Embrace Your Imposter Syndrome

BY Martin Eriksson and James Gadsby Peet ON NOVEMBER 2, 2018

Martin Eriksson opened #mtpcon London 2018 – the world’s largest conference for passionate product people – by telling us that despite all he’s achieved, he feels like a fraud. This Imposter Syndrome is a deep fear of being exposed as someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, despite their position in the world.

Imposter Syndrome isn’t unique to product people, but we suffer from it more than most because we are generalists in a world full of specialists. We work with developers, user researchers, data scientists, and a host of other experts every single day. It’s only natural that we should feel like the dumbest people in the room.

Martin Eriksson #mtpcon London 2018

But for Martin, being the odd one out is also a product manager’s greatest strength, and one we need to embrace. He shared how previous #mtpcon speakers have touched on the same subject. In 2015 Ken Norton spoke about how product managers can learn a lot from how jazz musicians approach their craft – like Jazz musicians we have to get uncomfortable. Last year Janice Fraser talked about how in order to innovate, we have to end our addiction to being right – because being the awkward one in the room asking all the questions is actually more valuable than having all the answers. And a few years ago Tim Harford argued that this frustration actually makes us more creative – because “the sheer awkwardness of dealing with the gooseberry in the room” leads to better discussions and better outcomes. It turns out that diversity of thought and fresh perspectives lead to better decisions.

Martin Eriksson #mtpcon 2018 Greatest Strength

This openness to new ideas and new ways of thinking is important because product management, designing software, even building hardware, are all so new, and we’re all working it out as we go. And because any meaningful innovation crosses so many disciplines, it’s important that we’re able to come together in a safe space like #mtpcon to share ideas and experiences. Being an imposter is more important than ever, says Martin, because as imposters we know we don’t know everything, we know we’re here to disrupt the status quo, to figure out new ways to do things, and to ask why.

So embrace the awkward. Embrace your imposter syndrome, and use it to bridge the disciplines and build products people love.

Martin Eriksson

About

Martin Eriksson

Martin Eriksson has 20+ years experience building world-class online products in both corporate and start-up environments for global brands such as Monster, Financial Times, Huddle, and Covestor. He is the Founder of ProductTank, the Co-Founder and Curator of Mind the Product, and an Executive in Residence at leading private equity and venture capital fund EQT. He is also the author of best-seller Product Leadership, How Top Product Leaders Launch Great Products and Build Successful Teams (O'Reilly, 2017).

James Gadsby Peet

About

James Gadsby Peet

I've been in the digital industry for over 10 years and have worked across small and large charities, as well as my own freelance projects. I am now Director of Digital at the sector leading creative agency William Joseph. Having been at Cancer Research UK for the last four years, I have been able to work on high volume, high profile campaigns such as Race for Life, Dryathlon and the much-quoted #nomakeupselfie. In that time I helped drive forward the charity’s digital product and marketing capabilities to be some of the most respected and successful in the sector. I'm always excited to work with other organisations, share expertise and swap cat gifs. Give me a shout!

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