Category Archives: EDUCAUSE

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Tara Hughes head shot

Episode 023: Tara Hughes–Impostor Syndrome

Category:EDUCAUSE,introversion,Introverted Leadership,Leadership,Podcast

Episode 023 Show Notes: Tara Hughes

Introduction

Tara Hughes head shot

Tara Hughes and Ben Woelk talk about impostor syndrome. and her presentation at the 2019 EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference.

Key concepts

  • A presentation can be a self improvement project
  • Being vulnerable as a presenter can help the audience connect with you
  • Even experts can struggle with impostor syndrome
  • When there’s not a model and you’re doing research and going with your gut, you may be prone to Impostor Syndrome
  • Mentors can help assure you that you’re not an impostor.

Quotable

That willingness to be authentic and vulnerable is such a key part of having people walk along the journey with you and being willing to talk, being willing to hear about your journey. @benwoelk

Impostor Syndrome-for those of us who are so committed and care so deeply about the work that we do, that has I think an extra level of importance to be seen as legitimate. @TinyTara

If you suffer from impostor syndrome, you’re likely not going to be talking about it because you’re afraid that people will find out that you’re an impostor. @TinyTara

We think an expert has no gap in knowledge or experience. And there’s no way that you could know possibly know all of the things there are to know in information security because it’s rapidly changing. @TinyTara

Even if we don’t think we’re an expert, we may be the best person to stand in that gap and fill that role for a while. @benwoelk

Reframing your thoughts and your perspective is crucial to recognizing Impostor Syndrome. @TnyTara

Having diverse teams and diverse skills should help us feel like we belong and not feel like an impostor. @TinyTara

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben:  Joining us today is Tara Hughes. Tara is interim manager of administrative services at California State University Channel Islands. I met Tara at the 2019 EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference in Chicago where Tara spoke on, “You’re All a Bunch of Phonies: Impostor Syndrome and Information Security. “The presentation was standing room only, and the attendees described it as very impactful. Given the struggles with self confidence many of us have as introverts, I thought it would be helpful to chat about impostor syndrome on the Hope for the Introvert podcast. You can contact Tara via email tara.hughes@CSCU.edu or through Linkedin, Tara Hughes and Twitter @TinyTara. I encourage our listeners to visit HopefortheIntrovert.com where you’ll find complete show notes including a transcript of today’s conversation.

Ben: Hi Tara. Welcome back. It’s great to have you back on the podcast.

Tara:  I’m looking forward to chatting about the EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference. I was very excited about the presentation, because I was really interested to see what the population would be in the room and what the reaction would be, so let’s talk about that a little bit. And it was very funny, because I could tell you did not come across as nervous as presenting, but you did mention that how you had hoped it would not be a large turnout, and the room was packed and standing room only. So let’s talk a little bit about what led you to the conference, why you chose that topic. I have my audience view of what I saw going on with it, but it’s always interesting because your view as a presenter is very different in many ways. So let’s talk a little bit about this whole Impostor Syndrome issue.

Tara:  Yeah. So the same mentor who encouraged me to apply to LCI, encouraged me to apply to present at Security Professionals and the deadline had come and gone. And for other extenuating circumstances, I just didn’t get around to submitting anything. And he circled back with me and said, “Why didn’t you submit something?” And so I said, “It’s too late. It’s okay. Maybe next year we’ll submit.” He contacted Valerie [Vogel] and Valerie said, “No, she can submit still. I’ll give her a week.” And so I said, “What am I going to present on? I don’t work in information security. I’m more tangentially related because I run our IT Help Desk, but I’m not an information security expert by any means.” And he said, “You should talk about that. Talk about how you’re not sure that you fit in here and why should you present.” Because I said, “Who would want to come listen to me talk at a security conference? I don’t work in security.” So he had said, “You know, you should really look into impostor syndrome and you should talk about that. I think that that would be great and we would love to have some more diverse topics that aren’t just technically focused.”

Tara: And so the more that I looked into it, and I know my husband kind of got involved and he was like, “This is perfect. This is absolutely something that you can speak to.” And sure enough, I think the more that I looked into it, the more it felt like a personal improvement project just as much as a presentation. And again, when my presentation was accepted, because I had talked myself into thinking that I will submit it, because it won’t get accepted. And so it’s not a big risk. And then I got accepted and I thought, “Oh shoot! Now I’ve got to–now I’ve actually got to do it.” But it really did become a personal improvement project, just as much for my own well-being as it was for other people.

Tara: The big thing that I kept in mind throughout was that really going back to that relationship building and that desire to connect with people and to help them–that counselor component of who I am– really helped me focus what I wanted to talk about and how I wanted to talk about it because I wanted to be–it didn’t feel right to try to come across as some sort of expert on the issue. I really wanted to be authentic and relatable and look for a way that if I can share my experience, and if that’s helpful to one person in the room, then it’s worth it.

Ben:  it’s interesting on so many levels because for many years I did presentations, and I was more irritated if it didn’t get accepted rather than any concern if it did get accepted. But that’s kind of a–just probably an INTJ thing actually for me, because of course I think I’m the expert! But what I found was that it was very easy to talk about subjects, different subjects. But what I learned once I started talking about introverted leadership, was that I had to be vulnerable and talk about myself. And that was terrifying in many ways. But I found it made such a bridge between me and the audience, that it was just incredible the connection and the conversations that I had afterwards. I felt like I wasted many years of not knowing that. But that willingness to be authentic and vulnerable is such a key part of having people walk along the journey with you and being willing to talk, being willing to hear about your journey.

That willingness to be authentic and vulnerable is such a key part of having people walk along the journey with you and being willing to hear about your journey. @benwoelk Click To Tweet

Ben: Now, one thing that was very clever that you did at this presentation, was that Tara opened the presentation with a series of quiz questions, and used one of the apps that works on the phone so that you can indicate your answers to things. She had all of these really technical questions around security-related subjects and would post a question and a bunch of people would answer. And many of the answers were clustered in certain areas. And so we have four of those questions. But why don’t you talk a little bit about those questions and what you told us after everyone had jumped in and says, “I think this is the answer?”

Tara: Yeah. So I was trying to think of how to effectively get the point across about Impostor Syndrome because not everyone struggles with feeling like an impostor necessarily. But I really wanted to draw people into understanding how it might feel, because I then felt like the rest of the presentation would be more meaningful and we could have a better conversation. So the questions were very technically focused on cybersecurity, and I didn’t want to have too many because I didn’t want to frustrate people, but I wanted enough to try to get the point across. And we used Poll Everywhere, but Poll Everywhere is dynamic and live. And so that was a little tricky to work with. But I wanted to create a sense within which people had a false sense of what the rest of the room was thinking. And so it was a really challenging technical question. And then I just picked one of the answers and gave fake results for each question and didn’t tell anyone that they were fake. So I made it look like the results were the live results. And I actually heard one guy on one of the questions say, “Oh, I know the answer, it’s ‘B.’” And I actually was mortified internally, because the answer that I had selected was “C,” and he’s going to totally know that something’s up.

Ben: So I have to ask you because this is the first I’ve realized this part of it, because I really thought that was live polling And I wasn’t sure why some of the answers were clustering the way they were. And it’s like, “What? That doesn’t sound right, but everybody else must think it’s right.” So, so I didn’t realize that until right now! So go ahead.

