Modern Admin or an Imposter?

I’ve been thinking about this blog for a while. It’s a bit different and has been quite difficult to write. I hope by sharing this, I can thank those who have held up the mirrors which have helped me appreciate my own skills fully and that it will help someone else on an upskilling journey.

It’s no secret that many of feel we don’t deserve to be where we are. So many of us it has a name “Imposter Syndrome” and it’s on virtually every tech conference agenda.

After school, came university then teacher training. I loved the idea of teaching, but the reality just didn’t suit my personality and I struggled with the crowd control aspects. Somehow I ended up working in an IT consultancy and that led me to delivering training on Microsoft Office. I did OK, but wasn’t really very technically competent. Working for and passing the Microsoft Office User Specialist (MOUS) exams was to increase my knowledge but also set me on the path of looking for the next thing to learn and the next exam to aim for. Back in 2011 as it launched, I was introduced to Office 365 and another set of skills and certifications to aim for.

This is where my imposter syndrome really began. I was soon delivering SharePoint Admin courses and gradually moving into Office 365 Admin training. I’d never managed a Windows Server, Active Directory meant nothing and as for network protocols, well least said the better.

So I worked for the Microsoft 365 certifications, continued delivering the training, always got good results in both, but still felt that a little like I was in danger of slipping up. Without being conceited, I really was doing a good job and worked hard to keep doing so, but I still FELT like an imposter. It wasn’t a quick process, I got my M365 Expert certification early in 2019.

Fast forward to 2020. I was more confident – after all my work diary was full and I was still getting great feedback, plus adding more qualifications to my bag and in attending conferences realising just how much I really did know.

Then along came COVID! The pandemic gave me the opportunity to spend more time on social media and to socialise more with others in cloud computing & training (albeit virtually). To be fair, some of these people have been telling me for a while I had nothing to worry about.

However, it wasn’t what people said, it was what they did and this is the point I wanted to make. People started asking me for help, coming to me to help solve issues and answer questions. As I had time to help, they kept coming back. They showed respect for my knowledge in a way I could not miss. It wasn’t just the words, it was the actions. Plus, not only did I still get work bookings but I actually had successes and, on the whole, a really good year.

So if you feel like an imposter, look at what your customers, colleagues, contacts and bosses ask of you. Do they keep coming back? Do they believe in you? That’s the clue, no-one would keep coming back for more if you really were an imposter. Yes, sometimes you may have to scrabble and work a little harder than they may assume you’d need to deliver. For me, working in an area where things change everyday, I recognise that it’s impossible to know everything new instantly and sometimes things change and you miss the announcement, even experts sleep!

So next steps. Are you starting to believe you are no longer the imposter? Great, go and look for your uniqueness. What is it about you which helps you do such a good job? Find it, nurture it, shout about it and play to it.

For me, the modern approach to administration, coming direct to cloud, means I know which of the traditional skills Microsoft 365 administrator need to know and which are clutter. This helps me to focus on the essentials, a real plus when training such a big topic. This is the same thing that I thought made me an imposter, but in reality it give me a facet which is a strength for me.

For those battling imposter syndrome, my advice? Don’t give up working on your skills and knowledge, but also consider why you are in this position. I’d be willing to bet you were asked to do a presentation, passed an interview, … basically they believe in you, so you should too and until then trust them.

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