Why I Do What I Do

I have to thank Cory House for mentioning this article about Why Do You Do What You Do Because You Better Know.  With some changes happening, this is something I have personally had to face.  I am wrapping up things at The Software Guild at the end of this month, as I have decided it’s time for me to pursue other career directions.  Talking with some people, the “why do you do what you do” and the “what do you do” questions have come up.  It’s been interesting chatting with them, though, as I find my friends and contacts in the field see other directions for me, which don’t align with my vision.  So I figured I’d put this out there for others to see… what do I do?  And why do I do what I do?

What Do I Do?

There are many things that I enjoy:

  • Organizing conferences and other tech events
  • Speaking at conferences
  • Teaching in the classroom
  • Mentoring – in-person, over coffee/tea, via email, online
  • Creating technical programs for others – be it lessons, modules, after-school programs, or larger programs
  • Making tech less scary, more approachable to others
  • Social media – blogging, Tweeting, engaging with others online

Some people may see my steps in the leadership, teaching, and mentoring realm as going soft.  However, I also have technical interests, including:

  • Data engineering – especially exploring various platforms and tools:
    • D3.js
    • R
    • Python
    • SQL Server
  • Web development – especially looking at the various CSS platforms and JavaScript libraries out there
  • API development – reading up on strategies
  • DevOps!!!
    • finally, something that allows me to put my dev skills and IT skills to work TOGETHER and makes sense
  • User experience development

Why Do I Do What I Do?

Long story, short… it’s fun!  I have always enjoyed playing with technology.  When I learn a new tech, you will hear the word play used, as that’s how I see exploring applications of technology and concepts.  Whether I’m building a sample app to prove a concept can be done or really have a legitimate use for these tools, I take fun approaches to technology, keeping my curiosity and interest up.

When I take on contracts and work with others, I choose to partner with companies that keep me on my toes, challenge me in good ways, and help bring out the best in themselves and others.  I find companies and people that align with my beliefs, morals, ethics, and general career direction.  I want to make sure that I make a positive impact to the world.

Over time, I have realized that not all people can teach others.  There are certain levels of communication and patience needed, and somehow I have those.  I enjoy building materials and teaching them because of the impact – watching others become more informed, seeing those “ah-ha” moments.  When I know that I can teach others something complex and have them realize it isn’t that complicated and really is approachable, that makes me have hope in the world… hope for humanity, hope for future generations… or at least for today.

I also appreciate the flexibility that I have in this career, especially at this point in my career, over 15 years in tech.  Being able to make my own schedule, being able to volunteer at my kids’ school, being able to go out to lunch with my husband… being able to put in time working when my kids are asleep (or choosing to spend some of that time with my husband)… having that kind of flexibility is invaluable.  So part of what I do is indeed for the flexibility.

So What’s in Store for 2018?

I have some folks reaching out to me to help build programs for them.   Also, restructuring my LLC for Space Apps last year means I have contracting companies trying to get me into federal contracts.  If you see something in my “What Do I Do?” that may benefit you and if you see that we may align in the “Why Do I Do What I Do?” part, reach out to me here or on Twitter, and we can take it to email as well.  I look forward to partnering with others in 2018, especially those who can put my talents to use and align with my goals and beliefs.

Thoughts of My Dream Job Situation

While watching Twitter, I saw this pop up in my stream:

As I have taken a twisty career – tech support to desktop admin/webserver admin/reports writer/DBA/developer (all under an IT analyst role) to web developer to independent consultant (mostly development) to teaching assistant to instructor to lead instructor – I have always wondered – what really makes up my dream job?  SwiftOnSecurity’s question has me thinking.  These are some of the things I’ve liked in past or current roles.

Flexibility – Not Tied to Certain Hours

As a mom, it is important for me to be in a job where I can volunteer at school every now and then and where I can be available to handle that call when the teacher has a hazmat situation where the kid needs to be sent home (you may laugh – I had this one happen in the past couple months).   I need to be able to address mom needs every now and then, unapologetically and without a lot of extra guilt.  As a working mom, I feel guilty as it is when I have to leave work early.  However, I end up working when my kids are asleep, so the time gets in eventually.

My strong productivity times are when my kids aren’t around – so when they’re at school and when they’re asleep.  Now, when they’re home, that’s my family time.  My guys are little – 3 and 5 – so I’m at a phase where I’m still an important figure to them.  I need to be able to have that time and not feel tied down by work.

