Total Expert’s VP of Engineering, Kevin Dotzenrod, was recently featured on the Tech Trek podcast with host Amir Bormand. In this episode of the podcast, Kevin discusses imposter syndrome in the workplace and how engineering teams can build confidence while balancing empathy and accountability.
Imposter syndrome is when someone has feelings of self-doubt and believes they are underqualified for their work, despite their education, experience, accomplishments, and reassurance from other team members. Kevin explains that this feeling can be a common experience for those working in engineering, especially at a senior level. Often, the skills that make an amazing engineer do not always translate to the skills needed for leadership or managing larger teams, and this can cause discomfort for people. It is a feeling that everyone has experienced, and Kevin shares his thoughts on how managers can help their teams avoid it:
To avoid imposter syndrome when joining a new team, Kevin says “work fearlessly.” Getting deep into the work quickly, asking questions, and sharing new ideas allows you to develop confidence in yourself and your understanding of the work. For managers leading new engineers, Kevin shares that assigning new team members to work on cross-team projects will empower them to work outside of their comfort zone early. This not only instills confidence and trust but helps them learn through experience and responsibility without a mandate.
Supporting First-Time Managers
For first-time managers, it is easy to compare yourself to other leaders in the organization. Kevin explains that this is a recipe for imposter syndrome. Kevin shared his advice: “think of a video game.” When each player has different skills and strengths, you lean into them. Focusing on your strengths as a manager allows for more authentic and genuine leadership, which impacts the confidence of the entire team. Connecting with other new managers can create a safe space to bounce ideas off each other and share stories that allow you to learn from each other. When managers can communicate openly and honestly, they can learn new tools and strategies to instill confidence in themselves and their engineering teams.
For all managers, engineers, and leaders, well-rounded feedback is critical to avoiding imposter syndrome. Kevin shares that It is important to re-enforce great things as well as address unfavorable work. Instead of just giving negative feedback, Kevin shares his strategy: asking questions. When managers feel the need to address negative feedback, they may not be seeing the big picture. Asking questions like “what made you go about the work in that way?” or “how do you feel this project is going?” can prompt conversations about the work instead of blanket statements that may hinder someone’s confidence going forward, which ultimately impacts the work and their mental health.
It is important to use strategies and tactics that work best for each specific engineer, not necessarily what worked best for each manager when they were new to the team.
For more of Kevin’s conversation with Amir Bormand, listen to the full Tech Trek podcast episode here.