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Day 3 - Insecure

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.

61 Comments
Level 11

You can become insecure when your identity has been taken and your access has been diminished.

Nice write up tinmann0715​, that is exactly where I am at now. My wife wants to move from this place. Which means I need to find a new job. So all of those insecurities are ringing true for me right now.

At the same time I recall a conversation when I was in the Air Force about how fighter jets are very dependent up their thrust to stay in the air, unlike the good old C-130s. It was the fighters' very instability that made them such a dynamic force in air combat. It makes me look at the instability of what I know in IT and feel comfortable with that. While it may make me insecure, if I apply the correct amount of thrust to stay in it, I can keep flying in the very dynamic career of IT professional.

Level 7

Don't let your fear or insecurity prevents you from exploring new things.

Level 9

An insecure person is always chasing the spotlight while a confident person is always chased by the spotlight.

Level 8

Confidence is silent, insecurities are LOUD

Level 7

Whenever you feel unloved, unimportant or insecure, remember to whom you belong

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Level 17

Believe it or not, there's probably a bigger security issue in your office than the the lax use of 2fa by colleagues using remote services; the lack of VPN usage by mobile workers, or the poor password habits of... well, just about everyone.

The bigger security issue I'm talking about is personal security. No, not the swipe pattern on your cell phone, your feeling of security when it comes to your work, your career, and your interaction with peers.

I get it. From time to time, everyone feels like we're not living up to our potential, or that those around us are achieving way more than we have. But those short-term doubts are natural. Working in I.T. means being in a near-constant state of learning something new, which means feeling like you don't know enough, which means there's the risk of feeling like were hopelessly behind. Again, it's all normal.

But sometimes we fall into a rut, or have learned bad habits, or just never had someone give us the honesty we needed to address long-term insecurity. So... as hard as it is, I want to talk about ways WE can self-identify if we're exhibiting these behaviors.

And full disclosure - I'm as guilty as anyone of these. So consider this comment to be part of my committment to self-reflect and prepare to do better next year.

You need to be right. All. The. Time.

We're in I.T. We're paid for being accurate, informed, and correct. We love our data (as sqlrockstar says, "Maybe a little too much."). But if you find that being wrong causes you to feel mild (or maybe not so mild) panic, it's time to check yourself. Remember that secure, successful people not only don't mind being wrong, they see it as a good thing. It means you are learning and growing.

or, as jbiggley says, "If you are the smartest person in the room, it's time to find another room."

Here I come to save the day!!

Do you enter a room like a nuclear firestorm? Do people leave you status update until last because they know you won't pass the "talking stick"? Do you jump into projects with both feet, excited to have the chance to share your experience and skills but without taking even a hot minute to hear what everyone else has been doing or thinks? Have you ever started working a job knowing you needed to "fake it till ya make it" and never gotten out of that mode?

Yeah, me too.

Maybe it comes from being the one who really DID save the day once (or more than once). Again, maybe it comes from being in I.T. where "I don't know but I'll find out" is a state of being.

Whatever it is, if you find yourself making noise or "providing leadership" when deep down you know you don't know, it's time to take a breath. Secure IT pros listen to others, openly recognize their expertise, and demonstrate active learning. Sometimes true technical leadership means asking the dumb/obvious question, knowing that there's a chance some other people in the room are too afraid to do so. Be the noob in room.

Unless it leads to...

Over Deprecation Syndrome

Being humble is good. Being self-deprecating can help others open up and allows teams to get to good ideas faster because nobody is holding back out of fear of embarrassment.

Being overly self-deprecating, which colleagues will suss out over time, makes it sound like you are fishing for compliments, or gauging who is going to rush to your defense. It engenders eye rolls rather than appreciative chuckles.

Confidence can be expressed in many ways. "I've done this type of upgrade a few times, but I still get nervous about it. But I know I'll handle whatever surprises pop up." allows you to express an emotion while also demonstrating your committment to seeing it through. "Believe it or not, that's not how I see myself in my mind's eye" allows you describe anxiousness about a social element without making the listener feel like they have to somehow validate you.

Stars, Stickies, Gee-gaws, and Doo-dads

As someone once said to me, "Show me someone who is motivated by promises of a corner office, and I'll show you someone who won't be happy when they get it."

