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Leadership Archives - BenWoelk.com

Category Archives: Leadership

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Ben Woelk Headshot

Episode 026–Ben Woelk: Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Category:Introverted Leadership,Leadership,Podcast

Episode 026 Show Notes: Ben Woelk

Introduction

Ben Woelk shares his article, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road: A Leadership Journey to the Emerald City.” Ben discusses the leadership lessons from the journey for the Scarecrow, a Rational leader, the Tin Woodman, an Idealist leader, and the Lion, an Artisan leader.

Cover art from Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

 

Key concepts

  • The Wizard of Oz provides leadership lessons.
  • Rational leaders are innovative, typically highly intelligent, and problem solvers.
  • Idealist leaders are catalysts.
  • Artisan leaders as practical, with an eye to the realities around them.
  • The physical tokens helped the protagnoists understand their internal strengths and make it outwardly obvious what these character strengths were for each of them. Although we may not have physical tokens that help to remind us and others of our inner strengths, we are much more attuned to the role of these strengths in our workplaces.
  • An understanding of temperament types can help us work with managers and employees of other temperaments.

Quotable

Understanding our temperament type helps us perform more effectively, both as individuals and as a team.

An Idealist team leader who wants to talk about the contributions of the individual members of the team may find the conversation with an Artisan manager frustrating.

Each of the travelers in the Wizard of Oz follows the Yellow Brick Road to self-discovery, finding that they possess the strengths they believe they lack

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

The article first appeared in the Summer 2018 Journal of the American Medical Writer’s Association and is reprinted here with their permission. The article grew out of a presentation of the same name that I did at the Society for Technical Communication 2017 Summit conference in Washington, DC.  I’ve provided pictures from the presentation, the slides, and a copy of the sketch notes by Elizabeth Alley after the post.

 

Follow the Yellow Brick Road: A Leadership Journey to the Emerald City

Have you ever felt as if your professional journey has a surprise around every bend? Much like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, have you found unexpected challenges along your career path? Are there lessons that can be applied from these challenges? Follow the Yellow Brick Road and discover lessons about leadership from the Wizard of Oz characters we’ve grown to love.

Introduction

I’ve had a lifelong fascination with MGM’s The Wizard of Oz2, both afraid of and intrigued by the flying monkeys and amused by Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion, but mostly engaged by a storyline that drew me along on their journey. For the last several years, I have studied leadership development, participated in leadership podcasts and webcasts, delivered presentations and workshops on leadership development, mentored emerging leaders, and championed the leadership abilities of introverts.

I thought it would be interesting to see what lessons we might draw for leadership by applying Keirsey Temperament Theory to the four protagonists of The Wizard of Oz: Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion. Even a cursory look at how they handled obstacles and interacted with each other provides valuable lessons for the workplace and personal life.

Keirsey Temperament Theory and the Wizard of Oz

In Please Understand Me II3, David Keirsey discusses how four main temperament types—Guardian, Rational, Idealist, and Artisan—may apply to these characters from The Wizard of Oz, as well as to our own leadership styles.

Dorothy, the Guardian Leader

Keirsey describes Guardians as the “glue” that holds society together. Guardians are concerned with order, with right actions, and with providing a secure environment for those under their charge. They are also helpful and concerned with the welfare of others. Guardians are stabilizing leaders. In both the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz1 and the movie, Dorothy is the glue that holds the travelers together. Although she provides both stability and security to the party, Dorothy seeks a way to return to a safe environment: her home in Kansas with Auntie Em and Uncle Henry. Throughout their journey, Dorothy leads the party to The Wizard, convinced that he will help her to find her way home.

Scarecrow, the Rational Leader

Rational leaders are innovative, typically highly intelligent, and problem solvers. The Scarecrow believed that he had no brain. To the contrary, the Scarecrow was clearly the most creative in being able to analyze a situation and pose innovative solutions. For example, he devised the plan to get apples from a hostile apple tree by tricking the tree into throwing apples at the traveling party and coordinated the plan to rescue Dorothy by stealing and wearing the Winkies guards’ uniforms after Dorothy’s capture by the Wicked Witch.

Tin Woodman, the Idealist Leader

According to Keirsey, idealist leaders are catalysts because they energize productive human relations. Idealist leaders are enthusiastic, strive for harmony and care deeply for those in their charge. They are people-centered, intuitive, and patient, often putting the needs of individuals above the needs of the business or task at hand. The Tin Woodman believes that he has no heart or feelings and is unable to express love. Despite this, as an Idealist, he cares deeply for the well-being of the party. He races into action when the travelers face the Kalidahs (i.e., beasts with bodies like bears and heads like tigers), the most feared predators in the Land of Oz.

Lion, the Artisan Leader

Keirsey describes Artisan leaders as practical, with an eye to the realities around them. Artisan leaders deal with concrete problems (clear and obvious problems), not abstractions about what might occur. Artisans will do whatever it takes to solve a problem, are expeditious, and move rapidly to arrive at a solution. They excel at on-the-spot decision making but are impulsive and prefer to “fly by the seat of their pants.” Most of all, they are risk takers. Although lions are commonly considered to be the King of the Beasts, Lion believes that he lacks courage. However, Lion displayed bravery by protecting the team along the way to see the Wizard. For an artisan leader, courage means doing what needs to be done against all odds, even in the face of fear.

Applying the Lessons of Oz in the Real World

In Oz, three of our protagonists gain physical tokens from the Wizard that are related to their temperament types. Scarecrow (the Rational) receives a diploma (testimonials). Lion (the Artisan) receives a medal of courage. Tin Woodman (Idealist) receives a heart. The physical tokens helped these three understand their internal strengths and make it outwardly obvious what these character strengths are for each of them. Although we may not have physical tokens that help to remind us and others of our inner strengths, we are much more attuned to the role of these strengths in our workplaces. The Wizard tell Dorothy that ever since she came to Oz that she’s always had what she needs to return home, the slippers.