Tara: Yeah. So I just picked an answer and made it look like 75% chose “C.” And then at the end of the question, and I really wanted people to think in fact, it was even better if I chose the wrong answer, but made everyone else think that that was clearly what the whole group chose. It created this sense of internal questioning as to, “Well, maybe I don’t actually know the answer to that question or maybe I’m not as smart as I think I am in this particular area,” or even questioning the group and whether or not you belong or felt like you belonged. And so after all of those questions, then I said that, “You know, the poll results were not true,” and that I had faked them and I went to great lengths to make it look as though the poll results looked live. But I wanted to create that feeling of questioning whether or not you belonged in that room and whether or not the way to really do what you thought you knew presentation.

Ben: And I’m really wondering now how many people still don’t really realize that the poll was fake and not necessarily the answers. And no, I thought it was brilliant, and I think it was a very good way of kind of rocking everybody just a little bit, and taking them off center a little bit to say that, “Well maybe I’m not sure of what I think I’m sure of.” So yeah that part was great. So talk a little bit more about what you told us about impostor syndrome and what I’m–one thing I thought was really interesting with some of the questions that came up at the end and some of the reactions–but tell us a little bit more about this whole impostor syndrome thing. Because you have a lot of–and I know this is a group that’s normally happens to, too. You have a lot of, for the most part, highly educated people who are–many of them are really experts in these subject matters. Or some of them think they’re experts, whichever way we want to go with that, [Tara laughing] but who are really experts in these subject matters. And even so, they still struggle with this whole idea of do I really belong here? Do I really know what I’m doing? Is someone going a see through me and know I’m a fake at some point.

Tara: Yeah. Yeah. So impostor syndrome is that feeling of not belonging and thinking that you are fooling everyone into believing that you belong, and then eventually they will discover that you’ve been faking your way through and you’ll be unmasked as a fraud. And the fear of being discovered is I think just as bad as feeling like you don’t belong, because I think it’s both very much–and then what the consequences might be once everyone discovers that it, you know, it could be the loss of reputation or loss of respect or losing your actual job. And I think for those of us who are so committed and care so deeply about the work that we do, that has I think an extra level of importance to be seen as legitimate. And again, I keep–I would keep bring preferring back to authenticity. And I think again, as an INFJ and that’s a really big, big part of, of who you are is you care about authenticity.

Impostor Syndrome-for those of us who are so committed and care so deeply about the work that we do, that has I think an extra level of importance to be seen as legitimate. @TinyTara Click To Tweet

Tara: And so if you are approaching something new, and this is even ties back to my area where I’m developing this program, then there’s not really a model to base it off of. And so you’re doing research, but then you’re also just going off of gut and intuition and a variety of things and it can feel like you’re just making it up as you go and someone’s going to figure out that you’re a fraud. I think that’s true in any kind of industry, but especially in fields where there’s a lot of change. And a lot of new things coming at you, because like with information security, it’s really hard to keep up. The threats change constantly and it’s hard to ever feel like an expert. How could you possibly be an expert? Because I think in our minds, when we think of an expert, an expert has no gap in knowledge or experience. And there’s no way that you could know possibly know all of the things there are to know in a field like information security because it’s just rapidly changing.

We think an expert has no gap in knowledge or experience. And there's no way that you could know possibly know all of the things there are to know in information security because it’s rapidly changing. @TinyTara Click To Tweet

Ben: Yeah, and I think also it’s the situation where to the general public or people outside the field, “Oh, you’re absolutely the expert. You’re doing information security work,” and for those of us in the field or close enough to the field to understand it, we have a good sense of how much we just don’t know. And I think that happens– again, it happens in many fields as people become more expert in fields.

To the general public, “Oh, you're absolutely the expert. You're doing information security work” For those of us in the field, we have a good sense of how much we just don't know. @benwoelk Click To Tweet

Tara: Yeah.

Ben: At least for my experience in talking to people, we have so much more a sense of how big that gap, it just becomes bigger and bigger… what that means in terms of the people we relate to and what their expectations are. But that doesn’t–just because we know there’s a gap–it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a certain level of expertise or probably more importantly, we may still be the best person to be doing that. We may be the best person to, in a sense, stand in that gap and fill that role for a while. And I know for me it’s always felt, and I don’t–I mean the idea of calling myself an expert or calling myself a thought leader–and it’s like there’s all this stuff about thought leaders and people self identifying as thought leaders, and it’s like, well you don’t really want to do that. Maybe other people will identify you as that, but it’s a very weird thing, and I think that falls into the introversion piece, too, as you just don’t self identify that way. How could I possibly self identify that way? But I think this understanding the gap, and then realizing that there’s, “Do I belong?” They’re going to understand–they’re going to realize I don’t know everything, that I’m not going to have the right answer. That the threats are always changing. That people aren’t always going to make the right decisions. In some ways it’s so easy. If people can do the right things, they’ll be relatively secure and will reduce risk, but there’s always something that’s going to come in that we’re not prepared for.

Even if we don't think we're an expert, we may be the best person to stand in that gap and fill that role for a while. @benwoelk Click To Tweet

Ben: So I think it was a great topic for the conference and obviously it was packed. The room was absolutely packed and just seeing all of these people who are probably seen as experts at their universities. They don’t feel like it. They feel like, “I’m just faking it.” And I think information security in some ways, or cybersecurity, makes a little bit harder because it’s a relatively new field and many of us, there was no preparation for this kind of job at all. It’s all–we’ve learned it, we’ve brought other skill sets into it. Maybe we work towards getting a certification at some point in time, which I did, but I know in my mind that I did that certification for me as much as anything. So that I would feel more secure in what I was doing and I don’t really think it changed anyone else’s opinion of what they thought I could do or couldn’t do either way. Helps on the job market for sure. Because a lot of things are, “Nope, you need that certification”. And so there’s value in that sense in having it. But for me it’s always been very much feeling like I need something that shows me that I can do what everyone else knows that I can do.

Tara: Yeah. I think what’s interesting, and you know, maybe this is partly of being that introvert is you want to somehow just fit in and, and I so much care about–I like rules. I like structure and you give me rules, I will follow them. Um, I, I’m not going to be the creative type that can just create my rules as I go. Um, and so whether it was having an untraditional path towards my bachelor’s degree or having kids at an earlier age than I thought or getting into it, even though that wasn’t what I had initially planned. Um, and having not an IT background and not being technical, but being a relational person and trying to figure out what space can I occupy authentically with the skillset that I bring, I think every step of those ways you feel like an impostor because this isn’t what it normally looks like to be in these spaces and do these things, right? I’m looking for some sort of gauge to compare myself against and I think with information security, that gauge doesn’t really exist. I mean, I think it’s being created, but so much of the impostor syndrome is that comparison piece. And if, if I can fit in or if I do these things where I look like this, then maybe I can convince myself and convince other people that I’m the real deal and I’m not just faking it.

Ben: Yes, and there was in a sense palpable discomfort with some of the people who had come in and done security awareness-type presentations, because that’s typically–there are technical people who come into that field, but that’s not normally their interest and it’s not normally something they’re necessarily good at. But you bring people in who are relational or maybe they’ve got a graphics background or they understand communications in general and they understand audience type or personas and things like that. They can still very much struggle over, “Well how can I fit in around all these super bright technical people who are speaking a language that frankly I do not understand.” And it’s so jargon laced, and the jargon that’s used means different things sometimes depending on the context you’re in, or in another field it means something totally different, that it can get very, very unsettling.

Ben: So I guess one of the questions I have for you is that you talked about it, what do we do about it? How do we handle this impostor syndrome? What do we look for that makes us feel–maybe we know that we’re not the expert? What gives us that comfort level or centering in a sense on how we can still perform well and maybe not feel like we know everything, but also not feeling like we’re a total fraud.