I'm not saying we don't all work, more or less, for the paycheck. Nor that the goal of career advancement isn't a good one. But if you find that getting the next pay bump, or the next title, or even the next "Team MVP" award is your primary motivation, you may want to ask yourself what that's about. Because "what will make my coworkers stand up and notice me?" may be eclipsing questions which may be harder, but will matter more in the end:

"what is the work that matters?"

"how can I make a difference?"

"is this work serving to help me become a better person?"

Footnote:

In the 1800's most of the Yeshivas (schools of learning) felt that humility was the most essential personal attribute. They would require students to go to the hardware store and ask to buy milk, just so they would learn how to stand up to the derision it engendered.

One yeshiva stood apart in this, and taught "We have never found a student who wasn't able to achieve more than they ever imagined."

Their source for their belief in the vast untapped ability of each person? The story of Jacob and Esau's re-union. Upon seeing each other, Jacob says "When I saw your face it was like seeing the face of God…". Now, we understand that Esau was not exactly a paragon of virtue, so what did Jacob mean by this hyperbole? The scholars answer that even in someone as morally challenged as Esau, we can still find the glimmer of divinity, so how much more so wee who are striving to improve ourselves.

Umm... wow adatole  I'm thinking you had this response locked and loaded for a while. Good stuff!

  Thanks for the post.

Level 17

Actually, this was just my musings from a few minutes ago. I haven't written myself ahead as much as I'd like this month. But thank you all the same!

Insecurity sometimes comes along as part of wisdom and having the humility to know there are things I do not know. Being very confidient about what one knows now, recognizing that it is transient, and that our understanding may change does not make us fearful. But wise enough to recognize this and accept there are gaps in my understanding and that is where insecurity lies.

We have all met folks who suffer from the Dunning–Kruger effect. A cognitive bias wherein people of low ability suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is. Having too much confidence can make you blind to what you do not already know.

Level 14

Found this quote... author unknown... but incredibly true!

Don't let jealousy fool you. It's just another name for insecurity."

MVP
MVP

Admittedly, my initial introduction to a lot of SolarWinds MVPs made me feel pretty insecure - "They know so much more than me! Why am I here?".  Over time however I have realised that this has pushed me to increase my depth of knowledge and that there are times where I have been able to provide assistance to them. We're better as a whole than the individual parts.

Also, I'm pretty sure tomiannelli​ says what I'm thinking but with more eloquence. I seem to be following his posts with "That's what I think as well!"  I might have to keep a tally across the month...

Level 12

Let's Admit it. There is really no 100% security. Most websites are still insecure.

Level 11

I suffer a lot from impostor syndrome, and I'm sure a lot of other people in IT do too.

I feel I got where I am through a bunch of lucky moments and happy accidents, not because of hard work and a willingness to learn.

This makes me insecure out of the box, as I spend too much time worried I'll be "found out" and moved to something less important.

Kind of a problem when you're planning to move more into security!

I'm trying to teach myself that I deserve to be where I am, but it's hard work.

Level 12

Everyone has some sort of insecurity but you must be confident enough to at least try to resolve any type of problem.

Level 10

As you said, insecurity is a symptom of the human condition, and haunts all but the very best and worst of people (see: Dunning-Kruger). For the average Joe on the street, sometimes you have to just accept that we live in an imperfect world and as such will get it wrong from time to time.

And that's where having implemented a solid backup solution comes in handy.

MVP
MVP

The first thing that popped into my head when reading this is "We Bought a Zoo".  I stumbled upon the movie over the weekend.  In it, Matt Damon says that you only need 20 seconds of courage to do great things.  I believe this rings true with the article.  You will never know what you can do unless you let go of all insecurities for 20 seconds and take the next step forward.

Level 12

Insecurity starts when you stop believing in yourself and abilities or you stop trying to succeed even after failing to achieve your goal(s).

Level 10

insecurities often limit ones ability to reach full potentials!

MVP
MVP

In society security has become about feelings. We don't want to be offended or have anyone challenge our thoughts or beliefs.

In IT security is about protection. Protection is fact based. Did someone steal your data - try telling the CEO about how the data wasn't stolen it was released as a form of free expression and love and we should all be happy for the data as it is exploring it's new experiences. Well and good, now your data is happy, but your reputation is crushed, your business is folding and you are looking for work.