Since the 1995 publication of Daniel Goldman, Emotional Intelligence, there has been increasing recognition of the role of social and emotional intelligence in building productive workplace environments.10 The development of our emotional intelligence grows from understanding what drives us and how we interact with others. That’s where temperament theory comes in. Understanding our temperament type helps us perform more effectively, both as individuals and as a team. Learning about our strengths (and weaknesses) can help us become better leaders and relate better to our colleagues in the workplace. Keirsey’s temperament types provide additional insights.

Understanding our temperament type helps us perform more effectively, both as individuals and as a team. Click To Tweet

My Leadership Journey

In my own leadership journey, I’ve found that learning more about temperament types through inventories available online (humanmetrics.com, 16personalities.com, keirsey.com) , discussions with trained MBTI practitioners has helped me identify what drives me. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of my Rational temperament type (INTJ), helps me understand how I can best lead, playing to my strengths and compensating for my weaknesses.

That understanding has also helped me understand how to best work with a manager who’s not the same temperament that I am. For example, an Artisan manager will be concerned with results. The Artisan manager may not care about the details of the journey to achieve those results. An Idealist team leader who wants to talk about the contributions of the individual members of the team may find the conversation with an Artisan manager frustrating, because what’s important to the team leader (the people) may not matter to the Artisan manager. The Artisan manager cares about the results. Different temperament types have different expectations and priorities. I have a good friend who’s an Idealist leader. She’s very conscious of the potential impacts of a decision on team members. As a Rational, in my pragmatic approach to problem solving, the impact of a decision on individuals may not even occur to me.

An Idealist team leader who wants to talk about the contributions of the individual members of the team may find the conversation with an Artisan manager frustrating Click To Tweet

As a Rational, in my pragmatic approach to problem solving, the impact of a decision on individuals may not even occur to me. Click To Tweet

In Closing

The Wizard of Oz is as much about the travelers discovering their hidden strengths as it is an exciting story for children and for adults. Each of the travelers follows the Yellow Brick Road to self-discovery, finding that they possess the strengths they believe they lack. Much like Scarecrow, I’ve discovered that I already possess many of the strengths I thought I lacked. I encourage you to follow your own Yellow Brick Road to identify and harness your strengths.

Each of the travelers in the Wizard of Oz follows the Yellow Brick Road to self-discovery, finding that they possess the strengths they believe they lack. Click To Tweet

 

References

  1. Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Chicago, IL: George M. Hill Company), 1900.
  2. Fleming, Victor, Director. The Wizard of Oz. (Loew’s Inc. Hollywood, CA), 1939.
  3. Keirsey, David. Please Understand Me II. Delmar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company), 1998.
  4. Myers, Isabel Briggs. Gifts Differing. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press, 1980.
  5. Stutz, Jonathan. The Scarecrow’s Brains: Leadership Lessons from the Wizard of Oz, in CEO World, Rankings and Research Magazine, June 15, 2014
  6. Woelk, Ben. An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership (Proceedings, STC Summit Conference, 2016).
  7. Woelk, Ben. Guest Editor. Intercom: Personality, Temperament, and Technical Communication, Vol. 64, #2 February 2017
  8. Woelk, Ben. Lessons Learned on an Introvert’s Journey to Leadership, EDUCAUSE Review, October 17, 2016
  9. Leadership Lessons from the Wizard of Oz. https://spectrain.wordpress.com/2010/04/08/leadership-lessons-from-the-wizard-of-oz/ Accessed April 17, 2017.
  10. http://www.danielgoleman.info/topics/emotional-intelligence/. Accessed 4/22/18.

 

Author disclosure: This article is based in part on my presentation at the Society for Technical Communication International Summit Conference in 2017

 

Author contact: ben@benwoelk.com

Extras

 

Follow the Yellow Brick Road cover slide

STC Summit 2017 Follow the Yellow Brick Road presentation slides

Elizabeth Alley sketch notes of the STC Summit 2017 presentation, Follow the Yellow Brick Road: A Leadership Journey to the Emerald City

Elizabeth Alley Sketch Notes from STC Summit 2017

Title slide for STC Summit 2017 presentation, Follow the Yellow Brick Road: A Leadership Journey to the Emerald City

Presenter Ben Woelk holding a pair Wizard of Oz witch legs with stripes and ruby slippers, from STC Summit 2017 presentation, Follow the Yellow Brick Road: A Leadership Journey to the Emerald City


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Gabby Pascuzzi headshot

Episode 025: Gabby Pascuzzi–Survivor, Vulnerability, and Authenticity

Category:Introverted Leadership,Leadership,Podcast,Trust

Episode 025 Show Notes: Gabby Pascuzzi

Introduction

Gabby Pascuzzi and Ben Woelk talk about Survivor, being vulnerable with your emotions, leaning in to who you are, and the need for authenticity in the workplace.