Tara: Yeah. Right? So there are a couple of things. I think first just the fact that we’re talking about it is key because impostor syndrome and all the research that I did, which is not nearly as exhaustive as many other experts, but a lot of the research suggests that if you suffer from impostor syndrome, you’re likely not going to be talking about it because you’re afraid that people will find out that you’re an impostor. Right. And so it’s this kind of self-fulfilling, horrible cycle. So until you’re really willing to put yourself out there and be vulnerable to talk about it, you’re more likely to continue suffering in silence. So I think having that conversation is critical. I think it helps if someone can be the first to admit it, right? Because even at the presentation that really, it was a domino effect. Once one person says, “Hey, I struggle with this,” then other people feel more comfortable to chime in and say, “Hey, I struggle with this too.”

If you suffer from impostor syndrome, you're likely not going to be talking about it because you're afraid that people will find out that you're an impostor. @TinyTara Click To Tweet

Tara: The other thing, there’s so many, I think different things that that can be employed to combat it. But I think reframing your thoughts and your perspective is crucial. And it’s not like there’s this list of  special, crazy things that you have to do. It’s really holding yourself accountable to some degree, and having real internal dialogue about, “Well, why shouldn’t I be presenting at this conference? Who’s to say that I don’t have something valuable to say?” I think even the way that we approach situations. So when we’re thinking about reframing our thoughts, I think part of that is holding yourself to the standard of pushing back and questioning when those doubts come through, of just asking yourself, “Why, why not?” But then also being able to look at things from more than just your particular vantage point.

Reframing your thoughts and your perspective is crucial to recognizing Impostor Syndrome. @TinyTara Click To Tweet

Tara: I think, for instance, in working in IT, “Why aren’t I a good fit? Why can’t I bring the soft skills?” And maybe that’s exactly what we need. Why  is it not acceptable in my mind to bring in something a little bit unique, especially as we’re starting to talk about having diverse teams with diverse skills. If anything that should make us, I think, feel a little bit more comfortable and more empowered to not necessarily have to look like the person to your left and the person to your right. But it’s really acknowledging it’s okay that you don’t look like guy to your left and the gal to your right, but you have to have those honest conversations I think.

Having diverse teams and diverse skills should help us feel like we belong and not feel like an impostor. @TinyTara Click To Tweet

Ben: So you mentioned one thing in that you have the internal conversation you have to manage. I think you started to go there. But part of this, and you mentioned it when you talked about prepping for this presentation to start with, was the encouragement from your husband that this was something you’d be absolutely great at doing, and with the job also. I think the role of a mentor, whether it’s internal to an organization, but also probably better, external to the organization because you have the feeling they’ll be more objective and your job isn’t at stake when you’re talking to them. I think there’s a real role around the mentoring piece on this also because you get that sanity check in a way.

Ben: And I know for me, I do a bit of mentoring–and usually introverts who are interested in leadership, but most of them are struggling with how maybe to handle specific workplace-type things, but also in that whole, “How do I feel comfortable in my own skin” in a sense. “How do I feel like I’m not an impostor?” That I can talk to them and reflect and we can study different things and talk through different scenarios, and it’s really valuable because I’m not in their workplace, they’re not losing their job by talking to me or putting something at risk. So I think the mentoring piece is really critical.

Ben: What’s interesting for me is I don’t have many people that I–there are a few–that I would consider to be mentors that I talk to or that I looked at, “Oh, that that’s a mentor up from me.” I have several people who are more peer mentors, and being able to talk through the stuff that we deal with in the workplace and things like that. Or even too–in some ways I feel like it’s a sanity check–is really important, to be able to get that other perspective. And sometimes it’s like, “You’re right, this isn’t the way it should be,” but at least having someone else be able to talk to you about that I think is really important as well.

Tara: Yeah. Yeah. And I think so. You keyed in on something that I touched on in the presentation and I think the mentorship both ways, right? Being mentored by someone who can keep you in check and help you make sure that you’re keeping your thoughts and your perspective  in check, but then also that you’re paying it forward and mentoring someone else. I think both are really important because they help you see things outside of yourself, and they help you see how others might see you. Because we’re so hard on ourselves, right? The mentorship and coaching that you can provide other people– the students that I work with–I’m a first generation college student. And so to be able–our school has a really high percentage of first gen college students. And so I care about that and I can speak to it.

Tara: And it might not look like I can, but I can. When I’m talking with students about how to manage their time or how confusing it might be to fill out a financial aid form, I get it on a very real and personal level. And I think that’s important because they see that things are still possible for them. That even though things might not make sense with what they’re struggling through now, that there is someone else who struggled through those things just as much as did, and they’ve come out the other end and they’re in a career that they love and they’re doing meaningful work. And so to be that representative is really, really important. And I think it does kind of help you get the focus off of whether or not you’re legit, right? Because you’re  giving back to someone else and hopefully helping them avoid, maybe not entirely, but to some degree helping them avoid those doubts that creep in should you not have taken the opportunity to be real and to coach them with that.

Ben: For many people, from the outside it often looks like it’s the mentee who is the beneficiary of everything. I’ve found that it’s amazing being the mentor also, because you learned so much from the people that you are–actually becomes friends obviously, because you’re spending that time and you’re building that relationship and how important that is. One of the really exciting things for me.–most of the mentoring I do is virtual. It’s very seldom somebody who’s actually local. I was at the Society for Technical Communication Summit Conference the week before the EDUCAUSE conference. I had four people that I was mentoring and they all did their first conference presentations, and it was just so exciting to see them. So there’s definitely a huge piece in terms of what this means for both participants in the conversation.

Ben: As we’re wrapping up our conversation, what are the key takeaways do you think in terms of dealing with impostor syndrome or as an introvert in the workplace or whether you’re an introvert or not?

Tara: Yeah, I was looking up something recently to see, are introverts more likely to struggle with impostor syndrome? And I think–I just don’t think there’s enough research to really give a Yea or Nay on that. But it does seem like, especially if you’re an intuitive person on the scale, you are much more likely to, because you have that self reflection going on already. I think that if you know that about yourself, that helps you already, right? Because then you can better understand how to either mitigate, or take care of yourself, or like I said, mitigate issues that might crop up.

Tara: I have bounced around in a lot of different physical locations where I’ve been in kind of an open area where lots of people would come by and come chat. And then I’ve been in an office that was really dark and people didn’t come by, and it least had a door and barely a window. I’m in a current office that’s bright and sunny and really right next to the main entrance, but I don’t have a door. And in each of those physical locations, I’ve had to pay attention to how can I be productive in this space because it’s requiring something different of me then if I just had everything set up perfectly the way that I wanted. Right? So I think again, as an introvert trying to adapt and figure out how can I do well, even though I can’t always dictate the space that I find myself in. And I think that relates to feeling like an impostor because you know, the more that you do something– I’m sure you’ve heard it. There’s that “Fake it til You Make It,” right? And I think that can get us in a lot of trouble, because I’ve faked it till I’ve made it and I still feel like a faker.

Tara: So that didn’t help, right? That just kind of reinforces that feeling of being an impostor, because there’s this illusion that if you achieve that title, where you achieve that promotion, that that will make you feel legitimate. And it doesn’t. I saw someone recently posted on Twitter, and I loved it. They said, “Instead of fake it till you make it, own it while you hone it.” And I love that because you’re owning what you’re doing. You’re not saying that you’re perfect or that you’re the expert, but you’re still honing your craft and you’re still on that journey. I don’t know that we ever reach a place where you can wash your hands and say, “I’m done. I’ve arrived”. Right? So you’re constantly going to be crafting whatever it is that you’re doing and learning.

