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  • Writer's pictureMcCube

The birth of the imposter

After a conversation with the chaps at The Art Of Network Engineer, I had a moment of clarity where I realised exactly where my form of "Imposter Syndrome" came from, I can almost pinpoint the day that the imposter was born.

What caused this this feeling in me? Was I really someone or something else?

There is often fear associated with "imposters" what was mine?

Can I overcome this imposter?

These are all the types of questions I answer in this blog.

     The Birth of the Imposter

I got in to networking around 2012, when I left college I had found my calling. I was going to be a Network engineer. Me and my peers would be controlling bytes for generations to come. I was proud of who I was and what I wanted to achieve on my professional stage.

I worked hard to get a networking engineer role and became more in tune with this role I was filling, I was a network engineer. My plan had to eventually become a teacher in the subject, but I wanted to gain more experience in industry before doing so. Teaching Networking was something I knew I would enjoy, so when the opportunity to teach full time where I had learned my craft came up, I naturally jumped at it, despite it being a little earlier than I had planned in my grand schemes.

     The Teacher

I taught for 8 years, and somewhere in that time and imposter was born. I became a teacher, not a network engineer. My days weren't spent looking at packet captures, complex Access Control Lists, or hunting down problems in differing networks. It was spent, preparing materials, discussing retention, chasing students for homework, and the internal/external verifications. I believe I was good at my job as a teacher, both inside and outside of the classroom. But when I became a teacher, the network engineer in me took a back seat...

I realised this around 2018, there was a moment where I realised that I had plateaued. To progress in the teaching industry would take me further away from Networking (and Teaching) the 2 parts of my job I loved the most. Teaching is a comfortable job, but I was unsettled, is this how I would feel for the rest of my career. Would I only progress upwards out of boredom not interest? It wasn't a comfortable feeling. Equally however, where would I go?

     The Fear

On paper, I was 5 years out of industry. At that point might as well have been a newbie to the field. I believed I would need to start my Network Engineer journey again from the start. Every second I was out in industry was just another nail in my coffin. I felt trapped in many ways. At the time I could afford to take a small hit on wages, but there was nothing nearby that fit that requirement. Any jobs I viewed paid too little, an the ones that did pay more had requirements I couldn't match. I recall saying to the boss at the time, "I am trapped here, no way up, and no way out. I am unhappy, but when I come to work tomorrow, you wont be able to tell. And everyday after no one will ever know."

It was my possibly one of my darkest hours in my professional life, but I knew I needed to find a way out.

Over the next few years I worked hard to beef up my CV and get myself ready to leave the education sector and get back industry.

     The Imposter

On a bit of a whim, I applied for a Second line Network Operations Centre role. With these feelings of inadequacy constantly lingering over my head during the interviews. Believing there would be a possibility that, even if I did well, I may only get offered a 1st line role.

I remember my heart sinking when I was told "We don't believe you would be suited to the 2nd Line role." Equally, I remember my heart leaping through my throat when the sentence "Would you consider coming onboard as a 3rd Line Senior Engineer?" was uttered. My first week in the role, I must have gone through 3 sticks of antiperspirant.

I have been at this role for a little over a year now, and while all evidence points to me having performed well in this role. This imposter still lingers, "you are not a network engineer!". It is the negative voice in my head when I am dealing with other technically savvy people, the twang that makes me want to be quiet when in customer meetings, my awkward expressions when I get compliments for my work. The imposter is someone I have to actively put to bed everyday.

     The Return

If you are dealing with a similar imposter in your life, this is how I deal with mine.

Firstly, I admit to myself that I don't know everything and importantly that that is absolutely fine.

Secondly, the knowledge I do have is significant enough.

Thirdly, I manage expectations, anything don't know, I admit, but define a time/date that I will know it by.

Fourth, I remember the expression, that anyone bettering themselves is always an imposter to some extent. They have never been where they are now.

Finally, I just keep cracking on with the work.

In the same way that every minute out the industry was a nail in my coffin. Every minute in it is the crowbar that will force me to see myself as a network engineer again.

And one last thing before I wrap up, I like me you also have/currently suffer imposter syndrome. Remember this imposters are some of the best workers in a team. In my experience the fear of being "found out" is a massive driver in productivity.

Thanks for taking the time to read some of my madness.


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