Impostor Syndrome

As I am settling into my new role at MathWorks, I wanted to take a look back at my job search and touch on the subject of impostor syndrome.  I learned about this topic as I was examining my reaction to any number of application rejections during my hunt.  I didn’t know it at the time, but being denied employment led me to doubt my talents and accomplishments in a manner that felt real and genuine.  I felt like a fraud or perhaps that as a leader, my team had done all the work and I had stood idly by.  These feelings can occur at any time and have a name: impostor syndrome.

There has been a ton of scholarly work done on this topic and I’m not here to explain in detail what it is, why it is, how it is etc etc.  This post is going to focus on how I experienced imposter syndrome and the effect it had on me during my job search.  Most importantly, I believe, I want to touch on the ways in which I climbed out of the self doubt.  Because I believe those techniques were the value I gained from the experience.

Finding a job is not easy.  Or, more succinctly, finding the right job is not easy.  Lets be honest that, regardless of how well the economy is doing, finding the right fit in tech is difficult.  For me, “fit” was defined as a culture that I wanted to be part of (as defined here).  I had applied to all sorts of companies: exclusively remote startups, public big tech, privately held, higher education, small, large etc.  And I was rejected by all sorts of companies.  And I was ignored by all sorts of companies – not hearing back after applying to a job you really want is the worst!  All of that rejection mounts and you begin to doubt yourself.  I can’t tell you how many times I read back through my resume, scanned old home directories, and wondered what I had actually done.  Was I the one who delivered that project or was it really the team?  Did I deserve that bonus or award or was it really my peers?  Why did I never get that cert – could I really pass the test?  Should I list that skill set on my resume?  All of this self questioning isn’t all that healthy and was more than a little depressing.  Some introspection is certainly warranted – especially being truthful on how you present your professional experience – but going overboard was hard for me to avoid.

Three techniques helped me to turn my brain around when I recognized it was going down an unhealthy path:

Keep digging through your old work.  While a cursory analysis might yield questions around my contribution, further digging solidified the work I had done.  As I dove deeper into projects and forced myself to remember the details, I was able to assign deliverables / outcomes to my own work.  And then I wrote it down.  This log proved very helpful for phone screens as I had a very clear picture of the work I had contributed.

Talk to professional acquaintances.  As you are networking, you will be having professional conversations outside of the pressure of a job interview.  These are very helpful in that they give you a chance to outline what you’re looking for and what your experience is.  They give you practice and help to reinforce your confidence as you’re able to answer the questions that come at you.  You can’t control how many phone screens you get but you can control how much you network.  Run through LinkedIn and reconnect with old colleagues.

Talk to your support network.  You’re not alone in your job hunt.  You have a whole team rooting for you.  Family, friends, old co-workers are valuable sources of encouragement or (sometimes better yet) distraction in your job search.  Seeking some positive reinforcement is not a bad thing and can make that rejection email sting a little less.

These techniques worked for me but everyone is different, ymmv.  Believe in yourself and your accomplishments.  You earned it.

Do you have any insight into imposter syndrome or techniques for combating it?  Please leave your thoughts in a comment.

Thanks
Chris

The Culture I’m Looking For

As I continue my job search, I’ve realized that a culture fit is the most important thing for me.  I have seen bad cultures, cultures that have soured over time, and best of all, great cultures.  I have a good idea of what I want, and what I want to avoid.  I’m very open with potential employers when I speak with them.  I have two basic requirements: a culture fit and a smart team doing interesting work.  I’d like to use this post to dive into the first.  Culture can mean many things and is one of the more subjective aspects of a company.  This list are the traits of what I consider an awesome culture.

Transparency

A good culture is transparent from top to bottom.  Decision makers should expect to explain why a decision was made.  Dictating direction without context should be avoided.  People shouldn’t be intentionally excluded from conversations and instead should be intentionally included.  Don’t fear disagreement.  This approach creates engaged employees who buy in, even if they don’t necessarily agree in the conclusion.  Keeping the process above board and out in the open is critical.

Trust

Team members must trust each other.  This trust manifests itself in a number of ways.  One way I always look for is how team members comment on their peers’ work.  Does the recipient respond angrily or dismiss the critique?  Is the critic genuinely looking to improve the solution or is he undermining the author?  Trust is required in both directions – the critic needs to trust the author will listen and the author needs to trust the critic’s intent.    

Growth

There must be opportunity within the team.  Emphasis should be placed on both technical and soft skill growth.  Leadership opportunities should be provided as often as possible.  A manager’s focus should be making her team successful.  Success should be measured not only in project deliverables but also in employee growth.  Teams that focus only on business outcomes will falter and lose people.  Individuals need to see growth and opportunity to stick around.