Tara: Again, I think in the presentation I talked about how it’s a lifelong journey. So everyday should be viewed as an opportunity to learn something new. And you know, we work at higher education institutions, a place of learning. We encourage and foster that vulnerability to say, “I don’t quite know something,” and hopefully I come out of this class knowing something I didn’t know. And yet  as professionals, we don’t have that same enthusiasm or curiosity. We feel like we’re expected to just know everything every day at 8:00 AM. And I think if we can approach work regardless of the space that we work in or the field that we’re in, to have that enthusiasm and curiosity to say, “What am I going to learn about today,” and be excited about that. I think that makes a really big difference in how you approach things, whether you know them or not, because you don’t take it as an indictment against your capability. I think that, at least for me, I have found that that has been a big difference-maker, even as of late, to continue to just be willing to be curious and vulnerable in that space. You don’t have to know everything, but that doesn’t mean I’m not the right person to speak to this issue or represent.

Ben: Awesome. Well, it has been an absolute pleasure having this conversation today. Looking forward to sharing it with our listeners. And I’d like to thank you again for being on the program.

Tara: Thank you so much. And I have to just say real quick, a shout out to my kids, Emma, Felicity and Sophia. They were so excited that I was invited to be on a podcast. So thank you for giving me a rare opportunity to look cool to them. There are two teenagers in that bunch, so I’ll take every opportunity I can to look cool.

Ben: Oh, absolutely. That’s a rare opportunity with teens in general.

 


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Tara Hughes head shot

Episode 22: Tara Hughes–Unexpected Career Paths

Category:EDUCAUSE,Higher Education,Information Security,Introverted Leadership,Leadership,Podcast

Episode 022 Show Notes: Tara Hughes

Introduction

Tara Hughes head shot

Tara Hughes and Ben Woelk talk about their unexpected career paths as introverts with non-technical backgrounds working in Information Technology.

Key concepts

  • Emergency hires that become permanent positions
  • INFJ and managing students
  • Physical exercise and processing the day
  • Imposter Syndrome and panic attacks

Quotable

My path to my career is a little unusual–or at least it’s not the path that I would have envisioned.

I’m not one for more superficial relationships. That’s not where I shine. With counseling, I really wanted to have meaning to whatever I chose to do.

Exercise has probably been the number one thing that has helped me be able to process the day,…physical exertion helps me decompress from the mental exercise of always having to engage with people.

As an introvert, especially as an INFJ, I’m constantly assessing and reassessing. When I come out of a situation, I’m evaluating how did I do, could I have done better? And then that totally informs the next time.

I had a hard time wrapping my mind around how did they let me in and why….that was really intimidating and where the Imposter Syndrome was definitely rearing its ugly head. And I really struggled to understand how in the world I got included in this group.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Joining us today is Tara Hughes. Tara is Interim Manager of Administrative Services at California State University-Channel Islands. I met Tara at the 2019 EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference in Chicago where Tara spoke on, “You’re All a Bunch of Phonies: Impostor Syndrome and Information Security.” The presentation was standing room only, and the attendees described it as very impactful. Given the struggles with self confidence many of us have as introverts, I thought it would be helpful to chat about impostor syndrome on the Hope for the Introvert podcast. You can contact Tara via email tara.hughes@CSCU.edu or through Linkedin, Tara Hughes and Twitter @TinyTara. I encourage our listeners to visit HopefortheIntrovert.com where you’ll find complete show notes including a transcript of today’s conversation.

Ben: Hi Tara.

Tara: Hello. Thanks for having me.

Ben: I’m excited that you’re going to be on the podcast. It was great connecting with you in Chicago and I’m really looking forward to our conversation. Before we get into our discussion about Impostor Syndrome, let’s talk a little bit about your career and your background. Can you tell us about what you do? What is your workplace like? Channel Islands sounds like an intriguing place to work because it sounds like it’s on an island. I have no idea if it is or not, but tell us about what you do and how you got there.

Tara: Sure. So,I guess the most important question straightaway is “No, we are not on an island, so I don’t need to take a boat to work. “But we are more representative of the surrounding area. It used to be a California state mental hospital and it was closed–I want to say in the 80s by Reagan, although I’m not 100% sure on that. And then California State University was able to acquire the land. They opened up California State University and they named it Channel Islands because the Channel Islands are just off the coast from where the school is located. And they wanted it to be representative of the surrounding counties since it is more of a commuter school. So my path to my career is a little unusual–or at least it’s not the path that I would have envisioned.

My path to my career is a little unusual--or at least it's not the path that I would have envisioned. @TinyTara Click To Tweet

Tara: I am currently the Interim Manager of Administrative Services. I’ve been at Cal State Channel Islands for–it’ll be five years in August. And what I currently do is kind of built off of what I was initially hired to do. So when I was hired back in 2014, our president’s office–their main telephone number to contact them had accidentally been put on all of our marketing materials and our website as the main campus telephone number. And so, after a couple of years of the president’s office fielding calls and kind of just not loving that experience, the president at the time had requested our CIO at the time, Michael Berman, to come up with some sort of way to address that issue, because it was causing things to come straight to the president’s office and not giving other departments the opportunity to address issues before it got escalated all the way to the top.

Tara: So he had kind of this brainchild of having a one-stop shop called the Solutions Center. And so they hired seven student assistants to be campus operators for what was the main line. And then they created a new extension for the president’s office, and then they needed someone to manage these students because no one wanted to do it. And so at the time, my husband has worked here since, Gosh, I don’t even, it’s been probably 13 or 14 years. At the time we had just moved back to Camarillo. He had been commuting for the previous four or five years. I was looking for a job and he said, “My wife would be great.” So they hired me as an emergency temp hire and that turned into a permanent role. Six months after that, they gave me the Commencement hotline because no one wanted to answer that extension.

Tara: Then six months after that, they gave me the IT Help Desk because they were having some trouble with managing the students and felt like they were having trouble multitasking. We took the help desk extension and routed it into the call center. The students that work at the help desk only had to help in person and kind of separating those duties and simplifying them a little bit. Last summer, Business and Finance had acquired it as a sub-unit. So when we were brought over, they had asked that I lead their shared services in a more official capacity and turn the Solutions Center into an official shared services and take over the HR main line. So our students now answered the Human Resources main line as well. And the goal is really to be able to triage all basic Tier One kinds of questions that typically are answered on the website or found somewhere, but that people might have trouble locating, or just feel better to have another human being confirm that information to them. I manage that and I manage the help desk still. So I have about at any given time about 18 student assistants that I employee and we train and they have to know a lot about a lot.

Ben: This is coming in as an emergency hire you said, which is interesting because that’s basically how I got into RIT. I also was brought in because there was a worm at that point in time that was wreaking havoc. I had worked with the Information Security Officer at a previous consulting engagement. He found out I was available and wanted me to come in and help manage the emergency communications around what was happening with the worm. Now that lasted maybe two hours and then it was, “Well, you’re not going to be doing that.” But I was able to move into creating a whole lot of really interesting process stuff and build a security awareness program and all sorts of things like that. But none of that was envisioned when I actually took the position, and it was supposed to be temporary and it has been–a month ago–it’s been 15 years since I’ve been at RIT. So it’s funny how these paths go.

Ben: The other thing I wanted to ask you, because my background has nothing whatsoever to do with what I’m doing for a job now at all. What was your background coming into that position? Your husband said, “Oh, my wife would be great at this” and they agreed with it. What was your background coming in?

