I realized this morning, as I went back to the Øredev 2013 site, that my video for my 2nd talk had been posted. My talk about Balancing ATDD, GUI Automation and Exploratory Testing has been getting most of the press, as well as repeat performances for the Bay Area Software Testers and Silicon Valley Software Quality Association meetups. Still, I want to talk about this one, as it really draws on a lot of things I’ve been thinking about, as well as a moment of embarrassment and realization during the Q&A.
This talk was all about expertise, and how we all deal with it and represent ourselves around it. I draw a lot on my own experiences and how I like to deal with ways to get beyond faking what I know and moving forward into real knowledge and skill. For those who want to see the actual Prezi presentation up close and personal, it’s here
The embarrassing moment? In the Q&A, I was asked how I felt about “Impostor Syndrome”. I totally botch the definition, and I give an answer that is 100% opposite as to what Impostor Syndome actually is. Maybe it was a combination of lack of sleep or adrenaline rushing through me, but I worked through the answer, moved on to other participants, but as I would look back at the person who asked about Impostor Syndrome, I could tell by the look on their face that I didn’t answer their question.
Fortunately, one of the participants clarified for me what I had messed up. Impostor Syndrome is where you are competent but believe you are not. I felt tremendously relieved to hear this, as it gave me a chance to re-consider, re-frame and add to my understanding. Of course, some are going to ask “How could you give a talk about faking it and not have had a good grasp of “Impostor Syndrome”? It’s a fair question. I didn’t prepare my talk from a perspective of psychological reasons why people fake it, I approached it from my own memories and working with other people I directly knew. “Impostor Syndrome” was a term that, until that very moment, I’d never actually heard
. I mentally walked through what I figured it would be, and answered. Were I perhaps better rested and less amped at that immediate moment, I might have said “what do you consider good examples of Impostor Syndrome?” so I could see their context, and then get an understanding for what they mean by the term. It’s what I should have done, but didn’t.
So why was that great? It gave me a very public opportunity to come clean, to not be evasive, to actually address head on something I didn’t know, but “pretended” to (ironic considering the topic, huh 😉 ?). It let me live my creed, and allowed that to be the lingering memory, rather than having no one call me on it, but then have several people walking around afterwards saying “wow, what a hypocrite, he just totally faked his way through that answer!”
It was a terrific reminder, and one I won’t soon forget.