Gabby Pascuzzi headshot

Key concepts

  • Scary challenges show you what you’re capable of. We are prone to underestimating ourselves.
  • You have to embrace the struggle in some ways to be able to grow at all
  • Growth opportunities are almost always out there, and they don’t have to come in as extreme of a package as going on Survivor.
  • On challenging yourself–Are there ways that you can challenge yourself in the workplace, such as taking on a new role or volunteering to lead an initiative?
  • We are so much more capable of things than we think. And then when you accomplish that, you’re going to say, “Awesome, what’s the next thing? What’s the next challenge that I can do?
  • A positive side effect of trying something challenging, is that when all is said and done, you will have people cheering you on and that can really lift you up for the next challenge

Quotable

Taking on challenges that seem so huge and scary really shows you what you’re actually capable of. And it’s often a lot more than you think. We are really prone to underestimating ourselves. @GabbyPascuzzi

You have to embrace the struggle in some ways to be able to grow at all. @benwoelk

In servant leadership, just to be able to see your team grow is such an important thing. @benwoelk

Growth opportunities are almost always out there, and they don’t have to come in as extreme of a package as going on Survivor. @GabbyPascuzz

On challenging yourself–Are there ways that you can challenge yourself in the workplace, such as taking on a new role or volunteering to lead an initiative? @GabbyPascuzzi

We are so much more capable of things than we think. And then when you accomplish that, you’re going to say, “Awesome, what’s the next thing? What’s the next challenge that I can do?” @GabbyPascuzzi

A positive side effect of trying something challenging, is that when all is said and done, you will have people cheering you on and that can really lift you up for the next challenge. @GabbyPascuzzi

People want to be influenced by people that they feel they can trust. And when people believe that you’re being authentic, they are more likely to trust you. @GabbyPascuzzi

It always surprises me that people who are not willing to be authentic don’t really understand that people can see that. @benwoelk

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Joining us today is Gabby Pascuzzi. Gabby is a technical writer at Tenable, a cybersecurity company. She also competed on the 37th season of Survivor: David versus Goliath. I met Gabby at the 2019 STC Summit Conference in Denver where Gabby was our keynote speaker for our Honors event. Gabby shared her experience as a contestant on Survivor: David versus Goliath. Her presentation was well received and one of the hits of the conference. You can follow Gabby on Twitter @GabbyPascuzzi. I encourage our listeners to visit HopefortheIntrovert.com where you’ll find complete show notes including a transcript of today’s conversation.

Ben: Hi Gabby. Welcome back. I’m excited to have you on the Hope for the Introvert podcast. We had talked quite a bit in our conversation about turning weaknesses into strengths and also the importance of empathy in the workplace and even the ability to show emotion. When you had talked about vulnerability and empathy, you said that a good portion of your thought and conversation about that was in some ways embedded in your experience on Survivor. Would you like to talk about that for a bit?

Gabby: Yes, definitely. For me, Survivor was the biggest learning experience of my life and I’m so grateful that I got to go and play. And even though I didn’t win the million dollars–it’s extremely cliché, but I feel like I won in the life experience and just the realizations that came to me afterwards. And so much of that for me was rooted in the idea of vulnerability, because it is one of the most vulnerable things that one can sign up to do, to go on national TV like I did, and have my experience and my face and my thoughts and all my highs and lows highlighted on national TV in front of an audience of 8 to 9 million people that watched Survivor. So one of the things that I was rather well known for on my season of Survivor was that I very much wore my emotions on my sleeve.

Gabby: So there may have been more than a few scenes of me crying during some low times, being frustrated with people that were not cooperating with me. Like I said in our last conversation last time we talked, I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve and of course Survivor is a very different experience than–the Survivor Gabby is not the same.Gabby that shows up to work every day. I’m not crying in the workplace every day, but it was a very interesting social experiment in a way because I knew that people across America would have very polarized opinions of my very visible emotions. Yeah.

Ben: Honestly, people across America have polarized opinions about just about everything!

Gabby: That is exactly right. Yep. [laughing] One thing that I learned from being on TV is you can’t please everyone, and there’s always going to be people who are contrary to one another. So after the show aired, I had people reaching out to me, and I would say it was about 95% positive. People would say, “Thank you for being so open with your emotions on the show and show that it’s okay to be vulnerable and it’s okay to talk about having low self esteem at times.” There was one scene on the show that was quite memorable where I had been placed onto a new Tribe where I wasn’t clicking with my fellow tribemates and there’s a scene of me teary-eyed in the morning crying because I felt I didn’t fit in. I felt like–first of all, I was scared that I would be voted out, which in the game means that you’ve been eliminated.

Gabby: But it was also a little bit of a deeper thing that I think dredged up feelings of insecurity. And I had people reach out to me and say, “Thank you for being honest about that. It’s nice to see vulnerability on TV, especially a reality TV show,” which sometimes doesn’t seem very authentic. And then you had 5% where people were saying, “Oh my gosh, you’re so annoying because you are always crying on my TV screen,” and “Get ahold of yourself, Woman, and pull–rein in your emotions. You’re such a whiner,” etc. And it was very, very interesting to observe and I knew that it would happen because people are not really comfortable with their own emotions and with their own vulnerability. And I think they were projecting that onto me where I’m quite comfortable with my emotions. I’m quite okay with it. But people were so upset that I dared show my emotions. So it was definitely a learning experience, largely about vulnerability

Ben: And I suspect that me, like most of your audience cannot even comprehend what it was like to be placed in a situation, in an environment like that where everything is kind of scrutinized and yes, it’s going to be a very visceral at times and just very–I cannot imagine having strong emotions–I doubt very much I would have made it through without crying either. [Gabby laughing] So I don’t think it’s a male-female thing at all. [Gabby laughing] I just think it’s a pretty amazing experience to have agreed to do that. And in some ways subject yourself to that.

Gabby: Thank you. Yeah, I think it relates to what we talked about in the last podcast, which is leaning into your weaknesses. And the whole experience was very scary in that way because you never know what challenge is going to pop up on Survivor, either mental or physical. So for those who aren’t familiar with the show, you know, we really aren’t eating, we are having maybe a quarter of a cup of rice every day, every other day sometimes when we were running low a scoop of coconut. So all of these challenges, of course those aren’t things I’m doing in my everyday life as a technical writer sitting behind my computer. But I feel like in taking on challenges that seem so huge and scary, it really shows you what you’re actually capable of. And it’s often a lot more than you think. I think we are really, really prone to underestimating ourselves just as human beings, and I think also for your audience listening to this.

