Banishing the imposter


I used to think I suffered from imposter syndrome. Regularly turning to A. and saying something like:

“They’ll find me out one day, you know. They’ll see me for who I am.”

And then I would get promoted. I would be asked to head up another project. I would regularly find myself – me, the non-tech person in the tech person world (I think Howard Jones sang a song about that) – at the front of a room, holding court; holding the agenda together.

My hand would go up. I would volunteer time and again because, and I am sure Jay Zed said this one “I have 99 introverts and I ain’t one.”

That silence. That god awful silence going on one beat too long, before I would land myself with something else to do – lead, coordinate, bluster. Wait, strike that last one. Even if I wasn’t sure, it was never bluster. Loud and at pace – rat-a-tat-tating my way through a slide deck – but never unplanned; absolutely never not rehearsed.

Then eight years passed. I was offered a new job. I was approached to be a mentor, not once but three times. Still no one found me out – other than myself. I learnt what I was, rather than what I wasn’t.

Over the past year I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing to find out. There is plenty to learn, space to grow – there are a few acceptances that need to be acknowledged – but no hidden flaws; no masks to slip.

I am a leader in the tech world who works well with tech people. I can understand what we are talking about. I can ask the right questions and at an appropriate time. If there’s no such thing as a stupid question, there is still an annoying time to ask it. Don’t ask it when the Business Analysts are up against it and want clarity, not grenades.

More importantly, I can replay everything back to the non-tech people on the outside of the tech world. Taking my cue from the developers like a bookmaker reading the tic-tac of a colleague along the racecourse and to translate it in to a plain, easy to understand language.

“They say the system is f@#*ed.”

I am also a very good number two. No shame in that. No lack of ambition here. I am the Agrippa of keeping us on track. Where I once wanted my name at the bottom of the emails – where I wanted the buck to stop with me – I find that being a two keeps you in the action; keeps your hand in the practicalities of getting stuff done.

You still lead, you still give direction, but in a way where you see the outcomes coming to life – beyond attending a fortnightly sprint review. There is always a degree of buck stopping. See note about the state of the system.

So as I move closer to starting my new role, I know I have got the job because of who I am – what I said, what might have been said about me – but more importantly, what I have done to get to this point. The only thing to find out is what I can do when I walk through that door on the first day. I will listen, I will learn, I will think – speak when spoken to – and when the time is right, I will get on and do what I am being paid to do.

Not with fear, nor the inevitability that I will get found out, but with an enthusiasm to prove they were right to take me on in the first place.

Then I will lean across to A. and say “They are seeing me for who I am.”

Image: CIO Priority Cards by Matt Ballantine of Stamp London

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