So what is insecure - vulnerability - the position of possible attack, damage or hurt. It's there no matter how hard we try. The bottom line is to mitigate what you can and accept what you cannot mitigate. Total prevention is impossible. I've heard it said that the only secure computer is one that is powered off,  buried in a concrete bunker. But it is worthless and still physically vulnerable to rust and decay. People try to avoid risk by leaving society and living on a mountain or farm somewhere - there is still the risk of wild animals and nature. In the computer world we are going to be attacked. There is no business or industry that won't face attack, either by intent or by bot. There is no person that will not face attack.

security or insecurity are not just feelings - it's about the facts of the situation, mitigation and acceptance are the proper responses.

Level 15

Nice write up Peter, and nice comment Leon. I have been all of those at some point in my career.

Level 10

To be insecure is to be without confidence.  Security = Confidence.  Being insecure means you are vulnerable to attacks and unsafe.

Level 14

Not to totally latch on to the religious thread there but the story of Jacob and Esau also teaches us how to become less insecure -- strengthen others.  One of my favourite quotes of all times (aside from "There are 3 types of lies -- lies, d*** lies, and statistics!") was popularized by Sir Isaac Newton -- "f I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants".

In practical terms, it means surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, stronger than you and, most important, lift others up. When you empower people to succeed then they have a desire to help you and you feel less alone.  We've all been there -- it's 3AM, the SAN firmware upgrade that you did on your production environment failed and none of the LUNs have come back online and neither the VMware nor the SUN engineer have any idea how to recover the LUNs .... oh, wait, maybe that was just me.  But we've all been there!  Everyone hits a point where they have no idea what they are going to do next. Our insecurity gets ratcheted up to 1000%. It's always good to be surrounded by good people in those moments.

And, yes, if you think you are the smartest person in the room it is definitely time to find a new room -- both for your own sake and for that of your team.

Level 15

have you explained to her that the bocce court is a permanent fixture tomiannelli​? i'm sure she'd reconsider!

Level 15

I can't find fault with any of this.

One thing I'd mention, I had a tweeter pass my tweetering feed this weekend that caught my eye; unfortunately I wasn't smart enough to save it .

The crux was that, while for some of us, things like insecurity can be a driving factor that motivates us away from stagnation, for others it is crippling. Being in the former, I had ashamedly never thought that the latter was a thing.

I think it's worth it to engage a bit more empathy in our interactions with coworkers (and humans in general) and try to remember that all of our strengths can be someone else's weaknesses. I'm not sure what I can personally do to identify these things and potentially help a person, but I'm definitely going to keep my eyes more open going forward.

These daily definitions are becoming a lot more than I expected.  So far they've been deep and insightful--almost the kind of thing that should be published as a group of all thirty-one definitions, and then made required reading by IT staff anywhere.

Level 9

Knowing that systems are never 100% secure and vulnerabilities are found daily can make me feel insecure.  It just motivates me to learn what the vulnerabilities are and work on closing the security gaps that exist.  As for working in IT, I never feel like I know enough, so I'm always trying to learn and improve my technical skills.  It's both a blessing and a curse for me. I will never be bored, hence the blessing, but I will never be feel secure, hence the curse.

Level 10

To be insecure is to always worry what others think. To be free is to understand that you need not worry what others think, just be yourself ad the rest will flow naturally.

Level 14

Like a "Here's How To Be Human" for Silicon Valley startups that are started by entitled college boys?!?

I'd be on board with that.

I'd totally be on board for a certain company to take this information and use it to re-evaluate their policy of "Don't Be Evil."

Level 14

We are all insecure about something.  Some more than others.  Just don't let insecurities control who you are.

December 03 --  Insecure

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I figured EVERYTHING in Leon’s list would automatically generate an I.T. thought flow process for me, BUT NO!   The first thing I thought of here is the top definition above.  To me, “insecure” is a feeling of lacking personal confidence.

Virtual Teddy Bears, anyone?

Level 10

Sometimes my being insecure in some areas leads to lashing out and anger, like when I am told to take on something new that I have had little experience in accomplishing I become insecure or anxious that is manifest in inappropriate outburst. Rather I should see these struggles as opportunities to grow in my field.

