The Expert vs the Impostor

I’m about to start a new job. It’s a promotion, but my imposter syndrome is running wild. Let’s talk about the expert versus the impostors.

So tomorrow, Tues 03rd May 2022, I’m starting a new role. It’s still with Bank of America and it’s still in the Information Security team. But it is a promotion; I’m moving from a regional role (responsible for a function across Europe) to a global one.

My imposter syndrome is going wild.

This is something that always happens when I change role; it could be a new company, a new team, or even additional responsibility in my current role. I always worry about whether I can do the role.

This got me to thinking about my imposter syndrome, and in turn, being an expert. Being a relatively senior manager, I tend to hire regularly, so I read a lot of CVs. Pretty much every CV that I read has the word expert in there somewhere.

My CV does not.

To be clear, I’m not trying to belittle these people – I do consider many of them to be experts in their field. I just don’t think I am.

What is an expert?

This may seem like a silly question, as we all know what an expert is, right? The dictionary defines an experts as:

A person with a high level of knowledge or skill relating to a particular subject or activity.

Cambridge dictionary

But it’s ambiguous. What equates to a high level of skill? How is that measured? For example, I’m fairly good at HTML and CSS, but people like Josh Comeau, Brad Taunt and Andy Bell are the experts.

Ask my wife, mum or friends whether I’m an expert at making websites and they’re likely to say yes. But I’m not. All three of the guys above have forgotten more about HTML/CSS than I’ll ever know.

There must be something I’m an expert in?

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of something I’d consider myself an expert in; and I honestly can’t think of a single thing.

  • WordPress – we’ve already established I’m not an expert in CSS and HTML, but what about WordPress or PHP? Nope. I know enough to be dangerous. I’m okay with WordPress and can build my own themes, but I have to search for a lot the PHP functions I build. Chris Wiegman; there’s your WordPress expert.
  • Fish Keeping – I love fish keeping. We have 4 large tanks in our house and all our fish are happy and healthy. Some of them are difficult fish to keep that require some specialist knowledge. But every time I go into our local fish store, I learn something new. I’m no expert at fish keeping.
  • InfoSec – ok, ok. InfoSec; this one is an easy win. My living is made in InfoSec, so surely I’m an expert at it, right?
    • I can use metasploit to compromise a machine, but I couldn’t build my own exploits from scratch.
    • I know the basics of OSINT, but I don’t think I could hunt down every facet of a person and use that to socially engineer them.
    • If your company has a cyber security incident, I could come in, manage the incident and provide support to the responders. I could not forensically analyse a compromised machine to the required standard.
    • Nope. I’m not an expert in InfoSec.

So what am I an expert in?

I really don’t know. Mediocrity maybe? I’m an expert in being just good enough…though that’s a pretty rubbish thing to be an expert in.

This is why the word expert doesn’t appear anywhere in my CV. I genuinely don’t think I’m an expert in anything.

Sure, I’m good at things, but I don’t think I’m an expert in any of them. And this is where my imposter syndrome comes from. I go into the office every day and work with amazing people who can do amazing things that I’ll never be able to do.

They’re the experts. I’m the imposter.

My wife would say I’m an expert at talking shit. And she would be right. 🙃

Joking aside, if I were to genuinely look at what I’m expert in, I suppose I’m an expert in knowing my limitations?

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