Taking on challenges that seem so huge and scary really shows you what you're actually capable of. And it's often a lot more than you think. We are really prone to underestimating ourselves. @GabbyPascuzzi Click To Tweet

Ben: And I don’t think that–we talked earlier on also, about the whole–in a sense challenging yourself and working on these things that feel like weaknesses. But in a sense it’s–you have to embrace the struggle in some ways to be able to grow at all. And I know for me, I have a hard time fathoming when people aren’t willing to try to grow, when people are very satisfied with where they are. And I don’t know whether I’m just wired a little bit differently, but it feels like that there should always be a drive. And now maybe I won’t feel like that eventually. But now it feels like there should always be a drive towards improvement and stretching and doing what I can do. And in terms of when you had mentioned servant leadership early on, that’s a really important role for me as well in terms of, not necessarily even working on building myself, but whatever team it is that I’m working with or people that I’m supporting. Just to be able to see them grow is just such an important thing.

You have to embrace the struggle in some ways to be able to grow at all. @benwoelk Click To Tweet

In servant leadership, just to be able to see your team grow is such an important thing. @benwoelk Click To Tweet

Gabby: I completely agree. Yeah, it’s an amazing opportunity to grow when you do something that scares you a little bit, and it’s so easy to become complacent or to become stagnant because–I mean and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it might just be that you’re very happy in your life. But I think that the growth opportunities are almost always out there, and they don’t have to come in as extreme of a package as going on Survivor. But are there ways that you can challenge yourself in the workplace, such as taking on a new role or volunteering to lead an initiative that has been on your mind recently? Those are all things that I found when I returned from Survivor. I came back with a renewed enthusiasm that even though I was just returning to my job as a technical writer, if I saw something that I wanted to do, I did it. Or I asked someone, “Hey, can I do this? I think it’s a good idea. I’d be happy to lead it.” And I think that that helps everyone around you, but especially yourself.

Growth opportunities are almost always out there, and they don't have to come in as extreme of a package as going on Survivor. @GabbyPascuzzi Click To Tweet

On challenging yourself--Are there ways that you can challenge yourself in the workplace, such as taking on a new role or volunteering to lead an initiative? @GabbyPascuzzi Click To Tweet

Ben: So one of the key things that you got out of being on the program besides notoriety and critics and supporters, is this whole, I think, willingness to stretch more.

Gabby: Yeah, I would say so. And I think that’s the thing about taking challenges that I would encourage the listeners to do. Is it almost becomes this addictive sort of cycle where you do a scary challenge that you didn’t think you weren’t sure if you’d be capable of. You will be capable of it because I believe in you and you–we are so much more capable of things than we think. And then when you accomplish that, you’re going to say, “Awesome, what’s the next thing? What’s the next challenge that I can do?” And then before you know, you are pushing yourself more and more to do. So really I would say start small. If you’re able to do even what feels like a tiny challenge. Accomplishing that might make you more prone to saying yes to future challenges.

Click To Tweet

Ben: Okay, so one thing about Survivor, but it’s also in the workplace as well. I mean Survivor obviously makes it your Tribe. I mean it’s very out there and no question that you are hoping for support from your Tribe. So Gabby, you’re talking about this willingness to try new things and to start small, to continue to try new things and how there’s almost, you didn’t use the word inertia, but I’ll use that where there’s a sense of, “Well, I’ve done that, well what’s next, what’s next? And you keep climbing the ladder in some ways. That seems to be mainly an internal motivation towards doing things. It doesn’t necessarily seem to be motivated by external rewards or anything like that, but I’m also curious as to what–has it been important for you to know that people are supporting you, that they believe that you can do things? Or are you maybe a little bit like me in the sense where I’m just stubbornly independent and I’m going to do it anyway. How has it mattered whether people are supportive of you? In what ways does that matter most for you?

Gabby: Yeah, it does matter. I agree with you. I think I get a lot of strength from that internal motivation, but one unexpected side effect has been the support that–after Survivor for example, I had so much support from people I had never met before on social media, or at STC when I met fellow tech writers, or when I came back and my tech writing team was like, “That’s awesome. I can’t believe you did that.” It does kind of encourage you and to know that you have people that support you and believe in you, I think is an important part of growing as well. You want to feel like you have the support of friends, family, Allies in the game of Survivor–we call them Allies–our tribemates who we’re working with, our coworkers. So I think that you’ve identified another positive side effect of trying something challenging, is that when all is said and done, you will have people cheering you on and that can really lift you up for the next time that you have a challenge.

A positive side effect of trying something challenging, is that when all is said and done, you will have people cheering you on and that can really lift you up for the next challenge. @GabbyPascuzzi Click To Tweet

Ben: Yeah. So it’s really, really interesting conversation so far, and you’ve alluded to some things I think that people should think about and be willing–obviously we’re chatting about this a lot, about willing to stretch and try new things. You also mentioned early on on that you’re not really in a position of leadership in the workplace, but you are definitely, I think in a position of influencer. And I think the social media following from being on Survivor‘s probably puts you in position where you are in a sense influencing people as well or at least giving them something to chat about. What recommendations do you have for people who really want to become influencers? You know, maybe they don’t have a leadership path per se in their workplace, but what recommendations would you have for them?

