At the end of 2020, my employer announced its intent to establish a Customer Success discipline within our Commercial organization, and the first step would be internally filling a VP position to establish and lead this new function. Essentially, the opportunity I was working so hard to capture, suddenly was right in front of me.
And then, while looking at the possibility of my “dream role” square in the eye, I paused and the questions started to churn.
I burned out for a variety of reasons 3 years ago. Can I better manage myself so I don’t hit a point of burnout again? I think so…I’ve learned a lot over the past couple years.
Do I really think I’m the best person for the job? I don’t know… I think I have strengths to bring to this role. Why don’t I just totally overthink it and create a 10 slide PowerPoint presentation to lay out my viewpoint on how I can drive customer success at Catalina.
How will I feel if I apply and don’t get the job? More importantly, how will I feel if I don’t even try?
After some debate with my own thoughts, I ultimately decided to apply. Not long after, I was offered the position, successfully securing a role I had aspired and worked to attain for years.
When email went out to the company announcing my promotion, I was overwhelmed and humbled at the reaction from coworkers. The messages that caught me off-guard were from fellow women “lifers’ who said they were proud of me. I realized that working my way up from an individual contributor in 2001 to a VP in 2020 was not only a success for me but encouraging for others as well.
My success was an affirmation that “lifers” could experience growth, recognition and professional excellence without moving from company to company. I share all of this, not to say how wonderful and deserving I am of this new role, but to give context for what happened next.
I freaked out.
Before I went to bed the day I was promoted, little doubts started creeping in.
You’ve never done Customer Success before. How do you plan to lead through this change?
There’s so much to do. Where are you going to start?
Wait…what??? You don’t even know where to start?
What about those people who said they were proud of you? What are they going to think when you fail? You’re going to make it harder for others to get promoted from within.
By the end of the first week, I was exhausted from the effort of trying to appear confident and competent through various meetings and conversations about my new role. I was so buried in self-doubt that I had no creative energy left to build anything. Which, of course, only escalated the voices in my head telling me I was going to fail and let all these people down.
Over the weekend, I was asking myself, “What is wrong with you? Why are you doing this to yourself?” So, like I do for every self-diagnosis, I Googled. After hitting search on “feeling not good enough at work,” the first article that came back mentioned this thing called “Imposter Syndrome.” It struck a chord, so I read. And I kept reading.
After about 30 minutes of scrolling through articles and LinkedIn posts about Imposter Syndrome, I was incredibly relieved. I wasn’t crazy! This happens to other people too! So, why was this the first time I heard about it?
Probably because part of the lie of Imposter Syndrome is that you can’t admit to it, because what if that negative voice is right?
Overall, just realizing that I wasn’t alone made me feel so much better. However, this isn’t a “diagnose and fix” kind of thing. I’ve struggled with this for years, and I will continue to, even now that I’ve achieved my “dream level” professionally. However, I did learn some strategies that I’ve started applying when I catch those doubts and insecurities building up again.
Recognizing negative thoughts for what they are and interrupting myself can keep that anxiety from building. One LinkedIn interview went so far as to name the nag inside her head, making it easier to talk back. I decided to name my nag Angie. “Wow. You didn’t think of that yet? Why don’t you have a plan for this? You have so many blind spots… WAIT. Angie, cut the crap.”
2. Reframe it.
Because “Angie” can make a pretty compelling case, it’s important to build a counterargument. “Right. I didn’t have a plan for this, and I do have blind spots. That’s why I’m building this new function out in the open, bringing in people who are closest to the work to help. I’ve led major changes to improve things for our customers before, and I will work to earn the trust of this team.”
3. Own it.
I’ve started to discuss these feelings with my inner circle. I’ve found that often, just airing out these sentiments helps me be more self-aware. When I encounter feelings of self-doubt, I actively remind myself of why I was chosen for this role. Maybe I wasn’t chosen for my Customer Success credentials (I’m building them as I go), but I have a proven track record of leading change with my company and I have also been passionate about being a culture carrier with various teams I’ve led, and those capabilities will be critical to our success with this transformation.
Another part of “owning it” for me, was hesitantly offering to write a first-hand testimonial on this topic when I was talking with Melissa Ledesma about how passionate I am about the WOM mission to amplify women in our industry. Her reaction confirmed that I am not alone, and it might be helpful for others to see that they’re not alone either.
In the words of Judy Blume, “Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.”