Leadership – Two-Fold

I truly enjoy leading people.  Whether it is in an official capacity – such as leading my tech support team and leading an Online remote instructor team – or an unofficial capacity – such as mentoring juniors while I didn’t have an official “lead” title, I have enjoyed supporting others in their careers, being the voice of them against the business side (HR/accounting/etc.), and encouraging team morale.  Leadership is in my blood – it’s a part of who I am, and it’s something I’ve embraced.   My enthusiasm for leadership is quite clear in my servant leadership talk that I will be delivering in January 2018 at CodeMash.

As a leader, I thrive with other leaders who are communicative, transparent, honest, and know how to handle even the tough situations.  When the going gets tough, if my leaders are transparent with me, that makes it easier for me to be able to disseminate the knowledge appropriately to my team.  As a leader, I prefer to have that transparency and open door policy for my team and expect that of my own leaders.

Play and Creativity

For me to be successful in any role, I need to be able to play.  No, I’m not referring to Nerf gun wars or Corporate Challenge type things. I’m referring more towards having fun while learning.  Is there a way for me to learn a new technology while having fun?  Can I put my creative ideas to work to make my work environment or the tech community a better place?  If I enjoy whatever it is I’m working on, there’s a much higher rate of me being successful.

Education / Training Others

I am enjoying the education space, much like I enjoyed academia while in college.  The one downfall to this is that I only have a Bachelors degree – but I won’t let that slow me down.  I did have my app in for a Master program but rescinded it recently due to a downturn of events.  Maybe one day…

What do I enjoy about the education space?  I enjoy teaching others with examples and real world applications of concepts.  I especially like taking concepts that seem difficult to others and making them approachable.  I enjoy writing curriculum and presentations.  Most of all, I enjoy learning and helping others grow in their careers by learning.

Mentoring

This is something I really enjoy – being able to share my stories and experiences with those who are just getting started in the field, and learning about their journeys and how to apply their journeys to where they are today.  I remind those who learn from me – I also have my own mentors!  Having mentors – especially ones outside of your company – give you a wider perspective on things, and being that person for others is something I really enjoy.

The Road to my Dream Job (of Today)

For now, I will continue to go down the path my career has taken me so far and see where it will lead.  Every day is an adventure, and every step changes who I am.  And each experience, I learn more about myself – my likes and dislikes, what helps me thrive, and what sets me up for success in the future.  I look forward to seeing where this path goes.

Before Contracting, Do Your Research

Within the past couple months, I’ve been dealing with junior devs who have taken on side gigs and signed up for contracting gigs without really knowing what they were getting into.  As someone who owns her own LLC and can do the side gigs, I find myself explaining to them things they should have learned about before deciding to go the contractor life.  So these are some of my thoughts and experiences.

Build a Support Network

Whether you are going completely on your own or doing side gigs while working a regular job, be sure that you have someone who can mentor you and can give you advice in situations common to contracting.  Find someone who understands the business side – timekeeping, billing, contracts, business pipeline, etc. – and who can help you understand it better.  Find someone who understands how to sell yourself and make yourself stand out.  Find someone who can help figure out problems such as work/life balance.  Don’t try to go it alone without a support network.

2 Key Allies – The Accountant and The Lawyer

Unless you truly are trained in these, you need to have an accountant and a lawyer on your side.  Some may meet virtually, some in-person, and some may mix both.  Go with what you prefer.  The accountant is the one who can help you figure out things such as setting up your accounting books, making sure AR/AP is set up properly, making sure you’re taking the right taxes, offering guidance if you are charging taxes, and everything in between for basic financial transactions.  The lawyer is the one you go to with the contracts to make sure that they’re written so that the best situations for both parties are represented.  Don’t want non-competes?  Specifically worried about who owns the work at what point? There are lawyers of various types out there to help with that.  There are certain things you can and cannot say in contracts, and lawyers are great for getting that in place.  There’s more to lawyers than just a courtroom.  Also, when forming a company, you may find an accountant or a lawyer that can give you their perspective of the various types out there – a sole proprietorship versus a partnership versus an S-Corp versus other types out there.  While these professionals may be costly, at the same time, it would be more costly to be without them and mess up any of their functions.  They are well worth the investment.