Gabby: I’d like to bring up the idea that we talked about before, which is leaning in again. So to me it’s leaning into who you are. I think people are really drawn to authenticity. And I think that that is why people were drawn to me after Survivor is, I wasn’t just a character on their TV screen. People could tell that I was really being myself. And I think if you want to be in any position of influence, people want to be influenced by people that they feel they can trust. And when people believe that you’re being authentic, they are more likely to trust you because they see you, you’re showing up, all of you. And so again, it’s listening to what are your strengths, what can you lean into? So for example, at work, I really like moderating conversations and listening to everybody’s viewpoints and then giving my unbiased assessment of what’s been presented.

People want to be influenced by people that they feel they can trust. And when people believe that you're being authentic, they are more likely to trust you. @GabbyPascuzzi Click To Tweet

Gabby: So I think you can still influence things like culture. You can influence interpersonal relationships on the team by being a kind team member, by being a good listener, by being empathetic. So influence really can come from the smallest action. It might just be reaching out to somebody because they said they were having a hard day, and that relationship that you foster may help you in a professional sense later down the road when you need a favor being done. But more than that, it’s about showing up and being authentic and being a person who people want to be around.

Ben: And I think the thing is that’s–that authenticity is absolutely critical and what always surprises me, is I think people who are not willing to be authentic don’t really understand that people can see that. Where although they may assume that whatever face they provide in our front or persona they have in the workplace, that if it’s not who they really are, I think that people can see that for the most part.

It always surprises me that people who are not willing to be authentic don't really understand that people can see that. @benwoelk Click To Tweet

Gabby: Yeah, people are a lot more intuitive than we like to admit. And I think I completely agree with you. It happened on Survivor, too. People would have this sort of facade up, and I was like, “I can see right through this. I can see that you’re, you’re hiding something,” or “You’re not–you’re trying to come off too polished and I’m not really getting a sense of who you are and it’s not making me really comfortable working with you,” because I feel like it’s this robotic transactional relationship as opposed to, “You know what? We’re humans and we need to do a job. We need to work together, but we’re also just people.”

Ben: Yeah, I think that’s really important to bear in mind with this.

Ben: Gabby, this has been a great conversation today. Enlightening for me. I’m sure it’s been enlightening for our listeners as well. One thing I like to ask is what’s one thing about you that people would be surprised to learn? And obviously it’s not going to be the Survivor thing at this point. [Gabby laughing] So what is something else?

Gabby: Ooh, that’s a good question. I think something that surprises people who meet me is that I actually didn’t grow up in the United States. I was born in Germany. I lived for 10 years in Singapore and then I went to high school in the Philippines. And I only came to the US for college and I have been here since then, but people are always surprised by that, and it’s actually a very important part of who I am, because it made me, I think, a more open-minded person, that I really try to be cognizant of cultural differences, especially in the workplace.

Ben: Yeah, I think that’s a good point, because I know for many of us who don’t get out of the US at all, we’re really surprised when things don’t work the same way in other countries and things are just done differently. So I think that’s a really important perspective. It must be an interesting perspective having grown up in these other locations and then–gives you a little probably more objective view of what’s going on, where you have seen what’s normal in other places and as opposed to what may be normal here.

Gabby: Yeah, definitely grateful for those experiences.

Ben: Well, awesome. Thanks, Gabby. I really appreciate you spending time with me on the podcast. It’s been a wonderful conversation and I look forward to having you on again, where, who knows what subjects we’ll explore.

Gabby: Thanks, Ben. It was so great talking to you too.

 

Extras

Survivor David vs. Goliath: Gabby Pascuzzi on Tears, Approaching Peers and Online Cheers

Ponderosa Interview: Gabby Pascuzzi From Survivor: David Vs. Goliath

Gabby's Twitter banner

Gabby’s Twitter banner

 


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Gabby Pascuzzi headshot

Episode 024: Gabby Pascuzzi–Vulnerability and Leaning In

Category:introversion,Introverted Leadership,introverts,Leadership,Podcast,STC,Summit

Episode 024 Show Notes: Gabby Pascuzzi

Introduction

Gabby Pascuzzi and Ben Woelk talk about the importance of vulnerability and openness in the workplace, empathy, and leaning into weakness.

Gabby Pascuzzi headshot

Key concepts

  • Remote work can be challenging because so much of communication is non verbal.
  • Vulnerability and openness can be a strength
  • When you lean into a perceived weakness you may find it’s really a strength
  • Leaning into a weakness can help you improve that area
  • Empathy is a key leadership trait
  • No one started off as an expert and you do yourself a disservice if you write yourself off and say, “I can’t do that.”

Quotable

On remote work–The nuances and so much of communication is nonverbal, that you really have to work hard to make sure that you’re not misconstruing something that somebody said…making sure that your tone is appropriate and thoughtful. @gabbypascuzzi

On authenticity–at the end of the day, even if we’re writing alone, we still need our teammates. And one way to build a stronger team is to let them see who you are. @gabbypascuzzi

Being comfortable with my emotions is tied to one of my biggest strengths, which is being vulnerable and being authentic and just being really present, bringing my whole self to work. @gabbypascuzzi

Empathy helps you put yourself in other people’s shoes so that you are able to do more of this servant leadership style where you’re serving the people under you. @GabbyPascuzzi

Leaning into weaknesses, meaning things that you are not very naturally skilled at. We get so obsessed with “What is your strength?” @GabbyPascuzzi

Nobody started out as an expert and you really do yourself a disservice if you write yourself off, and say, “Nope, I can’t do that. That’s a weakness,” because you don’t know if you may have more skill then you thought or you’re able to improve. @GabbyPascuzzi

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Joining us today is Gabby Pascuzzi. Gabby is a technical writer at Tenable, a cybersecurity company. She also competed on the 37th season of Survivor: David versus Goliath. I met Gabby at the 2019 STC Summit Conference in Denver where Gabby was our keynote speaker for our Honors event. Gabby shared her experience as a contestant on Survivor: David versus Goliath. Her presentation was well received and one of the hits of the conference. You can follow Gabby on Twitter @GabbyPascuzzi. I encourage our listeners to visit HopefortheIntrovert.com where you’ll find complete show notes including a transcript of today’s conversation.