Collaboration

The team needs to work well together.  A collection of individuals working in silos never results in a high performing team.  Similarly, teams working in silos never result in a high performing organization.  We’ve all seen examples of fiefdoms in our professional lives; people who wrap their arms around “their stuff” and guard the walls.  That never makes for a healthy team.  Instead teams should work openly with adjacent orgs.  Trust that the best solutions will result from including others.

Accountability

Team members should expect to be held accountable.  Being held accountable doesn’t mean being flogged for failures.  It means that people take responsibility and learn from their mistakes.  It also means that leaders learn from missteps, better understanding how to position the team for success.  The team tries to do better the next time, constantly evolving and improving.  In the extreme, low performers are managed out and are not allowed to hold the team back.

These are the traits I’m looking for in a company culture.  These are also the qualities I try to instill in the teams I manage.  I believe they are critical regardless of the work we’re doing.  These are attributes of highly successful teams but aren’t easy to foster.  As a leader you must demonstrate them consistently and make sure your team is overtly aware.  If you are trusting someone, tell them.  If you have expectations, tell them.  If you’ve failed, tell them.

So how do I figure out company culture in an interview?

It is very hard to assess these qualities during the interview process.  These are some of the questions I use to suss it out:

What is the culture of the team?

Go after it directly.  If the interviewer stumbles or can’t describe it, red flag.

Is there someone who has left recently because they weren’t a culture fit?

Pay attention to why the person wasn’t a fit.  Is the interviewer factual or subjective in responding?  A response without emotional judgement is a good sign.

How does the team make decisions?

1:1 with an individual contributor?  Peer discussions?  This one speaks to collaboration.

Can you tell me about someone who has advanced her career here or elsewhere as a result of coaching?

Speaks to growth.  A good manager will be happy for someone who grows, even if it means it is somewhere else.  Sometimes there simply isn’t internal opportunity (for a management role as an example).


Do you have other cultural traits you look for?  Let me know in the comments!

Thanks
Chris

Continuing My Search

It has been about a month since my last post and my job search is ongoing.  I have gotten on site interviews and phone screens at a number of places.  Some of the roles have been very exciting, others not so much.  The hunt has become a bit monotonous so I figured I would take a break and recount some observations I’ve made.  Looking for a job is hard.  When it gets me down, these are some of the techniques I leverage to give me a boost.

The wheels of talent acquisition turn slowly

This has been perhaps the single most frustrating piece of the process.  Resumes submitted to a job posting get tossed into a black hole.  People take weeks to get back to you, if they ever reply at all.  As a candidate, this is possibly the first interaction you’ve had with the internal workings of a company and it normally doesn’t leave a good impression.  I have taken to finding folks with “recruiter” or “talent” in their title on LinkedIn.  I’ll write a quick note asking for more information on the role I have applied for.  More often than not, this gets me past the automated resume screening and to a real person.  From there, interviews take days to set up while you’re sitting at home thinking, “Call me right now, I’m ready!”  Remember that they’re working and have other stuff to do.  Understanding this can help relieve the frustration you’re bound to feel.

Keep learning professionally

You can’t surf Indeed and LinkedIn all day every day.  You can’t apply to jobs, tune your resume, and write cover letters from dawn to dusk.  Take a break and keep your skills sharp.  I’ve found Udemy to be a great resource for some cheap training.  I’ve completed a course on Kubernetes and am in the middle of a course on Python.  I’ve also completed a professional certification: Amazon Web Services Cloud Practitioner.  All are associated with my skillset, but only the AWS cert was based on professional experience.  The other two are totally new topics to me and gave my brain something else to focus on while rounding out my knowledge.  Searching for a job is draining and having a distraction for your mind is important.

Keep learning personally

Lounging about is fun and while I certainly do that on occasion, I try to focus on keeping active.  Whatever your passions, devote time to them with intention.  While being unemployed sucks, it is also a time of freedom.  I’ve picked up a new hobby, a vegetable garden, and spent extra time with my chickens and bees.  I also brew beer and work on my 1979 Land Cruiser.  I’ve learned a bunch on small engine repair (my lawnmower busted) and have dropped a few trees that were over shading the backyard.  The last one wasn’t a passion exactly but who doesn’t like using power tools?  You have the time to pursue your passions – do it!

Don’t lose heart

A job hunt can be depressing.  There’s no way getting around it – the majority of places you apply will reject you.  Sometimes you’ll understand why, sometimes you won’t.  It is important to remember that it isn’t personal.  Employers don’t know you well enough and make decisions based on your CV or a LinkedIn profile.  You can’t let it get you down.  I’ve been rejected from ~20 roles at this point, about twice a week.  I wasn’t all that jazzed about all of them but there were certainly some I was excited about.  It is really hard to be told “no” over and over again.  But I know the right role will come along and I’ll be better for it.  As I said in my last post, I can’t settle.

