Take pride in being an imposter.
I am that woman...I am proud of being an imposter.
Do you ever lay awake at night thinking that someone will tap you on the shoulder and say "I know that you're a phoney"? Imposter syndrome can be horrible. It’s that inner voice that comes out when you are having a bad day, a tough week or feeling totally down and out. A debilitating feeling of self doubt that creeps back into the back of your mind when you think you’ve been kicking goals.. Are you a high achiever? Chances are you've experienced it. Got goals? Yep, you've probably dealt with it too.
If you haven't experienced it, I hope you get the chance to. I hope it's rife in our community of ed/it women!
No, I'm not mad, I'm trying to be realistic. I know you, as an ed/it woman, are perpetually learning new things about technology. I know the woman who, whilst listening to someone teach or tell her something about tech, thinks, “I have no idea what you’re talking about”. I know the woman, in a team meeting, who feels like she’s the only one who doesn’t understand all the acronyms and technical terms that have suddenly become the flavour of the month in the office. I know the woman who feels that she needs to do a million courses to keep up with the latest and greatest ideas and innovations in tech. I know the woman who sees opportunity to take a plunge, to go for an exciting new job, to speak at a conference or to take on a challenging project but decides not to.
I am that woman. Most importantly, I am proud of being an imposter.
In my first teaching job, I was posted at a small rural high school of 400 students. I was a qualified PE teacher who was interested in technology, I liked it, it seemed fun and I was curious about what I could use it for in my job. I remember those days of carting (literally carting, I pulled a small cart) a portable projector, extension cord, cables and my laptop to each of my classes and setting up my presentation on any available wall of the demountable classrooms. My school was in a low social economic area, we didn't have access to the latest technology due to our remote location and also to a lack of funding and support of implemented technology. These factors didn't deter me as I continued to pull my cart along to every class.
My school Principal recognised my sense of initiative and asked me if I was interested in applying for the new role as a Laptop Coordinator. My small school would be given a large amount of government funding to purchase laptops for student use. This was our chance to provide our students with access to tech and I saw this as a great opportunity for me to try something new. Trouble was, I had NO IDEA how to do anything in the job description, it was a newly created role and I was a graduate student. I had no experience in writing school policies, hosting parent information evenings, designing professional learning programs, managing network infrastructure and I definitely didn't know how to fix a broken laptop (I would get to build that experience very quickly). I vividly remember being asked to image a laptop by the contractor who had been assigned to our school to assist with the rollout of our laptop program and thinking, "he wants me to take a photo of it?".
You may attribute my approach to this new role with characteristics of naivety, immaturity, and excitement but I didn't seem to dwell on the lack of knowledge or experience. In contrast, I was very vocal about being an amateur, often picking up the phone to call the Department of Education I.T. help desk who would remotely coach me through a range of jobs, from a simple restart to a complex infrastructure fix. I definitely didn't consider myself the expert, I wasn't ashamed of starting from scratch and was not afraid to ask the same questions repeatedly for confirmation. This process of incidental learning made me realise that the people who I was seeking advice and help from were also seeking assistance from others in their teams. The more questions I asked, the more I was exposed to others who would hit a barrier in their knowledge. It was not uncommon receive a 'good question, I need to get back to you on that one' response on the other line. These were my moments of realisation that even the individuals I perceived as experts are constantly learning.
That's what you get when you choose to work within the field of technology , it is wild, dynamic and erratic. It is also very fickle, tech fads come and go before you have even had the time to hit the download button. Things that capture our attention which we may classify as 'cutting edge' technologies are only that for a short amount of time before the next big thing comes along or the buzz fades because the end users' needs haven't been fully thought through - Google Glass anyone?
Looking back, I am proud that I was naive and put myself in that place of vulnerability (ref: Brené Brown) about my areas of growth. I am proud of allowing others to guide, mentor and support me in my own learnings. I am proud to share my insecurities and “flearnings” to make me a better version of myself.
Don't get me wrong, there are times where I bite my tongue for fear of showing a lack of knowledge or expertise in an area of tech but I need to remind myself that we ALL have that moment of insecurity. Is it possible to have ALL knowledge about all systems, solutions, updates and technical information about every type of technology on Earth? Not unless your name is Google? It's not humanly possible. Technology is ever evolving, there is always something out in the ether that you don't know. I think the power is in that second thought and action, you know the thought that internal dialogue that you have, the one where you choose to think about your gap in knowledge. Mine plays like this, 'gosh, I don't know that, should I know that?'. My action could be to say, "did I miss something? " , "i haven't heard of that before" or "that's my learning of the day!"
So, next time you feel uncomfortable or are suffering from self doubt, know that this is a strength not a failing. Many people don’t experience these moments of self reflection, it is a gift. It is within your capacity to do something with this moment that will enable the future and present you to grow. This is what I want to remember and to exercise with other ed/it women , no question is ever silly or stupid but you're missing out on a great learning opportunity if you don't ask them.