Ben: Hi Gabby!

Gabby: Hi Ben.

Ben: I’m excited that you’ve agreed to join us today. I’m very much looking forward to chatting with you. I’m sure we will chat about Survivor, but I’d like to talk a little bit about your career in general, and we’re going to talk about weaknesses and strengths and how those should maybe be handled in life and in the workplace. So you work at Tenable, I’m in Cybersecurity, so I’m actually familiar with Tenable, but can you tell us a little bit about what you do for them and what your workplace is like?

Gabby: Yeah, so I have been a technical writer at Tenable for a year and a half now. And I write mostly user documentation, our user guides for a couple of different products. One is Nessus, which is a vulnerability scanner. Another is Tenable IO, which is our platform. And yeah, a lot of user guide content which is pretty, pretty fast. We are always coming out with new features. So we do work in an agile environment.

Gabby: I have only been a technical writer for–this is my fourth year, so this is pretty early in my career and I’ve found that it’s been really challenging, but really interesting. And another challenge that has come with working for Tenable, which is one of the things I love as well, is it’s largely a remote company. So a lot of the employees are remote. The headquarters is in Maryland, but I live in Virginia and we do a lot of our coordinating and communicating through Slack and through Zoom calls, and we have people not only in this area, but also spread across the country and sometimes in different countries. We have some people in Ireland, some people out of India, so it’s a very global company, which makes for an interesting workplace at times. But yeah, very fast moving and I’m excited to be working for them.

Ben: What led you into technical writing as a career?

Gabby: I had no idea that technical writing existed until right before I graduated from college. I went to school at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and I majored in Linguistics, and then I added a second major, which was in the English Department called Professional Writing, which is–I always laugh because what’s the opposite of that? Like unprofessional writing? But, they had a few technical writing classes and I had always been pretty technically minded. I always did well in science and I had taken an introductory computer science course at CMU, which is a school that’s kind of known for that.

Gabby: I found that the technical writing classes really merged my skills in writing, which I had always been interested in English and writing, but I had never been particularly creative. I was always more on the technical side. So that’s when I discovered that technical writing existed and allowed me to really combine those two skills.

Ben: Yeah, it’s interesting. I took linguistics classes in college also, though I actually did an anthropology undergraduate, which I’m certainly not doing that now, but I found the linguistic stuff absolutely fascinating–just how much it could inform a culture and tell you about a culture, but also in some ways determine how a culture acted in some ways. So it was always a really, really interesting field. I didn’t go there, but it’s definitely an interesting field. So do you work as part of a team at Tenable? How often do you see each other?

Gabby: Yeah, so I am part of our technical writing team and there are 10 of us and we have a manager that’s just our manager for the technical writers, but each one of us focuses on a different product. And so then we’re also integrated onto those development teams. I’m pretty well connected to the developers for the products I write about as well as the product managers. And as you know, with all of us tech writers we’re always talking to everybody. So you get to know a lot of people, even though I’m not seeing them all face to face all the time, and my team gets together at least once a quarter, which I feel like is important for us to have that bonding time and remember that each other are people, not just our little screens. We Zoom call a lot so we make sure to do video calls. So we do see each other face to face, which I feel like is important in a remote context, because you don’t want to just always be communicating via Slack message or email and then you really–you don’t even know what the other person looks like or sounds like and you lose some of that personal touch.

Ben: Yeah. It’s interesting because at the Summit conference where I met you there was one woman I had been mentoring for the last three years, and we’d never seen each other face to face. We’d seen each other on our screens through Slack calls or whatever. But it was so funny. It’s, “Oh, you’re really tall,” and all that sort of thing, which you obviously can’t tell that when you’re just talking virtually, but I agree. I think that face-to-face connection makes such a dramatic difference in terms of–well you catch nuances that you wouldn’t catch otherwise and just getting to know each other a little bit better.

Gabby: Yeah, definitely. I mean, working for a remote company definitely has its pros and cons and a pro is that you really have awesome team members that are not limited by geographic location. Right. We have some brilliant people that they happen to live a state over so they can’t come into headquarters, so it’s great in that way. But yeah, there are drawbacks, which is that you don’t have those face to face. I agree with what you said, the nuances and so much of communication is nonverbal, that you really have to work hard to make sure that you’re not misconstruing something that somebody said as well as you have to make sure your intentions are clear when you’re just chatting over Slack, making sure that your tone is appropriate and thoughtful. And that is, that’s relevant to us as writers, you know, because we care about our tone, but definitely something to keep in mind.

On remote work--The nuances and so much of communication is nonverbal, that you really have to work hard to make sure that you're not misconstruing something that somebody said. @gabbypascuzzi Click To Tweet

Ben: Yeah, definitely. So I have a question. For our listeners, one of the things that we do, is our guests fill out a questionnaire and they describe themselves in the questionnaire. And Gabby described herself as an awkward extrovert, which is interesting. And I was curious, what do you mean by that and how does that play out?