Level 21

This post really resonates with me as I am very insecure about my technical abilities, my certs, etc.  I work at a place with some incredibly talented technical folks and I often wonder how I managed to fall in with such a crowd. 

Level 9

I was insecure a few months ago when I decided to leave my job of 17 years for a better opportunity. Would I be able to fit in? Were my abilities up to par? Needless to say it was the best decision I made. Always be confident in yourself.

Level 12

Now days it is very easy to feel insecure. With leaks of the government monitoring its own citizens illegally, to leaks of private and identifying data. There are lots of reasons to feel insecure.

I do my best just to go one day at a time and not let all of the possibilities of what if's get to me. When I get to that point I start feeling very insecure about myself.

When it comes to my personal data, I find myself going through more and more complicated steps and systems to keep my information secure. Back in the data I used to use password wallets to keep all of my stuff centrally located, but those methods proved to be very insecure. So I gave that up and did my best to remember various usernames and passwords, as a result I slowly gravitated to a standardized set of each. Now I use a password manager to keep all that information safe and secure, but also to try and keep my passwords for each system extremely complicated and different from the next one.

Level 11

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Great point about being insecure can raise your potential. When I am insecure about something or myself I do what I can to learn more about what is causing me to feel that way since I hate that feeling.

Level 9

I am insecure, but I find it helps as I'm usually the quite one in the room, and as always you learn more by listening then speaking

Level 15

Insecure is something everyone deals with in some form or fashion in their person and professional lives.   I would like to think that as we gain knowledge and exercise that knowledge to gain wisdom we become more secure in our selves and the knowledge we have.  Insecure thought and actions lead to mistakes which leads to even worse outcomes.   Confidence but not arrogance, in ones self and in ones knowledge can alleviate some feelings of insecurity. 

I Also agree insecure is not unsecure but it can lead to it.   We need to gain confidence in ourselves, our surroundings and our technology.  Regardless of the years in the field, time behind the keyboard, the world and tech will change faster that we can individually keep up with and get any significant work done.   Its important to have balance, and stick to what you are good at.   You will be successful when you know yourself, or your Identity, gain the proper access to what you are doing and then start stretching your self to gain knowledge where you lack.   Learn step by step.   If you are a hardware guy, own it, then learn the software side or networking side once you master your trade.   This will help, not eliminate but help with anything that is or makes your feel insecure.

Level 12

Insecure network=poor job security.

I can only find complete agreement with this, zackm​  - but unfortunately I find this to be as much of a personality "quirk" as anything. Some folks genuinely do not want to use insecurity to drive forward and some folks genuinely rely on it to tell them when it's time for things to change. I've helped a few folks through this sort of change (those fearful of it), and some truly need to be able to find assistance from others in order to do it. 

However, from a more minor standpoint - many people feel insecure from making a mistake but owning up helps things move on and grow, without even worrying about the long term "Change".

i still feel they've hit that model rschroeder​; it's not easy being big - even if we all want to be Big (like the movie). Image result for big movie

Level 9

I went through a job change recently and it brought out some insecurity I didn't realize I had. Sort of a big fish in a small pond finds the ocean kind of scenario for me. "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming"

One of my favorite movies to see the first time around.  I loved his childish innocence and enthusiasm.  "I get to be on top!"  (of the bunk beds).

Level 12

Insecurity will get you nowhere. Double-check your work. Make the change. Own the result, good or bad.

I dig that you separated insecure from unsecure.

Many people live in willful [word for lack of knowledge that apparently you can not use on this site] and secure in the absence of their security.

They freely give that South American Prince their credit card info.

They are carefree in their "admin" "password" Username and password.

Security and being secure are different.

As are insecurity and lack of security.

Level 15

I made a job change recently after 28 years with the same company. Not that I was too awful unhappy with my old spot... it was just I wanted to experience something new.

I was insecure at my new spot when I first started but that faded fast. Now I really wish I would have done it way sooner. My new team is more like my extended family

where at my old job I was just one of the many engineers.

Level 11

Nice way to weave the parsha into a post, adatole​. Yasher Koach!

Level 10

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