Know that it can be Feast or Famine

Contracting has its ups and downs.  Sometimes, business is awesome and the pipeline is overloaded.  Sometimes, business is down and the pipeline is empty.  It’s a balancing act in finding what works for you.  Know that those extremes happen, and be prepared for what happens if the worst points come and how long you can sustain those.  Know your audience and how to market to them – that will help you in your advantage.

Benefits… or Lack Thereof

Something that some of the younger ones are surprised with is that there isn’t health insurance, life insurance, training, mentorship, or {insert some other company perk} here when you’re contracting.  While you might get a flexible schedule or a certain rate or being able to pick and choose what you work on, you have to remember that – as a contractor – you typically won’t get the benefits that your clients have.  It is up to you to provide for yourself – health insurance, life insurance, business insurance, etc.  Want to stay up on your skills or learn new things?  The cost – and not just monetarily, but time as well sometimes – of conferences or things like Pluralsight or DevIQ also need to be factored in.  When you have to cover those yourself, you need to consider the cost of those when figuring out your rates.

Doing Research

Going into contracting wasn’t something I just jumped into – though when I had quit my job to go contracting full-time originally, it may have seemed like that.  I spent a couple years observing my friends in the field.  As much as I tease him for giving that workshop everywhere, I enjoyed Michael Eaton’s “Going Independent” workshop. I talked with some of my business owner friends and mentors in the field.  And I made sure that I had all my ducks in a row before making that leap.

So if you’re going the route of contracting, be sure you do the research before getting yourself into a tough situation.

Epilogue

I was contracting from late 2011 until 2016, when I took a position full-time where I am now.  I still have some work that I do under my LLC from time to time.  Would I be a contractor again? If it was the right time and all the cards lined up, absolutely.  But for now, I’ve done my research and am full-time with a company that aligns with my own career goals and allows me to bring out many of my tricks without having the administrative duties of timekeeping and billing.  However, with my experience, I have a feeling I will be talking with more who have entered into contractor life without really realizing what they’re getting into.

Finding Internships in the Tech Realm

A question was recently posted on Twitter on how we got our first jobs in the industry.  This was my response:

However, I had internships pre-college and throughout college and figured I’d share those stories as well.

Internship doing Datasheet QA – Pre-College

One of my brothers’ friends’ dads worked for a large company in the area, dealing with software-related things.  He talked with me and his team interviewed me, having me QA their database, checking that the data in the database matched the datasheets in the specs.  As someone who has an eye for data, this was a great step in the right direction.  While at this place, I found myself moving to a project with a contractor, learning how to migrate from an Access database to a SQL database with a Visual Basic front-end.  I was already familiar with Access and Visual Basic, as I had been playing with those as a hobbyist at home, working on an address book (that I later released on Nonags).  That contractor saw my love of data and introduced me to the Oracle DBA, so that I could see that as well.  Seeing SQL Server and Oracle, I hoped that (1) college wouldn’t be so awful and (2) once I get through that pain, maybe I’ll get to work with data.

Job Source: Family connection

Y2K Programmer

Yes – that was my job!  In the summer of 1999, I ended up working in headquarters of a local retail chain, making sure accounting, payroll, and other systems were Y2K compliant.  I learned FoxPro for this job as well as doing more ETL.  Now how did I end up in this role?  I used to work in the retail chain as a pharmacy tech, working for my now father-in-law.  I think he told me about the role up there.  It was great to get in at HQ, and it was even better when they walked me around on the first day and I ran into family from my mom’s side.

Job Source: Family connections

The Internship That Didn’t Exist

When I came home in the summer of 2000, I didn’t have an internship lined up, and the university’s co-op program placement was useless.  So I looked at the classifieds in The Plain Dealer, a local newspaper for Cleveland and its suburbs.  I noticed a Fortune 500 company with a listing looking for a developer with Visual Basic and SQL Server experience.  Knowing that I had those skills from my past experience, I wrote a cover letter that sold them on the fact that (1) I’m young (and cheap!!), (2) I already have the skills they need, and (3) I don’t need a lot of hand-holding and tend to hit the ground running.  Also, I pointed out that they could bring me on board so that the project didn’t get back-burnered and since I was temporary, it would give them more time to find a more permanent employee.  All the magic words led to an interview, which led to a corner office in downtown Cleveland and a project working on Visual Basic and SQL!  I finished the project with weeks to spare, and they didn’t need to hire an employee for the role after all.

