The word is insecure, and insecure is the feeling…
But "insecure" is not to be confused with the word, "unsecure," which is more commonly referenced in the hallowed cubicles and data centers of IT. There are differences between these two words, even though both can strike fear in the hearts of IT professionals and lead to long sleepless nights. While unsecure is often used as a classification at the technical or physical level, insecure can lift an IT professional’s anxiety level even higher.
You see… we feel that we can keep IT “stuff” like hardware and software and code under our control. And when we have our hardware, software, and code running like a well-oiled machine, we feel as if we are masters of our domain. But technologies always change, and they change fast. And each technology exists on its own lifecycle and those lifecycles are never in sync. So, while we feel that we are the proverbial masters, the cold reality is that we are the mouse running on the wheel. Always upgrading, always replacing, always patching, always fixing… sprinting as fast as we can only to be in the same place. This revelation dawns on every IT pro at some point in their career. And when it does, the internal dialogue begins:
“Did I make a mistake choosing Support as a career path over Development? Should I have gotten more industry certs? Should I have gotten/finished my degree instead of pursuing all those certs? Should I study Agile, ITIL, DevOps? How do I keep up with OS, Applications, Network, Security, and everything else? After all these years of hard work and dedication, will I end up being laid off?” And so on…
And inevitably (for many), the internal question during the darkest of nights: “Will I be exposed that I don’t know as much as I say and be viewed a fraud?”
These moments are the blossoms, the fruits, of feeling insecure. Alas, the insecurity of an IT professional. While being unsecure is being vulnerable to attack, being insecure can be vulnerable to yourself, specifically with self-doubt. No IT professional is immune to these insecure episodes because insecurity is a part of human nature. I know that during my IT career I’ve had several insecure episodes myself.
There are a thousand ways to respond to these episodes and they cover the spectrum from healthy to self-destructive. To do nothing to improve yourself, your skills, and your situation are examples of self-destructive responses that only feed the feelings of insecure. To improve your skills, to mentor others, or to use your feelings of insecurity as motivation to reach your career goals are examples of healthy responses. So where would you rate your responses on the spectrum? I have been all over.
Insecure/Insecurity is attributed as being a negative personality trait, but I disagree. I believe it to be a healthy component of human nature. And in some circumstances, insecurity has driven people to be the absolute best in their field: athletes, musicians, actors, leaders, politicians, and so on. The challenge of tough problems, the obstacles to overcome, the desire to help others and be hailed as heroes, drive us to be better at what we do. A recipe of desire, focus, Insecure feelings/insecurity, opportunity, failure, persistence, and even luck, can lead to great accomplishments. Learn to embrace and harness those feelings and put them to good use for you. You will then be master of your domain.