Thriving with Imposter Syndrome
- Senior IT Project Manager - Consultant
- Information Technology
"Even when your voice shakes, speak up anyway! Always remember, you're deserving to take up space"
This challenge is a bit different, while certainly not specific to the overall project management methodology it's a very important challenge for women as we traverse a landscape where often times we are the minority as women in very male dominated industry such as IT.
I started in this space in my mid twenties (not fresh out of college) with two children as a single mother with little to no education. I had always been a high achiever and planned to attend college, but when I unwittingly decided to become an mom at an early age my dreams of a college education became a dream deferred but by no means lost.
I worked my way up in a major insurance company from a call center rep to a project admin. I formed valuable relationships with phenomenal senior project managers and really began to thrive and enjoy my move into this position. I often struggled to reconcile my growth because I "didn't have any experience" i often thought "Why do they want to work with me, I am not even educated?!" I took many courses offered right on site through what was known as IT University, I studied and sought counsel from my mentors for feedback on how to improve and be better. Even as I grew more and more, I always seemed to feel small.
Fast forward to circa 2014, I had by that point moved on to another major corporation and continued to thrive. I started school again and was nearly complete with my bachelors degree. One day while reading the book Lean In by Sheryl Sanberg she mentioned at some point feeling like a fraud. Tears welled in my eyes as I finally had a word for my feelings, thoughts and self-doubt. I was a fraud and I was so happy to be one!
Now that this thing had a name I would consciously attack it, I realized that I had many years before began the fight to silence my fraud/imposter voice through training myself in positive self talk. I continued to not only stuff project management, but I took on a journey of self evolution of my mindset. I became a certified practitioner in applied positive psychology - most of which I use on myself. I began to listen to pod casts to further elevate my mindset work in a new and rewarding way. I put sticky notes on my mirror to remind me of my value (I still do this). I created vision boards, what ever it took to silence the imposter in me I was willing to do it - to be happy.
Why does this matter for project managers? There are many people like me who suffer in silence. Many men and women who often feel like they're shrinking in a room filled with brilliant men and women and they are an outlier who "Just made the cut" or "Must have been a charity pick". As project managers we have to identify the imposter in ourselves as well as our team members so we may find the tools to address them so they're able to thrive.
Create an environment with your team members that is open and honest. This will give them the comfort to come to you for discussions. Remain keen and aware of resources who aren't willing to speak up in discussions where their input is important - they may be experiencing an imposter mindset. Cultivate an spirit of curiosity and ask questions to identify why someone may not be performing at an optimal level.
While we are under employ to manage the project inherently we are under employ to motivate the team who is doing the work. There are so many influences and factors in the lives of our team members that go unspoken. Everyone is fighting their own little (or big) internal battles. Have grace on yourself when your imposter voice sneaks in and consider that if you have an imposter, it's quite likely that others do as well.
You never know what someone is going (growing) through. Take time before judgement and really work with your resources to get to the root of it all. Most people want to thrive and do good work, just like you.