feeling and make sure that I’m clear with folks that I’m still learning new things every single day. I’m not good with heights, so being up on a pedestal isn’t a place that I’m comfortable with :joy: and I try to redirect folks who seem to be headed in that direction.

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I like your approach. And it made me think of something else… vulnerability.

If you are new to the topic, Brené Brown has a great TedX talk on it:

The reason your approach, @glb, remembers me this topic is the fact that it isn’t easy to be open about your vulnerabilities, such as how much you know(or don’t) about a topic, especially when you are being paid by someone to work on and around it every day.

Have you ever felt like the Impostor Syndrome took over the ability to be vulnerable? How did you overcome that?

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I suspect it might come from our field being so broad and deep. There is so much to learn and understand in the world of both Cloud and Cyber Security that you feel you are only scratching the surface. And that is actually true. If we say we are a Cloud expert or something that can be both true and not as it depends on the specific topic. Technical people tend to be humble though about their knowledge area. I have met many people that are an expert on certain topics that would say they are not an expert. I guess it is all relative.

Bottom line is that your knowledge and your experience create value and if you have found a company or place where that value can be used and is appreciated you are not an impostor. So basically all of us.

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I watched the ted talk with Brene Brown and I can honestly say because of my vulnerability and shame this is the first discussion I have responded to. I feel like an imposter in my new position right now. Being a part of this team really helps me acknowledge those struggles and overcome the fear of expressing them. Great topic!

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That is an interesting question and initially I started replying by saying that I am an imposter. But then I thought more about it what it actually means to be an imposter and I have realized that I am not.

I have always felt like I don’t belong to any single “group” because of my varied interests. Even in high school this was obvious because I was on sports teams but also played a bit of D&D and was briefly a member of the Dr. Who club (mainly for the snacks though). And then I took breakdancing lessons too (and I was terrible). :joy: I always had separate groups of friends for these different activities and that is sort of how it is still now as an adult with my taste in music and my various hobbies and interests.

So to answer your question - I do not view myself as an imposter because I don’t pretend to be something I am not. That being said I do feel stress if I am invited to a 'businessy" event and I know that I will have to do “fake small talk” because then I do feel like an imposter if I do that since that is so not me. But honestly
what usually happens is that I attend determined to fake it but then I can’t actually do it so I either end up just doing my kind of talking or leaving/not attending the event.

And sometimes I have thought to myself my career path might have been better if I had faked it. But in the end I just can’t do it!

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I do have a theory as to why in the tech field imposter syndrome is so high. Even if you had been in technology for years like @Jerms who has been doing networking for 15-20 years things are always changing. I have had talks with Jermey about this and how he feels behind even though he has been doing it for years! I am so new that I feel like I have 20 years to make up for just to get to the level that @Jerms , @raphabot , or @marykay25 are at, then you add that it is always changing. It is like trying to pin down a moving target! Like @glb I have just accepted that I don’t know things. I am just honest about it and find the answers for what I don’t know when the topic comes up. I don’t feel really vulnerable about it as much anymore. I know that I don’t know it and that I can’t in that moment change that I don’t. There are still times that there are things I feel like I should know and when I don’t know them it is embarrassing. I have had people make me feel like I haven’t been curious enough to find the answers or that I should know more than I do. It has created some tough times for me but I just remind myself I can’t know everything, find the things I enjoy in tech, and move on. I will probably always feel like an imposter, not know enough, and be behind. This seems like the nature of technology, but I just try to enjoy what I am doing, be honest about what I know, and accept that it has to be enough. I look up to basically everyone in this community because of the journeys you have had in your career. So even if you feel like an imposter chances are that somewhere someone is looking up to you for the things you do know and have accomplished. Just saying :slight_smile:

I love Brene Brown! It is very hard to be vulnerable. Being new to the field you have no choice but to accept that you will just be vulnerable. If you can’t accept this I don’t see how you would be very successful. Brene has happed to understand how to navigate when you feel like you are always vulnerable without any control over what is going on. Love her!!

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Yeah, I feel overwhelmed pretty regularly at the pace in which things change on a daily basis. Part of it is just me getting older and wishing everything with “settle down”, but that’s never going to happen short of a very large meteor strike.

Back in the early 90’s when I started in IT change was more frequent than ever before, but it was still planned and predictable. I remember chiding old school “pure pencil and paper” business people who were slow to adapt as we now moved at “internet” speed and were leaving traditional business practices in the dust.

Now we move at the speed of the Cloud which is essentially an amorphous, unknowable future of constant change and disruption and we can only expect those elements to accelerate.