Job Source: Classifieds in The Cleveland Plain Dealer + good personal sales

And, of course, the job I ended up at the longest while in college…

IT Support with the Coolest Guys Ever

Yes, I loved working in IT for the Arts & Science College Computing crew at the University of Toledo.  It was an adventurous part of my career in learning about just what IT encompasses and the good and bad parts, especially in the academia realm.  Supporting students, teachers, and executives, I learned a lot there and was privileged to work with a wonderful, supportive crew.  So how did I end up with this role?  A friend of mine was in the role prior to me, and he recommended me for the role.

Job Source: Friend 

Some Keys to Employment

This is something not just for juniors but for those overall – networking is key.  Talk to people, and listen to people.  Talk with family, friends, and yes… even strangers!  Go to Meetups, user groups, conferences, and other gatherings and network with others.

Don’t be afraid to see what opportunities are out there.  Newspaper classifieds were where I turned, but that was because in the late 90s and early 00s, that was where I knew to look.  Nowadays, we also have LinkedIn, Dice, Indeed, Glassdoor, Monster, Careerboard, ZipRecruiter, and other websites with job listings.  And if you see a listing you aren’t 100% qualified for, take a chance if it’s something interesting and you think you can learn the stuff they don’t have.  Most job listings are guidelines, not requirements that are completely set in stone.

You never know where your next opportunity will be.  Put yourself out there.  And remember – no one can sell you and your capabilities better than yourself!

Adventures with R…

About a week and a half ago, I started going through the R specialization on Coursera.  These are some of my observations.

Reminders of my Past

As I work in RStudio and go through lessons on data tidying, querying for values, and creating functions, I am reminded of some of the courses I went through in my past.  I am calling functions – such as correlation – that I (vaguely) remember learning about in my statistics class.  A lot of my interactions with R remind me of the days of working on engineering homework in Matlab.  I’m also finding that the language makes a lot of sense to me because it has elements of object-oriented programming – akin to the C# and Java that I teach at The Software Guild – and functional programming – with concepts like pipelines and chaining functions, which I liken to some of my PowerShell adventures.  It’s been quite an adventure so far.

Preparedness Going In

I’ve been curious about data science for awhile.  Catching Matthew Renze’s Practical Data Science with R workshop at CodeMash encouraged my curiosity out more.  Between January and March, I dreamt of data science stuff and had ideas popping into my head – especially since NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge is coming up in April, and I’d love to show my NASA friends what I’ve been playing with, hopefully using some of their datasets.  When it comes to querying data, I have a solid background in that too – having worked with multiple RDBMSes and worn the database administrator hat in my past.  Finally, I realized that I was prepared enough – between my solid understanding of programming languages and paradigms and having been exposed to R in the workshop – that I had better follow my dreams and take a course to keep me on the right path.

Current Status

Tonight, I hit an achievement – I finished Course 1 of the R specialization.  Yes, it’s a 4 week course.  Yes, I went through it in a short period of time – but my preparedness really helped in this case.  The only road block I had in this first course was when it came time to use statistical functions and not remembering what they meant or represented.  But after reading and plugging away at it for an hour or so, it all started coming together.

I signed up for Course 2, which starts on Monday.  I’m already through the Week 1 material there, and I’m having fun creating functions.  As I was writing some of my code, I laughed because I recognized R’s syntax and thought “ah… anonymous functions… much like my lambdas in C# and Java….”  It’s good to be adding another language to my toolbelt.

Also, while I mentioned RStudio above, I also find myself yearning to get back into Visual Studio at times.  So when I get tired of RStudio, I switch back to R Tools for Visual Studio 2015.  The only downfall I’ve run into with that is that Notepad is the editor that comes up when swirl() opens a temporary file for me.  I need to eventually sit down, look at configuration, and find out if I can either set Visual Studio or Notepad++ as my R editor for swirl() when I run it in VS.  (And no, I haven’t checked Visual Studio 2017 for the R tools yet…)

Overall, though, I am thrilled to be playing with data again, and R has captured my attention.

On Making Badass Developers…

I ran into Michael Richardson while at CodeMash, and he forwarded me a link to Kathy Sierra‘s talk Making Badass Developers:

These are my thoughts as I was watching the video.

 

What do you need to know? 