Gabby: Yeah. So when you asked me to be a part of your podcast, the first thing I said to you was, “You know, I’m not really an introvert. I am actually an extrovert”, but I can relate to introverts because I can be awkward and I can be shy at times. And not to call introverts awkward and shy [laughing], but I feel like a lot of introverts might describe themselves that way. So to me it means that I am extroverted. I really get my energy from being around people, talking to people. That’s how I recharge. I’m very outgoing, but there are definitely times where I find it hard to reach out, especially if it’s someone that I don’t know very well. And so there’s definitely a little bit of a hump for me to get to that extroverted part of myself.

Gabby: Being an awkward extrovert is also sometimes challenging in my remote workplace because, for all of us as technical writers, we have to initiate a lot of conversations because we need to ask somebody for information. We need to ask for clarity; we need to ask for reviews. So it’s hard because a lot of technical writers are introverted or are a little awkward, when really we need to be very bold and not shy. And that can be really hard for a lot of us. It’s hard for me and it’s something that I’ve definitely had to work at, just being confident that, okay, I’ve got to get an answer so I’ve got to reach out and you really can’t be too shy about it.

Ben: Okay, awesome. So what do you see as your main weaknesses and strengths?

Gabby: I think my weaknesses and strengths are very linked and I feel like that’s true for a lot of us. So when I think about my weaknesses, I think about things that affect me. Sometimes I can be a little disorganized. Sometimes I have a hundred ideas at once. I like to multitask. And that can be challenging. Things that other people have said are weaknesses of mine, and this actually for me, it came out in the context of Survivor, which I’m sure we’ll talk more about later, is that I am a person that definitely wears her emotions on her sleeve. [laughing] So I think that some people might view that as a weakness because you’re in a workplace, you’re in a professional place, and it’s not to say I’m having emotional breakdowns in the middle of the workday, but I’m pretty open with my emotions, and some people might take issue with that, and I think it ties in perfectly to what is my strength.

Gabby: And I actually feel that being comfortable with my emotions is tied to one of my biggest strengths, which is being vulnerable and being authentic and just being really present, bringing my whole self to work. I don’t feel like I bring a fake version of myself to work. And, what that means to me is that I’m able to show up and connect with my peers, my coworkers, and not just be a robot behind a screen. Especially, like I said, especially if we’re just talking over Slack, somebody that’s just asking for this, asking for that, let’s get the job done with no sense of personability. Is personability a word? [laughing].

Being comfortable with my emotions is tied to one of my biggest strengths, which is being vulnerable and being authentic and just being really present, bringing my whole self to work. @gabbypascuzzi Click To Tweet

Ben: Sure. We’ll go with it.

Gabby: The thing is, as writers and as linguists, we can just make up words. But yeah, if you’re not bringing your authentic self to work, I feel like you’re missing out on an opportunity to build those connections with your peers.

Gabby: And at the end of the day, even if we’re writing alone, we still need our teammates. And one way to build a stronger team is to let them see who you are. And that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t still be boundaries and that there aren’t things that are appropriate and not appropriate to talk about or to show at work. But when you’re able to be–have a little fun and tell people when you are really excited about something or tell your teammates, “I’m really frustrated about this, can I vent to you for a second?” And maybe you’ll find out that they’ve been experiencing the same issues too. And what can you guys do about it? Maybe you can trouble–you can brainstorm how to fix this issue. Maybe it’s a culture issue that you guys are going to bring up in your next team meeting, but that really isn’t possible unless you are open and show up every day. So that was a long answer to your question.

On authenticity--at the end of the day, even if we're writing alone, we still need our teammates. And one way to build a stronger team is to let them see who you are. @gabbypascuzzi Click To Tweet

Ben: No, but it’s very interesting issue because I think for most of us in the workplace, the idea is that–maybe the idea is that you squashed down your emotions and you do your work and then you some ways you are not yourself in the workplace. There was–actually part of the Next Big Idea Club, which is a book club, which I don’t read nearly as many of them as I should, but one of their recent offerings is called No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work. And that’s by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy‎. And that one gets very much into really being, I think completely at the workplace and recognizing that you need to be able to share your emotions. And I think that’s in some ways it’s a corrective, I think to a lot of the business type writing that’s been out there in terms of what are we supposed to be like in the workplace. We’re supposed to be very just not emotional or just always focusing on work. So I think it’s a really interesting discussion and an interesting thing for a lot of people.

Gabby: Yeah, definitely. That book sounds really interesting. I am going to have to take note of that and read that. It’s something that I’ve thought a lot about. Can we have emotions at work that are appropriate and be more authentic? Rather than squashing them down because everybody knows what happens when you squash down emotions. They are going to bubble up. And I don’t think people at your workplace would like that very much either, if suddenly there was an explosion of emotions that you had been letting pent up, because you weren’t comfortable talking through anything that came up. And I think with emotions and with emotional intelligence also comes empathy. And empathy is very important for interpersonal skills in the workplace, especially if we’re talking about leadership skills. Empathy is one that I feel you must have as a leader; it helps you understand if you have people below you, it helps you relate to them. It helps you put yourself in other people’s shoes so that you are able to do more of this servant leadership style where you’re serving the people under you.

Can we have emotions at work that are appropriate and be more authentic? Because everybody knows what happens when you squash down emotions. They are going to bubble up. @gabbypascuzzi Click To Tweet

Empathy is very important for interpersonal skills in the workplace, especially if we're talking about leadership skills. @gabbypascuzzi Click To Tweet

Empathy helps you put yourself in other people's shoes so that you are able to do more of this servant leadership style where you're serving the people under you. @GabbyPascuzzi Click To Tweet

Gabby: And I know for me, I’m not in a real leadership position in my team. I’m a technical writer. I’m on the same level as a lot of my peers. But for example, in a group discussion, so once every two weeks we have a group meeting where we revisit our style guide and we make decisions on outstanding items where we haven’t come up with a standard for our style, or we revisit past decisions if they’re not working for us. And it’s definitely a group conversation. And I think when you are empathetic, for example, in that situation, you’re able to understand everybody’s viewpoints and listen to each person fairly and not be biased and not take things personally if somebody’s opinion doesn’t agree with yours. So in that kind of situation, empathy really is key.

