Overcoming the Imposter Syndrome to Land More Opportunities
11 March, 2022
Struggling with the Imposter Syndrome
Previously in my career, I worked at a startup that was completely redesigning its app. The first version of the app was an MVP, but after receiving customer feedback, we saw areas that we could improve. At a leadership level, we were involved in meetings with the CEO – finding the best way to redesign the app.
The primary responsibility landed on me and my peer, the Head of Design. Both of us had our perspectives, mine was product-focused, and his was design. The CEO left it up to us to decide who wanted to take ownership of the redesign, as it was a lot of work and would include managing it E2E starting from UX to back end technology. The Head of Design expressed interest to lead the redesign, and while he had a strong perspective in design, he was not fully versed with the product nitty-gritties and the back-end technical infrastructure, which impacted the front-end design.
Taking Ownership of the Redesign
Taking on the Challenge:
After my colleague had expressed interest, I felt a stir inside of me. Both my inner voices (negative and positive) became extremely active and there was a battle I was going through internally. I questioned myself on why I stayed back from taking the lead immediately while I knew that I was the more deserving and able candidate. I would be the one to see it through end-to-end elegantly starting from customer pain points to the technical infrastructure back end. All night I contemplated my decision – it haunted me that someone else would be a potential to lead redesigning a product that I understood well and could bring a greater impact. Additionally, he would have to completely rely on my inputs from a product and technical perspective to understand the infrastructure.
Early the following day, I went to the CEO and explained to her why I should lead the redesign. The reasoning behind my decision was:
- While the redesign was a major design overhaul, the customer feedback, product inputs, and technical infrastructure would directly impact the design which I was closest to and understood the best.
The CEO ensured that I recognized what I was getting myself into – days, nights, and weekends dedicated to this project. At the end of the day, I knew that I was up for the challenge and opportunity.
I had acknowledged that the first day I was dealing a little bit with the imposter syndrome – unsure if I could complete the redesign. The more I thought about I knew that if I passed on this project, I was giving away an opportunity that would benefit my larger career. I also had to take up this challenge to pave a path for the upcoming leadership as well who were looking up to me in their careers.
Redesigning the App:
It took around three months to completely redesign the app. What that meant for me was endless workdays and working through many nights. This was pre-COVID, so I was in the office until very late.
Even though I was more senior, I stayed with the details, working with the engineers to understand what the architecture was. Overall I had a challenging but enjoyable experience that proved to be an opportunity for growth.
Second Guessing Opportunities
- Speaking up at the right time is essential. This experience taught me that I shouldn’t second guess myself in terms of capability – instead, take the opportunity to grow and push myself.
- When I gave the CEO my decision that I wanted to lead the redesign, she was very impressed. In a subsequent board meeting, she mentioned the experience in a positive light – confirming that I made the right decision. Sometimes to gain opportunities, you need to fight through the imposter syndrome.
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