Sitting at the table, someone asks what you need to know to be a web developer.  As Kathy points out, this is the wrong question to ask.  It isn’t about what you know – especially in a world of technology that is ever changing.  It isn’t as much what you know now as it is how you can learn technology and keep up with it.  As Kathy puts it…

How can you learn and build skills QUICKLY?

While talking through this, she identifies that  developers come in multiple forms:

  • Human – extremely scarce, easily depleted cognitive resources
  • Humanoid – consistently available cognitive resources
  • Unicorn – these don’t exist

It is possible to be identified as a humanoid, and she mentions how to handle this.

Where there is high expertise, there is a great deal of cognitive research management. – Kathy Sierra

One of the things she points out is how we can get better.  She points out an exercise with Post-Its – which my friends can tell you that I have a problem with them.  As in, I make Post-It notes all over my wall in my home office and on a spare monitor as well (until I get an adapter to hook it up too).  Kathy mentions grouping them in three groups:

  • Can’t do (but need to)
  • Can do with effort
  • Mastered (reliable/automatic)

The goal is to move the Post-Its to Mastered.  But there tends to be a pile up in Can do with effort or half-assed skills in Mastered.  Another frustration with the move-the-Post-Its game is that these things can take a lot of time.

half-a-skill beats a half-assed skill – Kathy Sierra

Split skills into subskills.  This is how to move past the Can do with effort to Mastered easily – break it into smalller, masterable chunks.  As my instructional coach at work tells me, breaking topics into chunks makes things easier to digest and lessons possibly easy to learn.  This also applies to learning skills.

Conclusion

I really like how Kathy mentioned that it isn’t about what skills you have but how quickly you learn.  This has been a key skill for me to be as successful as I am in my career, because I can pick up a technology and run with it.  I took a FoxPro position without any knowledge of it, and I landed in a C# position without any knowledge of C#.  In both cases, it came down to showing the potential of being a quick learner and running with it.  I’m glad that she points that out.  I also appreciated that she talked about the Post-Its game and how to break skills into smaller chunks – the concept of breaking things into smaller chunks continues to follow me.

There’s more to this video than I cover here, and I recommend you check it out if this is a topic that interests you.

A Survey on Consumer Type

My friend Randy was asked to take the VALS Survey recently, and after reading his results, I was intrigued.  It appears to be a great way of gaining a better understanding of your consumers. their motivation, and how they consume goods and services.

Looking on their site, it’s a short survey, so I checked it out.

My results are:

  • Primary Type: Innovators – dominant approach to life
  • Secondary Type: Achievers – a particular emphasis on the dominant approach

Looking Back on 2015…

If you had told me that 2015 would have been this crazy of an adventure, I wouldn’t have believed it.  However, I’ve grown a lot this year, and I’m thrilled to see where things are going.  I’ve got a few adventures ahead that I’m excited about, and 2015 is to blame for setting me up with those expectations.  Let’s see what went on.

CodeMash 2015… and a Peek Into the InfoSec World

In January, I knew I wanted 2015 to include a selfish adventure – looking into crypto and other security topics. When I was in college, I had fun reading up on topics in that realm and finding exploits in the labs and reporting them. Somehow, that part of me woke up in January and wanted to see what’s out there. I caught a couple sessions at CodeMash 2015 to appease that curiosity.

White Spy from Spy vs. Spy (from Mad Magazine)

White Spy from Spy vs. Spy (from Mad Magazine)

I thought that part of me would stay quiet. But no… those sessions kicked me in the butt. So I reached out to my friend Bill Sempf to see if B-Sides Cleveland would be a good spot for me to see what’s going on. He mentioned that it would be a great community event for me to check out, and I think that is the understatement of the year! It was amazing to see so many people of all walks of life, and with a venue like The Grog Shop, it was unlike any other conference I’ve been to, spoken at, or organized. It was also the first conference in a very long time where I was not only an attendee but also had my husband with me, as he’s interested in the security stuff from an IT perspective. Some of their stories totally blew my mind away (triggering a slight case of impostor syndrome) and then others I could relate to well. I look forward to the next B-Sides Cleveland and hope to one day get the courage and ideas to speak at it.

Realizing My Impact on My Apprentices

The groups of apprentices that I’ve dealt with this year have been astounding. The more I deal with apprentices, the more I identify certain personality characteristics and learning styles, and the better I get at doing my job. Across the board, I’ve seen trends, which also reaffirms that I love the education space and evaluating how people learn.

