Impostor syndrome image generated by Dalle-3

A recurring topic in the tech sector, and even more so in Data Science leadership, is Impostor Syndrome. In my case, it’s not something I’ve suffered from too much, despite the fact that for a long time I’ve been working in environments where I usually rank in the 25th percentile when it comes to technical abilities. This has been the case since my time working at the University, where I was surrounded by professors and academics who had studied a few topics for many years of their lives and knew almost everything about those subjects. Essentially, they were bona fide experts highly specialized in their field.

The same happens at idealista, where I work with a boss who effortlessly generates waves of Impostor Syndrome around him due to his ability and speed to make difficult tasks seem easy. Moreover, I have a healthy habit of always trying to hire people smarter than me, so any member of my team can run circles around me on numerous different topics.

My response to maintaining sanity and enduring intellectual pressure in these environments is based on not valuing myself so much for my professional ability but rather for acting according to the values that I hold dear. That might sound intense, but in practice it translates into not taking myself too seriously, especially from a professional standpoint.

A perhaps more applicable piece of advice is that I consider it important to be very aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Both exert pressure on each other that have molded me like a lump of Play-Doh: soft and shapeless that adapts to its surroundings. And possibly my greatest strength is having a mix of technical skills good enough to defend myself in almost any Data Science project and a mix of personal management skills that allow me to analyze and understand the context where I work, adapt to it and help others do the same. This approach is quite related to the concept of confident humility proposed in Think Again the Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know.

In summary, I believe that a good defense against Impostor Syndrome comes from seeing yourself as a whole both inside and outside of work, and from a professional standpoint, not reducing yourself to a single dimension. In our sector, this usually translates into valuing people for very specific technical knowledge. So specific that when you talk to someone who is not in this field, they value it between zero and nothing. And it’s important to keep this idea in mind when you feel like an impostor in your job.

I recently finished a book that is quite interesting and can help gain perspective on these issues: Ego Is the Enemy and its review at Farnam Street and on the flip side The enlightenment trap.