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Beating Imposter Syndrome

Si Jobling speaking at Milton Keynes Geek Night in March, 2017
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About this talk

Imposter syndrome affects all of us in different ways. Chances are most of the speakers have suffered it at some point, maybe even on the night. In this session, Si talks about how he’s tried to overcome the disorder in recent months in work (and play) with a little JFDI.


That's it, got it, right, yeah, Beating Imposter Syndrome. I talked about it, think, talking about this last year. As we go into the detail, find out why. Thanks for the intro, Rich. I'm currently Acting Agile Delivery Manager at fashion retailer, ASOS, as we talked about. The Acting part will make bit more sense later on. But for those who get the Agile thing, you might understand what that role entails. Bit of audience participation now. So, hands up if you have ever heard of imposter syndrome. Whoa, that's better than I thought it would be. And then hands up if you can identify with it as well. Yeah, thought so, excellent. So, I'm not going to read that verbatim, but it gives you an idea of what it's about. It's the idea that you can never identify your accomplishments, you feel like a bit of a fraud in whatever industry you're working in. I think it's quite relevant in our web profession as well, or the design world. I'm not sure why, we talked about this earlier, but I think this could open up a good debate later on. So, if we go back to last October, there was meant to be the Geek Mental Help Week. Unfortunately, due to many reasons, the actual event didn't happen. But the initiative was there, and Andy Clark and Rich, and a few other guys around the country, were doing a lot of work to make, bring up the awareness of our mental wellbeing. Coincidentally, at the same time, I was going through a bit of a identity crisis with my career. So, it felt like a natural opportunity to just seize the opportunity, and what better way to have come here than talk about it in this sort of environment. How meta. So, working in a big company, you get all this, sort of, business jargon. You got, right, "let's find your objective, let's see where you are and what you're gonna do, and what's your roadmap for the year." Okay. But I came to that fundamental question of "What are you?" That's a really interesting question because, I've been a developer for many years. And I've been trying to be a Jack of all trades, master of none. One of those guys that kind of dabbles in design, bit of development, bit of management, you know. But you never kind of realise what your skills are. I didn't work in, again, referencing back to the big corps. You know, Ethos R2, a thousand members of staff, they are topping that scale now, it's ridiculous. So, all the roles and the competencies grids are in there. You're thinking, Jesus, do I want to go up there? I'm not sure what I want to be doing. And this idea of an ideal all-round, it was becoming like a bit of a, buzzword. I was like, I'm not sure where I want to be. So, thankfully for me, my line manager directly said, you know, with a really honest discussion, he says, "I see you as an ADM." An Agile Delivery Manager for those, did may not occur to you. I was quite lucky that I'd had a lot of peer reviews, a lot of outside feedback. Again, these are sort of benefits of working in a big environment. So, to get this sort of prompt, I thought, "Oh, maybe I could do that." I mean, I was very lucky that I'd been observed in such a positive way. So, you know, there are advantages to working in those big places. But then, on the counter to that, I was in my comfort zone. And we can all relate to this, sort of a little bit OCD, about colours and alignment. You know, I was thinking, do I really want to change my direction? Do I want to go to something that I'm not too sure about? You know, can I even fulfil those expectations? All the anxiety levels are going through the roof. And that's when I realised, bloody imposter syndrome is kicking in again. You know, can I do this stuff? But, then, this old acronym came across. I like the giggles, that means you know what it means. Just -ing Do It. So, this is bit of a team mantra for us. If there's any hesitation from the business about delivery of stuff, it's fine. What does that mean? Just get on with it, you know? Let's get shit done. And it was time for me to eat some dog food. Get on with it, let's make that jump, and do something about it. So, it's a bit of a motivation power slide, but it's pretty true, you know? If you don't take those risks, you will regret it in a later life, or a later time of your life. I wasn't doing that, but it sort of felt a little bit like it. So, yeah, I just think, if I was to ever, I had this real hesitation to go forward. And I was like, why am I being such a wimp about this? Just take the risk, you'll be fine. And then, second to this, I was like, but I'm in way over my head, what do I do? So you know, seek advice, and find the support from all your fellow peers. The people that you work with, the people you're comfortable with. Just go and find help. Find a mentor or a sponsor to endorse you. It doesn't need to be like a financial investment, it's just more for moral support. And there's no shame in asking for help. Generally, if you ask someone for help, they'll be quite honoured that you're asking them as well. It works both ways. So, number two, just go out there and talk about it to whoever is around you. There's no harm in talking to others. Don't think about your own vulnerability, just think of areas for improvement, and just have no shame. There's no shame in this stuff, you know? And again, with our geek mental health wellbeing, it's a bit of a taboo subject. And I love that we're doing these awareness weeks to try and break that taboo. But we just need to talk about these thing a bit more, that's why I'm doing this tonight. I just threw old guy in, you know. There it is. Need I say any more? But, you get so spoiled where you think, you know, am I really an expert in this area? Is this something that I can actually do? Yeah, thanks mate, for making me feel like I can really achieve something in life. Why do we need experts in the world, eh? So yeah, use your strength to your advantages. You find the areas that you're very good at, or you think, actually, that's what I tend to do very well, or I've got an idea of how that's meant to be done. Just use those advantages to your natural gain. It's not arrogant to be confident in yourself, it's just being confident. At the end of the day, your reputation is your responsibility. Right, it's nobody else's, it's you that gotta look after that. So, taking all those, sort of, points into consideration, I took the plunge. I found that confidence to get on with it, delve into the world of unknown. JFDI, as always. So, I worked with the team, worked with other teams, worked with some peers that could support me in this. Went for the interview, smashed the interview, even with a really intimidating guy that I knew quite well. He really scratched the itch, you know, bear with me, mate. And I've been doing this, for say, about two months now. And I'm getting some positive feedback already. So, I feel like the benefit is already wearing off. You know, I'm feeling that sense of achievement now. I could continue doing this stuff, and who knows where it's going to go in the future as well. Little bit of a shameless plug. While I was doing this, I've started recording a daily, sort of, nightly retrospective of how the day's gone. What I've learned from the day, what might have helped me, what others might help from, as well. It's a work in progress, and what I'm thinking of doing is releasing it as, like a series of entries for either audiobooks, or it could be, I don't know. I'm working it out, but I'm aiming to get this out in the summer. JFDI, get on with it. That's me done. Thank you.