Earlier this year, I had an apprentice in particular that had a profound impact on me and I on him. However, I didn’t realize the impact I made on him until about week 10 of our 12-week program, when a passing comment gave me an inkling of the impact. He was a challenge for me not because he was a difficult personality – far from that. He reminded me of someone from my past, a much younger (in terms of timeline, not necessarily in age) version of me. I couldn’t put my finger on why – other than similar development starts. It didn’t help that he had a way with words that really hit me at my core. On our last day together, we talked a lot. That’s when he explained everything, and I realized that we have a lot more in common. He also mentioned that I filled big shoes, which I hadn’t realized that were there to be filled. From that point on, I reminded myself that I need to continue to be that person, not just to him but to my other apprentices as well. We are still in touch, and he still has a way with words and timing that tugs at my heartstrings and reminds me why I am in the position that I am in.

Later in the year, I had another apprentice who I swore reminded me of the one I mentioned from earlier in the year. They were two different personalities, but they both have similarities that I couldn’t verbalize. I couldn’t explain why, but throughout that whole cohort, I knew deep down that there was something about this other apprentice – who also had a profound impact on me, more than he probably realizes. We talked throughout the cohort, and around week 10, I knew I had to figure out why I had the read I did. On the last day of class, we were talking about things in general, and he made a comment that made me go “Ahh… it all makes sense.” He had a background similar to my apprentice from earlier in the year. My read turned out to be spot on. I’m looking forward to hearing about his adventures as he takes the next steps in his career.

 

Double Loop rollercoaster

Double Loop rollercoaster from Geauga Lake (my first real rollercoaster)

My apprentices – all cohorts so far – have been a rollercoaster of emotions – highs at successes, lows when they experience setbacks. I’m by their sides for the whole ride, trying to level out the extremes and keep them as even keel as possible. This year has been a year of extremes with them, so much so that I was happy to see the positives and hated to share my negative stories (but had to because, well, my life experiences are learning experiences for them to learn vicariously from). As I look back on 2015 with the Software Guild, it’s been quite an adventure. I am not only helping others learn, but I’m also learning more about myself in the process. I look forward to the journey ahead with them in 2016.

Getting More Comfortable with Myself – Podcasts and Netshows

If there’s anything you need to know about pre-2015 me, it’s that I did not like watching or listening to any recordings of me. I’m my biggest critic, and I couldn’t watch or listen to any recordings of me without turning supercritical. It’s my nature, and it was something that I just couldn’t settle in. However, 2015 forced me to get comfortable with myself and to shut off the inner critic, if only to take everything in.

You can find a list of my appearances in my Microsoft MVP Profile. There were a couple podcasts and many appearances on Coding 101. I listened to each recording once they were posted, and the more I listened to myself, the stronger my self-confidence grew and the more comfortable I became with appearing on podcasts and netshows!

I am sad to announce that Coding 101 was recently cancelled by TWiT.tv. Thankfully, they are keeping the past episodes in the archives for others to watch. I’m thankful that Leo LaPorte and Lisa LaPorte gave Coding 101 a chance, as it exposes a variety of technologies to those who are just getting into coding. Yes, I had my fangirl moment before my first appearance, which led to more nervousness. However, all nervous energy dissipated after my first appearance, as Padre and Lou are great conversationalists and always made me feel at ease. It was great to do a recording in person with Lou. I still want to visit the TWiT studios if I’m ever out that way.

Overall

Overall, 2015 has been a great year for me career-wise. I had a lot of introspective moments, which really brought me out of my shell more than I ever expected. The boost in self-confidence helped me improve my vision of my impact on others. Knowing that, I now have a better understanding of how I can continue to serve the community and encourage my apprentices to grow in their careers. I also have a better idea of where I want to go in my career. So look out, 2016! I’ve got dreams that I’m determined to make into realities!

Dealing with Impostor Syndrome

This week was apparently Impostor Syndrome Week, but I don’t know why.  One of my apprentices mentioned impostor syndrome in his most recent blog post, and a friend from the tech community mentioned it in a post on Facebook.  Both of them linked to this NY Times article.  I also was dealing with my own personal bouts of impostor syndrome this week.  For me personally, I tend to get these feelings when I feel like I’m in a situation that’s way over my head.  In reality, they typically are situations that are high-stress and the emotional toll of the stress ends up triggering my impostor syndrome.