Ben: And I think that gets back to our comments early on about nonverbal communication. And I’ve just seen too many times somebody gets an email and they read it–I’m assuming they misread it in terms of the emotion or the intent that was behind it. But having that ability to see each other face to face and catch those nuances is critical as well.

Gabby: Definitely. Yeah. So many times things can get misconstrued. And I think if we all just try to remember that most people are coming from a good place and things usually are not personal in the workplace, then hopefully we can avoid some of that. And that also comes with lowering your guard a little bit and not being so on defense. Right? If you’re always playing defense, then you’re possibly going to take things as a personal attack, when really it may have just been somebody posing an alternative and it’s nothing personal against you. And the more empathetic you are able to be, the more open minded and emotionally intelligent that you are, the easier it will be for you to listen to feedback like that and not take it super personally.

The more empathetic, the more open minded and emotionally intelligent that you are, the easier it will be for you to listen to feedback and not take it super personally. @GabbyPascuzzi Click To Tweet

Ben: Yeah, and I think it’s hard. For instance, if I have an idea of doing something in a different way and I’m very, very invested in it and I’m very, very passionate about it, but then it’s not received well, it’s very hard for that not to feel like there’s a personal element there. Mainly because I’ve probably invested too personally in whatever the idea was.

Gabby: I’m definitely guilty of that. Yeah. I’ve seen it go that direction as well. And it’s really hard sometimes to not feel attached to your work because we do care about it so much. And you know that that happens to me even with things as simple as I send things for a peer review and they didn’t like the word I chose. And I’m like, “What do you mean? I really thought about that word.” Because you really have to remind yourself sometimes it’s not personal. If you’re on a team, you’re working together to create the best outcome and there are always going to be differences of opinion.

Ben: Yeah. It’s funny because you’re gonna get that. But that was, what do they, what are they saying about me if they don’t like my word, you know? Yeah. It’s funny. Don’t they appreciate me?

Gabby: Yeah, definitely.

Ben: Gabby, one thing that you had mentioned to me before we started recording today, was this idea of leaning into weakness. And when we had talked about leaning in, you said it wasn’t necessarily in the sense of the book for women in the workplace called Leaning In. Can you expand on that a little bit? What do you mean by leaning in and especially in the leaning into your weaknesses?

Gabby: Yeah, I am very big on this idea of leaning into either what you perceive to be your own weaknesses or what others perceive to be your weaknesses. When I think about the idea of leaning into your weaknesses, I see two halves to this. One is the idea that what people may see as a weakness is not really a weakness. So by leaning into it, you’re really highlighting a strength of yours. So for example, like I mentioned before, as a person myself who is very in tune with her emotions, some people may see that as a weakness. I see it as a strength. So if I know that I can’t really help but be emotional, let me think about how I can use that as a positive influence in the workplace.

Leaning in is the idea that what people may see as a weakness is not really a weakness. So by leaning into it, you're really highlighting a strength of yours. @GabbyPascuzzi Click To Tweet

Gabby: So can I use it to connect with a coworker that is having a bad day? And I’m able to empathize with them and we’re able to talk and, and I help then refocus is, is it possible for me to use my emotions, my emotional intelligence to have a tough conversation with a manager about a culture problem that I see that needs to be addressed that I noticed because I’m in tune with my emotions. So I think when you lean into something that is supposedly a weakness, it actually might highlight it as a strength.

Gabby: The other half of it is leaning into weaknesses, meaning things that you are not very naturally skilled at. So I really feel like sometimes we get so obsessed with “What is your strength?,” “What are your strengths, what are your strengths? “And that’s great. We should also be doing jobs that highlight our strengths. However, you don’t want to become so scared of leaving your comfort zone that you never try anything new. For example, if I am scared of public speaking and I consider that a weakness of mine, what if you really tried to lean into that and signed up for a toastmasters club or went to a public speaking class or volunteered to lead the next meeting that your team was having? If you really try to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and do things that make you uncomfortable, I wonder if you might discover that it’s not as big of a weakness as you may have thought.

Click To Tweet

If you really try to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and do things that make you uncomfortable, I wonder if you might discover that it's not as big of a weakness as you may have thought. @GabbyPascuzzi Click To Tweet

Ben: Well, I think you also have the perception when looking at someone who’s been speaking for a while, that they’ve always been a good speaker. And I think realizing that it is a process. And it’s a learning process and that goes from everything from initial podcasts as opposed to 20 episodes in, to being willing to speak in front of a team meeting to maybe addressing several hundred people like you did at the STC Honors Event. I think what happens is I think you get more comfortable with it the more often that you do it in that example and I think the leaning into that weakness or knowing it’s something that you want to maybe turn into a strength. I think makes a lot of sense.

Gabby: Yeah, I definitely agree. We really have to remember that not everybody–actually, nobody started out as an expert and you really are just doing yourself a disservice if you write yourself off, and say, “Nope, I can’t do that. That’s a weakness. I don’t do that. I’ve never done that. And I never will do that,” because you don’t know if you may have more of a skill there then you thought or just that you’re able to improve from where you were at one point.

Click To Tweet

Ben: Well that’s awesome. I think there’s some very good things here. And Gabby, I’d like to thank you for being on the podcast and I’m looking forward to our next time together and we will, I promise our listeners, we will talk about Survivor.

Extras

Survivor Profile

Gabby Pascuzzi on Survivor


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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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