Tara: I guess I should start off, my husband and I met my freshman year of college, got married a year after. We got married when I was really young. I was 18. We’ll be celebrating 17 years in September. And so it’s super cool, but not necessarily traditional. We had a family much sooner than we were anticipating. I took a lot of time off from school, and didn’t go back to get my Bachelor’s degree until my youngest went into kindergarten. And my goal was really to get my Bachelor’s before I turned 30. I got my Bachelor’s degree in counseling at a small private liberal arts school. That’s where we had met and his dad and mom both worked there and I graduated my counseling degree at 29. So I made my goal, which was very great.

Tara: But really, I was so drawn to people and relationship building and feeling like there were so many things that I cared about–connecting with people on a really authentic level. I’m not one for more superficial relationships. That’s not where I shine. With counseling, I really wanted to have meaning to whatever I chose to do. And we talked a lot about as our three girls were growing up, that at some point because we got married young and had kids young, that there was going to be this whole life after family to some degree. And what would I do to utilize that time? So working was always going to be in the scope in some way, shape, or form. We just didn’t know what it would look like.

I'm not one for more superficial relationships. That's not where I shine. With counseling, I really wanted to have meaning to whatever I chose to do. @TinyTara Click To Tweet

Tara: After I graduated, I worked at an insurance company. My boss was fantastic, but I didn’t love the work because it didn’t feel meaningful ,and it wasn’t that relationship building that I craved. And then right after that we moved back to Camarillo, and it was like, “Well, I don’t know what I’m going to do for work.” And so my husband–just my biggest cheerleader–thought you’re going to manage student assistants, you could totally do this. And what’s been incredible is that so much of the mentorship and coaching very much aligned with my counseling background. So that has been just a wonderful surprise,but not something that I could have pinpointed until I fell into it, if that makes sense.

Ben: I think it makes perfect sense. We were talking before the podcast started about temperament types and we’ll talk about that a little bit more. And what you identified on the temperament type was INFJ, which is counselor, the way that that’s normally interpreted. So that all fits together very well. And I would think in terms of working with students with the stress–I mean what I’m seeing at RIT, the amount of stress that they’re under now–to be able to have someone who is managing them but who is also attuned to the fact that they are people and not just students who are filling a position to get things done. I think it’s probably very, very good for them. I think like you said, you were interested in relationship building and well you have at least 18 students to to have some type of relationships with as well.

Ben: But it’s interesting, I–my background–I went to a large state school in Florida. Ended up being an Anthropology graduate because I honestly couldn’t figure out what I was doing and I had done terribly my first year, and all my initial plans of what I was going to do just didn’t work out. Went to work for my dad for a couple of years. He installed floor covering. I did not want to do that for the rest of my life. Got accepted to a university north of Chicago, and so we moved from Florida to Chicago with a 15-month old not knowing where we were going to be living when we left, knowing that they might have an apartment that was opening up, putting everything into a 14-foot UHaul and caravaning three days up to Chicago. No clear sense of where we were going to stay, but a very clear sense that that’s what we were supposed to be doing.

Ben: And everything kind of worked out and fell into place and different things. But I ended up initially doing what I thought was going to actually be a position in Christian Education. And that ended up changing over to doing a Masters in Church History, which I’m not sure what exactly I thought I was going to be able to do with it when I came out. So I applied very–it’s interesting because you come across people and one of the professors was just so passionate and so engaging that I was really excited about it. I ended up entering a doctoral program at the University of Rochester, which is what brought us to Rochester, thinking we’d be here for four years and that was in 1987 and we’re still here. Did not finish the doctorate but through a series of circumstances and different opportunities, now I’m doing cyber security.

Ben: So definitely not a straight career path at all. And it will be interesting because when we start talking about this Imposter Syndrome piece–been there, absolutely been there–coming in with a liberal arts background, and I’m trying to work in a technical field with technical people and they’re all going to see through me sort of thing. So it’s just really interesting because–I don’t know, maybe for some people it works where it’s a very clear career path. For me, it’s really been what has opened up and do you take the steps forward in it or not. So it’s really interesting to me hearing about your path to get there. We also did the getting married before my wife finished college piece of things, but she was able to finish before our son was born. But still, it was after we were married and it was a bit of a struggle–the finances and where are we going to live, and all of those pieces, and still persevered and got through it.

Ben: But it’s intriguing. So, like we mentioned, you had talked about the INFJ piece and how sometimes it’s closer–well, one of the three times you took it, it came out to ENFJ–and I know how this works for me because I play with the questions just a little bit and see, “Ah, so that changed that. And coming with a counseling background, I’m sure it was even more, “How do I look at this and how can–maybe not how can I manipulate it, but what are the little bits of changes I can do with this?” [Tara laughing] So basically typing as an introvert, but very interested in relationship building, which is not–I don’t think–it’s not a disconnect at all.

Ben: But what has it been like for you in terms of being an introvert? Do you notice a different in terms of how you deal with people? It’s very tough because it’s a spectrum, and I think I’ve become more and more extroverted, and it’s not always very clear for me. It really comes down to how do I recharge and what do I need to do that. But on a given day, if I’m at a conference, nobody is going to think I’m an introvert because I just don’t tend to present that way. So how has that been for you in terms of personality type? You did a counseling degree, so obviously you’ve thought about some of this stuff at some point, but how has that worked in terms of your strategy for how you approach work? What you do in the workplace and in life in general?

Tara: Yeah, it’s interesting. I think growing up everyone would have said I was an extrovert and I always considered myself an extrovert, being a stay-at-home mom for the number of years that I was. I thought that confirmed that I was an extrovert because I would get really lonely being at home all day, and just was so excited when my husband would come home, because now I could have that human interaction with an adult. Not that the kids aren’t humans, but it’s different! And so I really was surprised when I came to work full time to find that I was exhausted at the end of the day. And it wasn’t just physical exhaustion. There was a mental exhaustion of having to be on all the time. I think entering into IT was another compelling part of that because I wasn’t coming into it as an IT expert.

Tara: And so I had to work really hard to be able to speak the language as my colleagues sometimes. And then take that language and put it into a language that your average user could understand, and talking at their level and not at a more technical level. And so that relationship building started to take really different forms. Which was great, but I was so depleted at the end of the day and found myself thinking of myself more as an introverted extrovert, where I still really wanted to be around people, but then really need to find the opportunities to have quiet time and be alone and recharge, whether that was just zoning out watching TV or reading a book or going running.

Tara: I would say exercise has probably been the number one thing that has helped me be able to process the day, and not have to be on, in terms of building those relationships. But just that physical exertion helps me decompress from the mental exercise of always having to engage with people. Conferences I would say is similar. The other thing though is that when I came into working full time at Channel Islands, I was really struggling with panic attacks. I’d never struggled with that before. And there was something about being busy and having to think about other people that really almost eliminated it entirely. Because I didn’t have time to think about myself or what I was worried about, and that was great. But it eventually started to crop up in moments where I had to present at one point. That was very scary for me. And there’s a lot of internal dialogue that goes on if I have to go into a situation where I’m just not sure of myself.

Exercise has probably been the number one thing that has helped me be able to process the day,...physical exertion helps me decompress from the mental exercise of always having to engage with people. @TinyTara Click To Tweet

Tara: And I think as an introvert, especially as an INFJ, I’m just constantly assessing and reassessing. So if I go into a situation, when I come out of that, I’m evaluating how did I do, could I have done better? And then that totally informs the next time that I’m going into a situation. And I’ve kind of set up all of these different obstacles in my mind to some degree that I need to clear, even though those were former obstacles in the previous situation that might not necessarily present in this next one, and so you’re just in your head a lot. So that’s where I do like being in a field where I’m forced outside of my head. But then have to constantly bring myself back to a place where I can recharge and be by myself or get some exercise in so that I can get back to it. And so whether that’s work or a conference, I have to kind of coach myself into getting excited to put myself out there. I never regret doing it, but it does take something out of me that I have to eventually find a way to recharge.

