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CCC 2015 Fear and Self-loathing in IT


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ow many times do you find yourself paralyzed with fear at the thought of raising your voice and speaking your opinions out loud, whether at a conference, in a business meeting, or even just from your cubicle chair? Do you cringe at the idea of asking for help when you get stuck on a challenging problem? Many of us do, and it can be crippling. Imposter syndrome is alive and well in IT, and the fear and self-doubt that we all experience can be a major blocker to progress and success. Not just in our personal lives, but on our software teams, and ultimately in our careers. As a fellow “imposter”, I’d like to share some of my own adventures in embracing my fears, learning to ask for help, and the sometimes unexpected and very positive outcomes that followed.

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CCC 2015 Fear and Self-loathing in IT

  1. 1. Polaris Solutions ALM Practice Mgr since Jan ‘12 Been in the software industry since 1999 Runs the Chicago ALM User Group ALM MVP, PSM, PSD Has a *possibly* unhealthy love of Halloween Shameless self promotion Polaris Solutions- Chicago Visual Studio ALM User Group - Twitter: @OakParkGirl, @ChicagoALM, @TeamPolaris Blog -
  2. 2. This is NOT a how-to 
  3. 3. Angela is not a trained psychologist Angela most definitely suffers from imposter syndrome Also, there is a non-zero chance that I am terrified that you all think I am full of crap!
  4. 4. Impostor syndrome[1] is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Notably, impostor syndrome is particularly common among high- achieving women. ~Wikipedia
  5. 5. The Imposter Test: “When people praise me for something I’ve accomplished, I’m afraid I won’t be able to live up to their expectations of me in the future” “I’m afraid people important to me may find out that I’m not as capable as they think I am” “I rarely do a project or task as well as I’d like to do it” “I often compare my ability to those around me and think they may be more intelligent than I am”
  6. 6. Researchers believe that up to 70% of people have felt the effects of impostor syndrome at some point
  7. 7. If the total score is 40 or less, the respondent has few Impostor characteristics If the score is between 41 and 60, the respondent has moderate IP experiences A score between 61 and 80 means the respondent frequently has Impostor feelings; A score higher than 80 means the respondent often has intense IP experiences.
  8. 8. IT Evangelist: 40 Graphic Designer: 74 Senior Developer: 67 Dietician: 69Angela Dugan: 77 Screen Printer: 73 Librarian: 71 Agile coach: 74 Interior Designer: 55 IT Director: 77 ALM Consultant: 87 Industrial Plumber: 54 SAHM: 39 Lawyer: 53 Freelance Writer: 30 IT Manager: 55 IT Consultant: 55 Scenic Painter: 71 SAHM: 52 Biology Teacher: 65 Network Administrator: 39 Audio Engineer: 67 Lawyer: 89 Management Consultant: 67 Senior Developer: 70
  9. 9. Being an “expert” is overrated An expert is just someone who has effed up something more than you Being a beginner is pretty amazing!
  10. 10. Most “experts” had no freaking clue what they were doing, at first… Until they DID
  11. 11. Fear is an emotion induced by a threat perceived by living entities, which causes a change in brain and organ function and ultimately a change in behavior, such as running away, hiding or freezing from traumatic events.
  12. 12. But what are we all so afraid of? Being wrong? Not having ALL of the answers? Being/looking vulnerable? Getting Fired? Not being “perfect”?
  13. 13. Perfection is the enemy of good
  14. 14. But it’s not ALL bad
  15. 15. “It's OK to feel like a phony sometimes. It's healthy if it moves you forward” ~Scott Hanselman
  16. 16. Story Time
  17. 17. Many of my blog posts are an admission of guilt
  18. 18. Every blog post and presentation is a leap of faith
  19. 19. What do I do now?
  20. 20. Recognize how you’re feeling Go ahead and feel it And stop beating yourself up about it
  21. 21. It encourages us to push ourselves (and others) to learn It fosters innovation It teaches us humility
  22. 22. In Judaism humility is an appreciation of oneself, one's talents, skills, and virtues. It is not meekness or self- deprecating thought, but the effacing of oneself to something higher. Humility is not to think lowly of oneself, but to appreciate the self one has received. ~ Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
  23. 23. Admitting you don’t know the answer to something lends you instant credibility. I’m serious, try it…
  24. 24. Find something you’re really good at and then be the best you can be at that thing
  25. 25. Then find something you’re really good at, that someone else wants to learn, then teach them.
  26. 26. See It, Do It, Teach it
  27. 27. Remind yourself that knowing all the answers makes you less likely to seek out new solutions or embrace new ideas
  28. 28. Find someone who inspires you, get connected, then ask for help! Chances are, they’ve been there too! Then focus on being the best you, it really IS enough.
  29. 29. Nothing helps you realize just how much we don’t know like mentoring someone Nothing helps you realize just how much you have to offer like mentoring someone
  30. 30. Take risks Be ok with being vulnerable Ask for help
  31. 31. “A manager’s job is not to prevent risks but it is their job to make it safe to take them.” ~ @dneighbors You don’t have to be a manager to be a leader!
  32. 32. Nothing makes you rethink how you represent yourself, accept and give praise, and react to others missteps like having others look to you as a model for behavior!
  33. 33. Managing Humans - $18 Getting Naked ~$20 The Art of Asking ~$18 The Authenticity Paradox ~$0 Angela’s Slide decks: