The Excited Imposter
On battling imposter syndrome in the workplace, by Thiruvikraman Srinivasaraghavan, Visualizer
Now, why is an automobile engineering graduate working at Dentsu Webchutney, making flat illustrations for Uber, when he could be making their electric cars?
I wish the answer to that could be a single sentence and not this medium writeup, but it (un)fortunately is. While studying Automobile engineering, we made formula cars that ran on f1 circuits, and we made fun go-karts, scooters and ATVs. We built machines that gave us a thrill. But, I’ll be lying if I say I’m less thrilled when my illustrations go live, and people react to them.
For a passion-driven illustrator like me, it’s not that I get a call from Somay appreciating my talent and an offer when there are plenty of professional illustrators who don’t have to wait for inspiration to kick in to work on projects every day. I was very excited to start my work here. Especially being mentored by Shreya, who was already my inspiration — even before I worked on designs as a professional. It was my dream run.
But as I was observing the splendid work being done around me, something slowly kicked itself in. A voice perhaps, questioning if I’m up to the mark, and do I really deserve to be here. And, instead of looking for what’s special in me, that was noticed, I was searching for what was expected of me.
Sometimes, when I can’t crack a visual or face creative block, it hits me even harder that I didn’t land here with the required prep, like an art school program. I might have a good eye for clean and functional visuals, but I kept convincing myself that this is insignificant and very different from what a 3 or 4-year art program would equip me with.
This version of my imposter syndrome has always been present, no matter what. But, over the past 4 months here, I’ve been fortunate enough to have some great conversations with some great people to help keep it at bay and do my work with confidence.
So if you’ve been there, where when you’re told you’re doing a good job, you only doubt yourself and question why you even deserve a spot here, then here are my few pakodas to help you keep those thoughts at bay. Grab a cup of coffee, going ahead.
- It’s perfectly fine if you don’t know anything about compositions. Just observe Shreya’s posters as I did. If you understand how colours are used to imply depth from Anandhi, you’re GTG. I noticed the amazing work Vaibhav or Kunal were doing for Google and how that team worked as a unit. And, it was interesting to see KP and Vanya do really cool illustrations for kormo. So, learning from fellow creative minds is really helpful.
- If you don’t know what you’ve done better than the rest to deserve a spot here, maybe it’s because you weren’t afraid to step out and explore new boundaries. Be proud and trust the process!
- Don’t blame yourself for wasting a few years, studying something else and working in a different arena, if you love both what you studied and what you do. Be kind to yourself.
- Nothing helps as much as humble self-appreciation and supportive friends & colleagues, like how Somay and Johnny keep supporting me, no matter what. Especially during these difficult times. Speak with them, get to know their process and explore!
- Embrace the syndrome. In a way, it drives you to learn quickly and adapt well.