Am I really capable?!?

That came up in my first bout of impostor syndrome.  I sit on a non-profit’s board of directors, and we had two pressing issues on our plates for this meeting.  In both cases, I was optimistic going into the meeting and quickly switched to the realist position, which put me in a dissenting position for both issues.  At my core, before my realist kicks in, I’m an optimist.  However, the older I get, the quicker my realist kicks in.  Having worked with non-profits and their projects at various GiveCamps – including Cleveland GiveCamp – I knew there were things to watch.  When I get into a dissenting position over big things like this, I always question myself in terms of whether my position is valid and then that leads down the impostor syndrome path.  Thankfully, there are other realists on the board, which makes it easier for me to bounce back from that.  When one of us chimes in with our dissenting views, one of the others chimes in as well.  Once I see that I’m not that far off base and actually do know what I’m talking about, then it’s a lot easier.

How did we do this?!?

This is from my second bout of impostor syndrome this week.  With the help of the staff at the Software Guild, The Bit Factory, and the community, I was able to pull off a great event on Wednesday night with Julie Lerman speaking about EF7.  The people who made it happen behind the scenes rocked – Dave, Victor, Randall, Eric, Annal, and most of all Amanda!

For a last minute event put together around Thanksgiving, I figured we’d get a low turnout, but honestly, we did great!  However, deep down, I was still beating myself up and thinking “I could’ve done better”.  Seeing that everyone enjoyed it, though, helped me from beating myself up further and falling into the impostor syndrome trap.  That and the following day, I was on the phone with one of my tech event organizer friends, and when he mentioned his range of attendees for the same space, I realized that I got this event planning stuff.

I don’t have this….

This was from the last bout of impostor syndrome this week.  I had a stressful situation at work, one where I felt like I was wearing the bad cop hat a bit more than I really wanted to.  Deep down, I knew I was in the right position to make these calls, but after the stress of this week so far, my “flight or fight” response was quickly changing from fight to flight.  I was done, crumbling under it all, too afraid to click the Send button on the email because I was making decisions for more than myself, and I feared this wouldn’t work well.  But rather than completely running away, my realist showed up and after talking with my colleagues, I knew I was not only okay with my decision but that it had to be done.  It was an act of tough love, loosely speaking.

How to Survive Impostor Syndrome

Every person deals with it differently.  Some completely get engulfed by it and then spiral out of control.  Some are alert enough to see when it’s coming and they seek help.  Since I deal with it more often than I like to admit, I’ve been able to identify when it’s getting triggered, and I take a few steps:

  • Write out the situation as it’s playing out, and figure out how to get the inner self-confidence to be louder than the inner impostor.  I’m good with helping others with this; yet I’m still working on myself with this part.
  • Disregard non-constructive feedback.  No offense to those who have feedback that isn’t constructive – it’s just noise, though, if I don’t have action points.  The last thing I need is more internal noise if I’m trying to fight impostor syndrome.
  • Talk it out.  Depending on the situation, I tend to rely on different people to talk with them and get myself out of that rut.
  • Worst case – I reach out to the ones who are near and dear to me and know just how to pull me out of the low parts and summon my self-confidence.  These guys have been in my life awhile and know just which buttons to push to get me out of the funk and chaos that comes with impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome – along with the self-doubt, anxiety, stress, and depression of it all – is something I battle.  However, the more I identify it, the better I get with managing it.  It’ll be a lifetime of managing it, but I think I got that!

Recruiters and Blind Emails

As I was catching up on email tonight, I noticed an email from a recruiter and had to read it.  Then I had to wipe my eyes and make sure I was reading this correctly:

recruiterfail20151203

Recruiters: Please, please, please research who you are sending these to before you send them. 

While I would normally have ignored the email and deleted it, I couldn’t.  I had to reply.  I warned him ahead of time that my resume isn’t suitable – not with my experience.  However, I work with some amazing apprentices at The Software Guild, with bootcamps graduating throughout the year, and I’m sure some of them would be interested in this position.

As much as I really wanted to delete this, I couldn’t.  My apprentices are on my mind a lot, especially when it comes to job placement – much like a great recruiter, I like matching my apprentices with the right contacts when the opportunity is right.  So we’ll see how this plays out.