As an introvert, especially as an INFJ, I'm constantly assessing and reassessing. When I come out of a situation, I'm evaluating how did I do, could I have done better? And then that totally informs the next time. @TinyTara Click To Tweet

Ben: It was interesting, because as I said, we did meet at this EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference and you’re coming in from a different perspective, different background. Many people, especially when they’re on the awareness side or coming in from non-technical backgrounds, there’s always this question for them of whether they belong there or not. And I had some really interesting conversations with a couple of people who said, “I don’t feel like I’m a cyber security professional.” “Well, you just presented at a Security Professionals Conference, so I think you can kind of claim that now,” and realize that yes, we haven’t arrived–we absolutely haven’t arrived–but that’s something you can point to that’s kind of a bit of credibility for yourself or credential in a sense.

Ben: One of the things that you had told me earlier also is that you are part of a leadership program within EDUCAUSE. And I meant to ask you about it before we got started, but could you talk a little bit about that, and you’ve just spent the last week at this Leadership Institute, and I’m really interested in what attracted you to the program, whether you felt ready for the program or not, and what it’s been like for you and what you’ve taken away from it. .

Tara: Okay. Yeah. So I went to the Leading Change Institute, which is affiliated with EDUCAUSE and CLIR. It was an application process and I had to submit a resume and get a letter of recommendation, and absolutely was, I want to say encouraged, but even more than that, kind of hounded by a mentor of mine, to give it a shot. And I thought, no, I don’t, I don’t think I’m at a place where they’ll accept me. So I really talked myself into thinking, well, I’ll apply, but I know I won’t get it, so it’s not much of a risk. And then I got in and thought, “Oh no, what have I gotten myself into?” I think our cohort was about 30 people from different institutions across the nation. We actually had someone from Dublin, Ireland and someone from Australia, and I think they both worked in the libraries at their institutions, but it’s a mix of IT professionals and librarians.

Tara: I had a hard time wrapping my mind around how did they let me in and why. A lot of these folks are CEOs and AVPs. And they’re just at a slightly higher level, in title and just place in their career than I am. They have much more experience. And so that was really intimidating and again, you know, as we can talk it about later. But that was where the Imposter Syndrome was definitely rearing its ugly head. And I really struggled to understand how in the world I got included in this group. And so I went into it thinking–well actually when I went to the Security Professionals Conference, I thought, well, I’ll just try my best with my presentation and I’ll try my best at LCI. The worst thing that can happen is that I’ll learn from it if I make a mistake.

I had a hard time wrapping my mind around how did they let me in and why....that was really intimidating and where the Imposter Syndrome was definitely rearing its ugly head. And I really struggled to understand how in the world I… Click To Tweet

Tara: For I would say both instances, I was shocked to discover that I did well and that I had a place there. That wasn’t what I expected going into it. And it was a really lovely surprise coming out of both of those experiences. And really, the Leading Change Institute expects that you understand certain management fundamentals. Really what they’re getting at is more of the finesse of not just managing, but really being a leader and how do you implement change with things that are very difficult to grapple with, especially if you have even things on a national level. How to keep that broad perspective, but still be effective in very specific ways. It was fantastic. DC was wonderful. I hadn’t been to DC since I was in high school, so it was really wonderful to go back with new eyes of appreciation and see things with more experience in my life to be able to really enjoy the history and the remembrance of what so many of those memorials call for us to do.

Tara: I just loved that it was–it was really neat and it was great again to network with people, but again, I had to really coach myself into making the most of that opportunity and putting myself out there. And the worst that could happen is that it doesn’t go the way I want. And then it’s only for a week. And then you’re like, okay.

Ben: It sounds like a really cool thing to be involved in. And honestly, I would have probably some of the same concerns that you do because I’m not an AVP and I’m not an Information Security Officer or a CIO. There were times where I aspired to that, but now I’m don’t know that I want to. ‘m overall enjoying what I’m doing, but I’m also enjoying exploring mentoring and podcasting and things like that. So I’m finding that that’s providing a great deal of satisfaction. I think it’s really cool that you’re involved in that group and I think it’s a great opportunity.

Ben: Tara, thanks for a great conversation. I look forward to our next episode where we will talk more about the EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference and why you spoke about Imposter Syndrome, your experience in speaking, and one thing I noticed, the reception for the conversations and the conversations that opened was really great.


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Tree Roots

Security Awareness and the Wind in the Trees

Category:EDUCAUSE,Higher Education,Information Security,Internet Safety,Security Awareness

Tree Roots

Image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay

Security Awareness and the Wind in the Trees

Winds and Stress Wood

In the 1990s, Space Biosphere Ventures constructed Biosphere 2. The biosphere was occupied by a crew of researchers for a two-year period, investigating whether they could be sustained only by food grown within the dome. The researchers grew many types of plants in their quest to develop a self-sustaining environment. One of the surprising results from their efforts was that as many of the trees grew they suffered from a lack of “stress wood.” A tree grows stress wood to strengthen its roots and structure in response to winds. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosphere_2)

Strong Roots

Many writers have drawn analogies between the importance of trees having strong roots (roots which are a form of stress wood), and the need for people to have strong roots to overcome adversity. I thought it would be interesting to look at this stress wood phenomena in the context of security awareness. I’m a security awareness practitioner in higher education. I take the complexities of good cybersecurity practices and recast them for my audience, doing the work of a technical communicator by explaining complex concepts and making them relevant and actionable to my audience.

Application

In many ways, effective security awareness has the same effect on the development of strong roots in people that winds have on trees. Without steady winds, trees don’t develop roots and will topple from strong gusts. Without a steady light wind of security awareness education, our communities won’t withstand the gusts of cyberattacks. Security awareness programs must communicate steadily to their communities what members need to know–not only how to recognize and respond to specific cyberthreats, but good daily security practices.

Effective security awareness has the same effect on the development of strong roots in people that winds have on trees. Without steady winds, trees don't develop roots and will topple from strong gusts. Without a steady light wind of… Click To Tweet

To help our community members develop strong roots we need a programmatic approach to security awareness. It’s not enough to just communicate about specific cyberattacks (gusts) as they occur. We must embed good security practices into our culture. Good security practice must become habitual. Our end users must develop strong roots to face the adversity of cyberattacks.

To help our end users develop strong roots we need a programmatic approach to security awareness. It’s not enough to just communicate about specific cyberattacks (gusts) as they occur. Click To Tweet

We must strive to embed good security practices into our culture. Good security practice must become habitual. Our people must develop strong roots to face the adversity of cyberattacks. Click To Tweet

For several years, I’ve led a preconference workshop to my peers on developing a security awareness plan at the EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference, sometimes by myself, other times with a skilled co-presenter. This year, Tara Schaufler, Information Security Awareness and Training Program Manager at Princeton University, and I will be presenting Know Which Way the Wind Blows: Security Awareness that Soars. We’ll help attendees build a strategic plan and determine how to implement that plan so that their communities have that steady wind of security awareness communications.

Wind in the Trees

I think the analogy of wind in the trees works for security awareness education. Growing roots is a good way to articulate the results and culture change we should expect from a good security awareness program. Decorating the tree through a specific security awareness campaign may be eye-catching. It’s great to leverage the damage from gusts of cyberattacks to teach key concepts. However, it’s the steady breeze that will make the biggest difference for our communities.