You can review my LinkedIn profile here:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/christopherhendrick/

Do you have some other suggestions for keeping positive during a job search?  Please leave them in the comments below!

Thanks
Chris

On The Job Hunt

I’m about a month into my active job search and it is interesting to say the least.  I was prepared for this task as I left DellEMC voluntarily and had many weeks of hiking to figure out what I wanted to do next (of course, I didn’t).  This wasn’t a surprise for me an yet, I’ve found my job search to be very challenging.  I’m not all that experienced in selling myself to complete strangers.  It isn’t a skill I’ve acquired in my career.  And that makes it intimidating for me.  That said, the last few weeks have taught me a lot about finding a job and while I haven’t landed anywhere yet, I’m confident in my approach.  I’m using this post to share what I’ve learned thus far.

I have never really had to look for a job in the past.  My first position at Genzyme was an intern to perm offer with little in the way of interviews because I had proven my skills doing the job.  For my second role at EMC, a recruiter found me.  Sure I had to interview but I didn’t need to generate interest.  That came without me trying, which was nice!  I’m in new territory and am learning as I go.  The following are a few techniques that I’ve started to employ.  It is too early to say whether or not they are successful but I’m hopeful.  In no particular order…

Leverage Your Network

At one of the resources I have used, workitdaily.com, founder J. T. O’Donnell states, “Your network is your net worth” for a job search.  I believe this is the case and you need to take time to cultivate those relationships.  I am very confident that my next role will come from someone I know personally rather than a random recruiter seeing my profile on LinkedIn.  I’ve reached out to a lot of folks I know in the IT industry and have asked them about their current or past employers.  I’m trying to get a sense of the cultures within these companies before I even start to investigate potential opportunities.  It’s critical to have these conversations for a couple reasons.  First, you get an insider perspective rather than the /whoweare page on the company’s website.  Second, and probably more importantly, informs the second item on my list.

Know What You Want

It is critical to have a good understanding of what your goals are.  These could be excitement and pace, visibility, salary, location, color of the company logo – whatever is important to you.  For me the culture of my new organization is critical.  I have left both of my previous jobs in large part because the culture evolved into something that didn’t align with my values.  Full disclosure, I went through two acquisitions – you can read more about those in this post.  Because of those experiences, I know how critical culture is to my personal job satisfaction.  That puts culture high on the list of things I need to investigate and why the conversations with my network are so important.  But culture isn’t the only thing on the list.  There are other considerations that will be different for each of us.  It’s important to know what you’re looking for before you can find it.

Be Kind To Yourself

A job search can be frustrating.  You’re forced to put yourself out there in hopes that people will like what they see enough to want to talk to you.  And then you’ll have to convince even more people to want to work with you.  This will all take weeks and months longer than it should (be better corporate hiring process) and it will weigh on you.  I’ve found that I need to take time for myself.  I don’t look for a job 8+ hours a day.  Finding a job isn’t my job – I don’t really enjoy it.  So I’ve got a lot of other things I’m doing.  I’ve started a vegetable garden, hang out with my chickens and ducks, tend my bees, and got my old FJ40 (1979 Toyota Land Cruiser) street legal again.  I’m also volunteering, brewing beer, and watching all the crappy action movies I can find on Netflix.  Whatever you do for a hobby or to pass the time, please do it even more as you’re looking for a job.  This hunt is terribly stressful and I need to find joy elsewhere.

Don’t Settle

As my job search lengthens, I know that my instinct will be to take the first offer that comes along.  I have a family to support and as a single income provider, that pressure is all too real.  But I need to resist that temptation because I know that if I get into position where I’m not happy at work, I won’t be happy at home.  So in the short term, the finances will be better but in the long term, I won’t be any happier.  I need to make sure that the next role I take aligns with what I want in many dimensions, not simply the salary.

So those are some of the things I’ve learned on my job search thus far.  I’m sure new insights will come to light as time passes but that’s where I am a month in.  I hope you’ve found it useful.  If you’d like to connect to discuss in more detail, please find me via my LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christopherhendrick/

Chris

Back From My Career Break

One of the hardest things I have ever done in my career is handing in my resignation to DellEMC.  I didn’t leave for another position but rather to hike the Appalachian Trail.  I departed work on April 6, 2018 to pursue an item on my bucket list.  I left behind a team that I adored.  They were vibrant, smart, motivated, and kind – best of all, they put up with me!  Saying goodbye on that team call was very emotional and heartfelt.  But, truly, I would do it all again.

