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Be an inspiration, not an impostor (Texas Linux Fest 2015)


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Impostor syndrome is common within the technical world but it's not well defined and difficult to identify. My talk goes into detail around defining it, identifying it, and overcoming it. We can work together as a community to use common frameworks, like OODA, to have a better approach to social situations.

Published in: Self Improvement
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Be an inspiration, not an impostor (Texas Linux Fest 2015)

  1. 1. Be an inspiration, not an impostor Texas Linux Fest 2015 - Major Hayden, Rackspace Flickr: mckaysavage
  2. 2. A bit about me (and Rackspace)
  3. 3. Billy Hathorn CC-BY-SA 3.0
  4. 4. Major Hayden Principal Architect at Rackspace Fedora Security Team Package maintainer Fedora Planet blogger Former board member Ambassador Ansible Python OpenStack Xen/KVM/Containers Information Security
  5. 5.
  6. 6. Impostor Syndrome: 1. Define it 2. Identify it 3. Overcome it
  7. 7. Special Note: I’m not a licensed health care professional. If you’re suffering from mental health issues, reach out to a health care provider -- seriously. Help is always available. Talk to someone. You can talk to me anytime.
  8. 8. What is impostor syndrome?
  9. 9. It all started with a security incident.
  10. 10. Don’t write emails when you’re angry.
  11. 11. Impromptu calendar invitation from the CSO. I’m totally fired.
  12. 12. Now I’m working in an entirely new world.
  13. 13. Be careful what you ask for.
  14. 14. Impromptu calendar invitation from the CSO. Again.
  15. 15. “What do you call people who think they’re the best, but they’re actually not?”
  16. 16. “What do you call people who think they’re the worst, but they’re actually the best?”
  17. 17. “The same thing.”
  18. 18. How do we define impostor syndrome?
  19. 19. Wikipedia calls it a “psychological phenomenon.”
  20. 20. “Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved.” -- Emma Watson
  21. 21. Let’s put it in context. Impostor syndrome is one variety of cognitive bias.
  22. 22. A cognitive bias is a pattern of deviation in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion. (Thanks, Wikipedia)
  23. 23. In other words, impostor syndrome happens when you often think you aren’t competent, even when you really are. Our brains can’t always be logical.
  24. 24. What’s the opposite of impostor syndrome? Dunning-Kruger Effect
  25. 25. Photo credit: Bob Adams via Wikimedia Commons “Hey, I’ve flown these a few times.”
  26. 26. Photo credit: US Air Force (public domain) “I could fly this one right now!”
  27. 27. Where is the happy medium?
  28. 28. Dunning-Kruger Effect “Fake it ‘til you make it” Just right Unsure Impostor syndrome Safe zone Cognitive Bias Spectrum
  29. 29. “Fake it ‘til you make it” is when your confidence temporarily outweighs your competence. Eventually, your competence must catch up.
  30. 30. When you’re unsure, you may need temporary support to regain your confidence. Eventually, your confidence must catch up.
  31. 31. Being humble is something entirely different. “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” --C.S. Lewis
  32. 32. Leaders and managers depend on you for an accurate self-assessment of your competence.
  33. 33. What happens if your self- assessment isn’t accurate?
  34. 34. Photo credit: US Army / Michigan National Guard
  35. 35. The same goes for businesses and open source communities. If we don’t know what people can do, we will never know where we can go. Flickr: jeffwilcox
  36. 36. We can crush impostor syndrome with OODA.
  37. 37. Colonel John Richard Boyd, United States Air Force Photo credit: United State Air Force (public domain)
  38. 38. By Patrick Edwin Moran (Own work) CC BY 3.0
  39. 39. OODA Loop Observe Orient Decide Act
  40. 40. Observe Watch body language of others when you talk. Write down your opinions and thoughts and share them with people you trust. Get direct feedback from peers and leaders.
  41. 41. Orient Quantify your cognitive bias based on feedback and your experience Try to bring your self-assessed competence in line with your actual competence. This is the most critical step.
  42. 42. Decide Choose what you’re going to do and how you will do it. Don’t go back on your decision once you make it. This is the point of no return.
  43. 43. Act Put your decision into action and don’t look back. This is “go time”. Take the feedback you get and funnel it back into the OODA loop for the next challenging situation.
  44. 44. OODA Loop Observe Orient Decide Act
  45. 45. Go through the OODA loop without thinking about anyone other than yourself.
  46. 46. “Wherever you are in life with whatever you’ re doing – you’re going to be ahead of some and behind others. That’s okay. Own where you are. Take time to embrace and celebrate that. Continue moving forward. And never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” -- Matt Cheuvront (
  47. 47. Thank you! majorhayden