It's great to leverage the gusts of cyberattacks to teach key concepts. However, it's the steady breeze that will make the biggest difference for our communities. Click To Tweet


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Ben Woelk Headshot

Episode 014: Ben Woelk–Lessons Learned on an Introvert’s Journey to Leadership

Category:EDUCAUSE,introversion,Introverted Leadership,introverts,Leadership,Lessons Learned,personality,Podcast

Episode 014 Show Notes: Ben Woelk

Introduction

Ben Woelk discusses lessons learned on his introvert’s journey to leadership. This post is based on an article previously published on October 17, 2016 in the EDUCAUSE Review: The Professional Commons Blog and on benwoelk.com.

Key concepts

  • Self understanding is the key for being a good leader
  • Identify and harness your introvert strengths
  • Growing in leadership comes from practicing leadership
  • In networking, depth is more important than breadth

Quotable

My introversion informs my approach to leadership, and I’ve found that self-understanding has helped me learn how to harness my strengths as an introvert to become an influential leader and to achieve great results.

My willingness to accept volunteer tasks has enabled me to share ideas and develop my leadership abilities.

I had to see something on paper stating that I could be a leader before I could accept that ability. I needed the affirmation.

Teams often follow leaders who express their ideas confidently and quickly, neither of which are guarantors that the ideas are actually good.

You won’t grow in leadership if you don’t take advantage of opportunities to practice leadership.

Don’t avoid networking events. You don’t have to meet and engage in small talk with everyone. Find one or two people with whom to have an in-depth conversation, and follow up later. Depth is more important than breadth.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Many of us might agree that Western society lauds extroverted leaders and their accomplishments. However, introverts make great contributions and can be effective leaders too. As IT professionals, many of you are introverts, and you certainly work with a lot of introverts. Those of us who are introverts may not believe or recognize that we have strong leadership skills, and we certainly don’t seem like the extroverted leaders that are the norm in Western society.

I’m an introverted leader, despite outward appearances. I’ve presented at conferences numerous times, and overall, I’m able to mix well in business settings. Many people who see me in that very public context are surprised that I’m an introvert. My introversion informs my approach to leadership, and I’ve found that self-understanding has helped me learn how to harness my strengths as an introvert to become an influential leader and to achieve great results.

My introversion informs my approach to leadership, and I’ve found that self-understanding has helped me learn how to harness my strengths as an introvert to become an influential leader and to achieve great results. Click To Tweet

I thought it might be helpful to share a bit of my journey to leadership, to talk about what’s worked for me, and to provide strategies for both discovering your introvert strengths and maximizing them in your workplaces.

First Things First: What’s an Introvert?

Please regard this section as a generalization constructed from a number of sources. Introversion and extroversion lie along a spectrum. Individuals may be more or less extroverted or introverted. It’s also important to note that social anxiety or fear of public speaking does not necessarily mean that someone is introverted. (Many articles and discussions state that public speaking is the number-one fear for most people.)

For the purposes of this blog post, I’ll characterize extroverts and introverts as follows:

  • Extroverts focus on the outer world of people and things. They tend to be active and have a wide breadth of interests. They understand things through experience. They may be reward seekers and desire fame. They are energized by contact and activities undertaken with others.
  • Introverts have a rich inward-looking life of ideas. They tend to have a depth of interest, preferring specialization to a breadth of knowledge. They may mull over thoughts and concepts, but not express those thoughts verbally or externally. Introverts recharge themselves by withdrawing from the hubbub to places of quiet and solitude.

Reading these descriptions, can you see where you might fit on the spectrum?

Applying Introverted Strengths to Leadership

There are many approaches to leadership, and we often hear about highly extroverted, “take charge” leaders who have very public presences. However, as Susan Cain and others have pointed out, there’s no correlation between success in leadership and extroversion. Examples of introverted leaders include Albert Einstein, Steve Wozniak, and Abraham Lincoln. What made them good leaders? In what ways were they influential?

  • Einstein was known for his depth and clarity of thought (and his genius). He had the ability to look at all angles to a problem and develop innovative (and often unexpected) solutions.
  • Wozniak was responsible for many of Apple’s innovations, even though Steve Jobs was the best-known leader and public spokesperson for Apple. Working outside the limelight, Wozniak was able to engineer technological breakthroughs. Together, Jobs and Wozniak arguably revolutionized the end-user computing experience.
  • Lincoln was not gregarious and certainly not known as a compelling public speaker. Yet he was a deep strategic thinker and provided leadership during what may have been the most trying times for the United States.

All were introverted leaders, and all were very effective.

My Background

I’ve had a career that spans many disciplines, including a stint as a doctoral student in early modern European history, a technical communicator, and an information security practitioner. (I took a rather circuitous route to my current position as program manager in the Information Security Office at the Rochester Institute of Technology.)

As a doctoral student, I tended to be very reticent in classes, not wanting to contribute to discussions in which I was sure everyone else was much more knowledgeable.

In my work as a technical communicator, I documented ISO 9000 processes, created hardware and software documentation, and eventually moved into a consulting position where I had responsibility for end-user communications for an IT organization in a local Fortune 500 company.

As a security awareness professional, I communicate to my campus community about information security issues and threats, develop training courses in digital self-defense, and contribute to the greater information security community through my Introverted Leadership Blog and the EDUCAUSE HEISC Awareness and Training Working Group(HEISC is the Higher Education Information Security Council).

I didn’t seek leadership positions and preferred to remain in the background. The last place I wanted to be was the center of attention with colleagues looking to me for direction. Happily, my willingness to accept volunteer tasks has enabled me to share ideas and develop my leadership abilities.

My willingness to accept volunteer tasks has enabled me to share ideas and develop my leadership abilities. Click To Tweet

My Transformation into a Leader

Although there are many formative steps I could look back on, the steps below have probably helped me the most.

Gaining a Better Understanding of Introversion

I read Cain’s book Quiet shortly after it came out. I found her research and discussion around various facets of introversion in American culture to be compelling. Leveraging her work and other sources, I co-presented on the subject of introverted leadership at a few conferences. The topic was popular, and we had standing-room-only crowds. At that point, I realized that this subject was of great interest to my professional colleagues, both in technical communication and in information security. I was intrigued and did further research into what it meant to be an introvert who was also a leader.

Understanding My Personality/Temperament Type

There are various tools for determining your personality/temperament type and many resources discussing the leadership styles most appropriate to those types. Around the time I stepped into a leadership role, I became acquainted with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the work of David Keirsey on temperament. I’m not going to give an in-depth description of MBTI or temperament here. In short, the MBTI and similar tests provide a series of questions; your responses group you into specific personality or temperament types: Introvert/Extravert; iNtuitive/Sensing; Thinking/Feeling; Judging/Perceiving. The types, which are identified through the four pairs, are not distributed evenly throughout the population. The results fall along a continuum, so not every INTJ will be the same. (Obviously, we’re more complex than a four-letter descriptor can convey.)

I’m an INTJ (Introverted-iNtuitive-Thinking-Judging). Keirsey describes the INTJ as a Mastermind. (Others assign the term Scientist to this combination of traits.) Finding out I was an INTJ was important to me because the description affirmed my ability to lead (albeit reluctantly), discussed my strengths and weaknesses, and provided strategies for success as a leader. I had to see something on paper stating that I could be a leader before I could accept that ability. I needed the affirmation. There are times I feel like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, needing a diploma (or confirmation in print) to prove to myself that I have a brain.