I have been working for nearly 20 years in IT and have held positions with only two different companies.  I suppose it is four if you count being acquired – Genzyme by Sanofi and EMC by Dell.  In my experience, staying for long periods of time within organizations is rare in the technology industry.  Folks seem to move around a lot.  I stay put because I like to cultivate relationships.  The bonds of a team don’t form in a year or two and I believe that as a leader, you need to be in it for the long haul.  These relationships are what made leaving so difficult.  But it was something I needed to do.  I felt burnt out, stressed, and wasn’t able to give my best to the job anymore.  For a lot of reasons, a simple vacation wasn’t the answer.  I had tried that and couldn’t get the fire back.  I owed better to my team.  A change was needed and a drastic one at that.  I needed to take a break from working, a break without worrying about returning to a job.  I tried to get a Leave of Absence / Sabbatical but that didn’t work out.  At that point, I decided to resign.  For why I chose to hike the AT, you can check out this post on midlifehiker.com.  Suffice to say, for the first time in my professional life, I was unemployed.

And now I am back.  I cut my hike short because being away from my family proved to be more painful than the joy hiking brought me.  I hiked the southern half of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to the West Virginia / Maryland border.  I learned a lot about myself in those 1000+ miles.  I believe I have returned a better father, husband, and person.  Being free from the responsibilities of daily life, focusing only on one foot in front of the other, was amazing.  It is easy to get caught up in the frenetic energy that surrounds us – be it work, home, or whatever.  We are generally busy people and slowing down brings that chaos into focus.  It allowed me to put everything aside for 10 weeks and just walk.  All I had to worry about was food, water, and where I was going to pitch my tent that night.  I certainly found a lot of other things to worry about, but the simple essentials were what centered me.  I also learned to be grateful for what I had, for others lending me a hand, and for my family and friends for their support.  I didn’t realize the network of care that surrounded me until I had to rely completely upon it.  I learned to be extremely thankful.  All of this has made me more intentional about the balance in my life.

As I return to the workforce, I would like a role working toward an end that I believe in – helping people, solving problems, making a difference in a true and meaningful way.  A company churning out generic widgets to make a buck isn’t for me.  I need an employer that values a balance between work and home.  My family is hugely important to me and I am a devoted father.  I am also a loyal and passionate team member.  I want to bring my rediscovered energy back into my work.  I will run through walls for my team.  I’m hoping to find a role leading a smart group of people doing exciting work in technology.  I am confident in my abilities and know that I will make a positive impact on any organization that I join.  If you believe I might be a fit for a role you have, I would love to speak with you.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/christopherhendrick/

– Chris

I’m Hiring!

I’m hiring a Manager to lead a team of very talented cloud / virtualization engineers!  The team provides cloud-based solutions internally to EMC Engineering, Pre-Sales, and other constituents. Please take a look and send me a note if you’d like to discuss the position in more detail.   
Job Title: Manager, Cloud Engineering – Platform Engineering
Job Location: US – Massachusetts – Hopkinton


The Manager, Cloud Engineering – Platform Engineering position is accountable for managing a distributed team that provides virtualization and orchestration engineering for Common Engineering Cloud, our internal cloud service for Engineering, Sales, and other functions. This includes working with leading-edge technologies to proactively maintain a world-class cloud environment that meets the needs of the EMC. This position will participate in strategy formation but also in the tactical activities of the team as well, so strong technical qualifications are necessary. 

 
This position reports to the Senior Manager of the Cloud Engineering Team. 
 
Job Responsibilities:
• Supervise a team of eight engineers who are distributed globally
• Align group with overall strategy created in partnership with the rest of the Cloud Engineering team – in particular, Software Engineering
• Maintain relationship with the Cloud Operations organization, ensuring successful transition of support for new services / technologies
• Measurement and reporting of service demand / consumption – leading to proper capacity planning
• Maintain and continually improve Cloud Engineering’s services
• Provide cloud expertise, best practices, and assistance to content developers and Cloud Operations
 
Qualifications:
• Fluent English language skills (written and verbal) 
• University Degree with a major in Computer Science or equivalent
• 2+ years in a management position or equivalent experience
• 6+ years, detailed experience in VMware virtualization deployments
• Familiarity with DevOps and experience in a DevOps culture a big plus 
• VCP certification required
• In depth knowledge of vSphere, vRA, vCD, and NSX required
• In depth knowledge of storage technologies (EMC a plus)
• In depth knowledge of networking (Cisco primarily)
• Working knowledge of ITIL and its implementation in the production environment (certification a plus)
• Working knowledge of SQL Server / database technologies
• Working knowledge Windows and Linux
• Working knowledge of Docker a plus but not required
• Working knowledge of 3rd party clouds – AWS, Azure, etc.
• Ability to work in a global team environment with participatory decision-making
 
Job ID: 163233BR

Click to Apply