Archive for the 'Reflections' Category

Me, Myself, & My Imposter Syndrome

Courage. What does it mean to have courage? Someone told me a few weeks ago – in the context of some major changes I was about to make to my IT org (more on that in a future post) – that I was courageous. I sure don’t feel that way.

If I were truly courageous, I would have written this post many years ago. I’ve alluded to it on this blog since this post in 2011. But I’ve been afraid. The time never seemed right.

In the midst of my job search certainly wasn’t the right time. What if they read this post and didn’t think I could do the job? And then there was the restructuring of IT at SNC…I needed to instill confidence in my team. And then one thing led to another, and another search, and a new job, and another reorganization. I need to prove myself, instill confidence…

…but always, in the background, I have doubt.

What if my previous successes were pure dumb luck? What if I’m not making the right decision(s)? Is this really my strategy, or am I just parroting people much smarter than me? What makes me qualified to do this job? Surely, sooner or later, someone will figure out that I’m a fraud.

Perhaps not surprisingly, women like me disproportionately suffer from this sense that they don’t belong, or that their success is a fluke…

…unlike men, who tend to own success as attributable to a quality inherent in themselves, women are more likely either to project the cause of success outward to an external cause (luck) or to a temporary internal quality (effort) that they do not equate with inherent ability.

The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women

…and this notion is reinforced in subtle (and not so subtle) interactions we have nearly every day. Like when the salespeople come calling, and speak directly to my male subordinates as if they are the sole authority and decision-maker, even when I’m in the room. And when I speak in a room full of men, and my idea is ignored completely — as if I had not uttered a word — or attributed to the next male who speaks. Or when my well-intentioned colleagues warned me that my pedigree might not be “good enough” for the elite institution that I was applying to, and for which I now work. Their cautions were sincere, and likely true, but only served to make me question my own value and capabilities even further.

I spent the entire first year of my first CIO job apologizing for my title. Yes, I was the CIO. But I wasn’t *really* a CIO. And not because I thought CIOs were a bad thing to be. But I really couldn’t imagine what qualified me to do the job.

So yes, this so-called “imposter syndrome” is a *thing*. A very real one. And while there have been a number of articles written about it, it’s something that we just don’t talk about. Except perhaps in hushed tones and behind closed doors. Like it’s a dirty little secret.

But no more. It’s time to be loud and be proud. Be courageous. Out ourselves.

Maybe in talking about it more openly, we can combat it. Amplify each others’ voices. Remind each other, and ourselves, that this feeling is not reality. Coach and mentor a generation of women coming behind us to recognize and quell their doubts — or better yet, not doubt themselves to begin with.

As for my own doubts…

Am I an imposter? No. Do I often feel like one? Yes. But that does not make it so.

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Once An Activist…

The notion of activism has been swirling around me for the past week or so.

I’ve always been an activist at heart. Standing up for what I believe in. Speaking truth to power. Privately, I lean *far* to the left and care deeply about issues of social justice, race, LGBT rights, gender equity, and more. Publicly, at work, I’ve focused primarily on advancing diversity in tech, especially gender diversity.

But lately, I’ve been asked — and have felt compelled — to do more. A colleague told me last week that I needed to “get involved” and “be an activist.” I have a perspective that needs to be heard.

The last two days have been difficult in Charlotte. A(nother) black man shot by the police. Protests. Riots. A protester shot and killed….and a state of emergency called. It’s sadly no different than what’s been happening in so many places across this country, but this one hits very, very close to home. My college community — faculty, staff, and students alike — came together in a moment of solidarity this morning. The message, from those who spoke, was clear. Solidarity is nice, but it doesn’t change anything. Action is needed. Be an activist.

I’ve always believed that those of us who hold positions of power have a responsibility to use that power for the greater good. It’s what I so greatly respect about Colin Kaepernick sitting/kneeling during the pledge (although, as a 49ers fan, I’m disappointed in Kaep for other reasons). And it’s why I advocate so repeatedly, and vocally, for women in tech.

But I can (and will) do more. I have power in my position, and power in my privilege. I stand with the #blacklivesmatter movement, and sit with Kaepernick. I rally against discrimination of any form, especially the hateful HB2. And I continue to advocate for #genderequity and diversity in all its forms within higher education and the IT community.

Connections

It’s late, and I have to be up early. But before I head off to sleep, I wanted to share a few thoughts from my day.

I spent the day at EDUCAUSE’s annual conference. Technically, the conference starts tomorrow, but today was filled with pre-conference workshops and other events. EDUCAUSE is a great place for someone like me. And a terrible one.

A couple of years ago I took the StrengthFinders assessment, and one of my strengths is characterized by finding connections in ideas, people, and things. My brain — and occasionally my Twitter feed — was exploding today, exploring the intersections of (sometimes) seemingly dichotomous things.

It started with a conversation last night about two areas I’m actively involved in on my campus: risk management and innovation. A concern over one often precludes the other, and yet, the types of risks our institutions face may only be able to be solved through innovation.

Today, the intersections between and/or convergence of ideas filled my thoughts. I considered how tweets from a workshop on unconscious bias influenced my thinking in the one I was attending on the (completely unrelated) topic of building futures capacity. The construct of work-life balance and the blurring of our private and professional lives. And the interesting distinctions we draw between the physical and the virtual, and how we define place, space, and community in an increasingly connected world.

For tomorrow, I’ve been asked to reflect on more intersections and connections, between leadership, power, marginality, and resistance. But for now….I should sleep.


@rclemmons on Twitter

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