I had to see something on paper stating that I could be a leader before I could accept that ability. I needed the affirmation. Click To Tweet

Understanding How I Communicate and Work Best

By and large, introverts are not comfortable being asked to give an immediate response to suggestions, nor do they enjoy engaging in small talk. Click To Tweet

By and large, introverts are not comfortable being asked to give an immediate response to suggestions, nor do they enjoy engaging in small talk. I’m not at my best when asked to provide an on-the-spot answer to how I might handle a specific problem or an idea for the best way to move forward. However, when given time, I can respond with a well-thought-out and nuanced response. I’ve also found that I communicate best in writing, although my oral communication skills have become stronger over time and I’m now a seasoned presenter.

I prefer to work individually, and my work is not necessarily done at a steady pace. I enjoy “collisions” with other thinkers, but I prefer not to work in teams. Teams often follow leaders who express their ideas confidently and quickly, neither of which are guarantors that the ideas are actually good. Individual conversations, on the other hand, can often lead to breakthroughs and innovations.

Teams often follow leaders who express their ideas confidently and quickly, neither of which are guarantors that the ideas are actually good. Click To Tweet

Building on Small Successes

I’ve had many opportunities to grow in leadership, but they’ve occurred primarily outside of my professional work environment and often in nonprofit organizations, which are always looking for competent and dedicated volunteers. For me, that leadership path has been through two organizations: the Society for Technical Communication (STC), an international organization devoted to furthering technical communication and educating its members; and the EDUCAUSE HEISC. As I volunteered in STC, I was asked to serve in a variety of positions with increasing responsibilities. I was eventually elected president of the Rochester Chapter and later served on the board of directors at the international level. For HEISC, I served as co-chair of the Awareness and Training Working Group. In that role, I’ve had the opportunity to facilitate a group of talented information security professionals.

I didn’t seek leadership positions in these organizations, but for almost every opportunity presented to me, I’ve said “yes.” Click To Tweet

I didn’t seek leadership positions in these organizations, but for almost every opportunity presented to me, I’ve said “yes.” I’ve also asked myself: “How can I make a difference in the organization?” (Say “yes” when given an opportunity to serve. You won’t grow in leadership if you don’t take advantage of opportunities to practice leadership.)

You won’t grow in leadership if you don’t take advantage of opportunities to practice leadership. Click To Tweet

Making It Personal: Examining My Strengths and Growth Opportunities

From my discussion above, it’s clear that self-discovery has been an important component in how I’ve learned to harness my introvert strengths and become a leader. From my readings about personality/temperament and my experience as a leader, I’ve discovered that my strengths include my ability to identify gaps, my desire to make a difference, my commitment to practicing a servant leadership model, and my drive to pursue excellence. I’m also competitive. (That competitiveness can be both a strength and a weakness. I can push myself and others toward goals. However, I also have an innate desire to win at whatever I’m engaged in.)

Self-discovery also means you uncover your weaknesses, or growth opportunities. For me, those growth opportunities include overcoming my desire to avoid conflict, pushing past my reticence to contribute in discussions, not overanalyzing opportunities or situations before moving forward, and harnessing my competitiveness.

Where Do You Go from Here?

I recommend the following activities to help you uncover and actualize your introvert strengths and become an influencer.

  • Get to know yourself. Take one of the personality or temperament assessments offered at Keirsey.com, HumanMetrics, or 16 Personalities. Read Quiet and some of the other introversion resources listed below.
  • Control your environment. If you’re in an open-plan office, find ways to define your personal space to increase your ability to stay focused. (See Morgan, 5 Ways, for some great ideas.)
  • Communicate your value. Keep a record of your accomplishments and make sure your management understands how you communicate and work best and how you can add the most value. Take advantage of the unhurried nature of social media to leverage the playing field by using the opportunity to clearly articulate your thoughts.
  • Leverage your introversion. You have tremendous abilities to provide superior solutions because, given sufficient time, you can often see all facets of a problem and devise a comprehensive solution.
  • Don’t avoid networking events. You don’t have to meet and engage in small talk with everyone. Find one or two people with whom to have an in-depth conversation, and follow up later. Depth is more important than breadth.
  • Recharge (in solitude) as needed!

Don’t avoid networking events. You don’t have to meet and engage in small talk with everyone. Find one or two people with whom to have an in-depth conversation, and follow up later. Depth is more important than breadth. Click To Tweet

Conclusion

By no means do I consider myself to have “arrived,” but I am surprised by how far I’ve been willing to journey in the last ten years as I’ve leveraged my introversion to lead in a way that’s natural for me. I hope the thoughts above can help stimulate your thinking about how you can leverage your introversion — and also leverage the strengths of the introverts you manage (and make them happier members of the workforce).

You’ve read a bit of my story. If you’re an introvert, what has been your experience in the workplace? If you’re an extrovert, how have you worked successfully with introverts both as their colleague and as their manager? What strategies have worked for you? Please join the conversation. I’d love to hear your stories!

Resources

Cain, Susan. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. New York: Crown Publishers, 2012.

Kahnweiler, Jennifer B. The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2018.

Keirsey, David. Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence. Delmar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, 1998.

Laney, Marti Olsen. The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World. New York: Workman Publishing Company, 2002.

Morgan, Elan. “5 Ways to Love Your Open-Plan Office.” Quiet Revolution.

Myers, Isabel Briggs, and Peter B. Myers. Gifts Differing. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press, 1980.

Petrilli, Lisa. The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership. Chicago: C-Level Strategies, 2011.

Extras

Ben recently keynoted the fall 2018 TCUK Conference in Daventry, England with this topic. You can find audio-visual recordings of Lessons Learned on an Introvert’s Journey to Leadership at https://benwoelk.com/audio-and-video/ and presentations at https://www.slideshare.net/bwoelk.


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Ben Woelk Speaking Schedule–Spring 2019

Category:EDUCAUSE,Information Security,Internet Safety,Introverted Leadership,Leadership,Lessons Learned,Schedule,Uncategorized

Spring 2019 Speaking Schedule

Here’s my virtual and in-person schedule. I hope to see many of you.

Don’t forget to listen to the Hope for the Introvert podcast!

 

Schedule

Date Event Topic Format More information
30 January Southwestern Ontario Webinar The Introvert in the Workplace: Becoming an Influencer and Leader Webinar
31 January Content Wrangler A Tale of Two Podcasts Webinar With Allie Proff. Register today!
6 February STC NYC Metro Lessons Learned on an Introvert’s Journey to Leadership Webinar
23-24 March CPTC Training Class at RIT CPTC Training Training Class Rochester Institute of Technology
25 March STC Rochester Spectrum Conference Leadership Opportunities May be Closer Than They Appear Presentation Rochester. With Sara Feldman
25 March STC Rochester Spectrum Conference Closing Keynote: Building the Next Gen Technical Communicator Presentation Rochester. Spectrum website
9 April TNConX webinar series TBD Presentation Webinar
5 May STC Summit Conference Leadership Opportunities May be Closer Than They Appear Presentation Denver. With Sara Feldman
7 May STC Summit Conference A Tale of Two Podcasts Presentation Denver. With Allie Proff
13 May EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference Know Which Way the Wind Blows: Security Awareness that Soars Preconference Seminar Chicago. With Tara Schaufler
15 May EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference Considerations for Security Awareness and Inclusive Design Presentation Chicago. With Tara Schaufler
22 May Genesee Valley Chapter SHRM monthly meeting Cybersecurity and HR Presentation Rochester

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