Yeah, it’s easy to have imposter syndrome when overnight the whole market/industry changes and not just the leaders in the space and the next big product. The entire landscape is continuous shifting. No one is really an expert anymore because there’s not enough time to truly master it before it changes.

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Reading through some of the comments so far I realized that there’s another contributing factor to impostor syndrome in tech: there is a strong celebrity factor. I don’t know if other industries are similar, but I have been on both sides of it, either idolizing folks who have accomplished things I think are cool or being portrayed in an idealized way that leaves out the bits that make me human – and just as fallible as anyone else.

It’s that experience of being idealized that’s sensitized me to how I treat others and the expectations that I project onto them. I know how it makes me feel to be portrayed as superhuman, so I try to tone things down a bit when I realize that I’m doing it to others.

It looks like Albert Camus said this long ago, and I think it applies here: “Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”

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I squarely fall under the " Working with talented people and comparing yourself to them"

I’m highly competitive which is a blessing and curse. It motivates you but it can also be devastating when you feel like you’ve lost. There are a few people on this forum that make me feel like a total imposter but I won’t embarrass them my naming names. :eyes:

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This is a really good discussion to bring up! I feel that in our field we so often are doing things that we simply don’t know how to do. It seems that we frequently have to learn new skills to continue to do the job that we were originally hired to do, and that can make me feel ill prepared for the job which creates that imposter syndrome. I think part of the reason our jobs are compensated so well in society is because we have the skill set of being able to learn quickly and figure things out as we go. Unfortunately that means we’re often in situations where we don’t know how to do things and that’s why I have felt like an imposter at times :joy:

I try to remind myself that “everyone is just figuring it out”. If someone looks really confident and well put together, then that’s great! But they’re still figuring it out just like we are :slight_smile:

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Raise your hand if you’ve worked worked on a help desk and gotten a ticket where the customer needs your service or product to work with a technology you had to Google because you had never heard of it! My current favorite is from a few years ago when a customer asked about a “low orbit ion canon”.

I’m also reminded about a frank conversation I had with a new CIO once. Previous management had decided to go with Oracle Linux but they opted not to pay for support. The new CIO came by for a meet and greet and this fact came up. So he asked “so who do you go to if you have problems?” I looked him and replied bluntly “It’s just me, her (pointing at my coworker) and Google!”

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So wait nobody here knows everything and can resolve any issue? Obviously I am joking, but truthfully there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think the curtain will be pulled away and I will be exposed pulling the levers like the Wizard of OZ. I have accepted a long time ago I will never know everything, in fact I have noticed when I begin to learn something new it only takes me a week to forget something I used to know well. Most of us are human and we need to remain humble in the fact we will know more than any given other human on a specific topic, but they in turn will know more than us in another.

Thats why we say team work makes the dream work.

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Wow. So many good feedback and stories!

I’ll be honest and say I was a bit ashamed/afraid of bringing this topic up. If you haven’t realized by now, a good chunk of my role is to be here in the community, bringing people in, having good conversations, etc. So it was hard to pretty much say “Hey members, but also and mainly teammates and boss(es). I don’t know what I’m doing! ¯\(ツ)/¯”. Really hard.

And despite agreeing with everything that was said here, to me there is one piece missing. A piece I realized exactly having this conversation with my manager. What most call failure, is actually ok, or even celebrated. It isn’t about the destination, it’s about the road. What we learn, how we propagate said learning. If you, as I do, work in an environment where the culture is open to failure, you feel safe to say: “Boss, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’ll keep trying and iterating.”

Also, the award of best message is right here:

I always knew there were some ET living among us! :stuck_out_tongue:

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A topic near and dear to my heart and love this community. Thanks for leading this conversation @raphabot .

Unpopular opinion here: I don’t like to say imposter syndrome because I feel that it’s overused, sounds medicalized, and doesn’t address key issues - lack of support, trust in self, and not addressing systemic and organizational structures. What’s another term for imposter syndrome?

Talked about this topic in recent podcast as well.

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I was trying to find a better term for this and I think I suffer from Peeranoia.

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I’ve never heard this term before, but I feel like I already identify myself A LOT with it!

I agree Raphael, putting yourself totally out there makes me feel really uncomfortable. Yet you can’t be at your best without it. I like glb’s comment about owning the feeling and think that’s an important part of it. It’s also being brave and just jumping in and doing it.

I also love Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability and shame. It really resonates with me and help me make sense of my feelings and how that was shaping my thinking.

Everyday is a struggle to do what I know inside should be done versus what I think is the safe thing. I try to use that moment to think trust yourself that you have it right and if you don’t it’s a great learning opportunity. I learn a lot!!! :wink:

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