The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast

Tom Hollingsworth

January 10, 2023 Chris & Zoë Season 1 Episode 24
The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast
Tom Hollingsworth
Show Notes Transcript

Hello and welcome to the Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast, where everyone belongs, especially if you think you don't.

Our guest today is Tom Hollingsworth, Event lead for Tech Field Day.

Today, Tom explain to us what his job consists of and why he describes himself as a wedding planner for tech events.

Tom shares with us what a typical day as a “cat herder” looks like when planning and organizing Tech Day Field, and what "America’s Got Talent" and his job have in common.

We'll discuss tech-hoarding, also referred to as "the pile of tech junk that you have after working in the sector for ten years or longer," why he refers to himself as a "Tank" when dealing with angry customers and why being an analyst involves more than just "being paid to talk about stuff."

If you're not making mistakes, you're not taking risks.
If you are doing things safely, the same way every time.
You don't grow.


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This transcript is machine generated and may contain errors.

[00:00:00] Chris: Hello and welcome to the Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast where everyone belongs, even if you think you don't. My name is Chris Grundemann and I'm here with my co-host and fellow Security Field Day delegate Zoe Rose. 

[00:00:22] Zoe: Hey, 

[00:00:23] Chris: this is the Tom Hollingsworth episode, so get ready for some snarky fun Zoe. And I know Tom as the event lead for many tech field day events, and I've joined him on several technology podcasts.

[00:00:36] Chris: Uh, but once upon a time he was also a network engineer.

[00:00:42] Chris: Hey, Tom, would you mind introducing yourself a bit further to the imposter syndrome? 

[00:00:47] Tom: Sure, I'm very happy to be here. So, as you mentioned, my name is Tom Hollingsworth and I am currently an event lead for the tech field day event series. And if you want to know what that's like, uh, basically I'm a wedding planner for tech events and we can go into that in just a little bit.

[00:01:01] Tom: But before I did that job, I was a senior network engineer for a reseller, and so I spent a lot of time working hands-on with technology. And then about, uh, it's about nine years ago I made the transition over to, uh, not being super technical anymore and being more of an analyst. So it's been an interesting ride, to say the least.

[00:01:20] Tom: Yeah, I bet. 

[00:01:20] Chris: Um, definitely some cool stuff we wanna dig into about that transition and kind of what you're doing now. But I actually wanna start with a blog post you published recently. It's titled Cleaning Out the Cruft. And this was a short post about dealing with the piles of technology that so many of us accumulate after a decade or two of working in tech.

[00:01:38] Chris: What I wanna know first is what was in your pile? 

[00:01:41] Tom: Oh wow. So, uh, this time, cuz I, there there's tons of stuff that I've gotten rid of over the years. This time it was, uh, an Apple airport, uh, access point that was not even 802.11ac, uh, which may be called wifi five depending on where you look. Uh, so that it, it had to go, I got rid of a ton of old tech boxes.

[00:02:01] Tom: Uh, I got rid of a, uh, 10/100 ethernet switch. That, that, yeah, let's, let's just be fair. I'm never gonna use that. And then there was a litany of old hard drives and USB drives that were, you know, barely a couple of gigs in size. And I'm like, I, there's nothing on these. I'm never gonna use them. I, I, I keep them, they're almost like tech security blankets.

[00:02:22] Tom: And so I said, enough's enough. I don't even recognize it anymore, so out it goes. And that, you know, I've thrown away firewalls and phones and so many other pieces of technology in the past, and, and a lot of people like, you know, they freak out. They're like, how could you get rid of that? I'm like, how could I keep it?

[00:02:39] Tom: Like I think of the number of keyboards you probably have sitting in your house right now. If that number is greater than like two, you've got a problem. You have like wireless keyboard. Maybe a wired keyboard as a backup. And I'll tell you that if it has a PS two or a five den port on it, probably need to get rid of it.

[00:02:56] Tom: You're never gonna use it. 

[00:02:57] Chris: I have four keyboards that I can see from where I'm sitting. 

[00:03:00] Tom: My point exactly.

[00:03:01] Zoe: I have, I have four and the one I'm using has a key that doesn't, two keys that don't work. and I can't throw it out. 

[00:03:10] Tom: But see, I think that that, that kind of speaks to a problem that we have in tech is that we get comfortable with things like, I love this keyboard because of the way it clicks, or because it lights up or because I can type on it in my lap and we'll use it until it falls apart and then we'll try to fix it.

[00:03:27] Tom: And even if we don't manage to get it fixed, like if the L key stops working, we'll just put it on the shelf so we can look at it and it gives us. That feeling of comfort and, and sometimes we need that, but sometimes we, you know, just like, uh, if you, if you are a parent, you know that child, you know your child's pacifier, your child's stuffed animal, your child's security blanket, sometimes you have to get rid of those things.

[00:03:48] Tom: You have to help them move on. And sometimes you have to do that yourself too. . 

[00:03:52] Zoe: I'll also say that same keyboard is missing one key. So two keys at work is missing One key. My homework for this call is after I am going to, oh, I'm going to get rid of it. , you can hold me accountable. 

[00:04:07] Chris: So speaking of, of getting rid of that keyboard, Tom, what did you do?

[00:04:10] Chris: You said you got rid of a lot of this stuff. I mean, uh, what, what do you do? Is there a big bonfire in the back of the comfort or, 

[00:04:16] Tom: um, no, unfortunately, uh, I, I care about the environment too much to just kind of chunk it out the back or, or light it on fire. Uh, a couple of different things you can do. You can donate it to like a local makerspace or a vocational school, even if it doesn't work.

[00:04:29] Tom: Cause people love to take things apart. That was actually how one of the ways that I got started in tech was not necessarily like working on things like, you know, building programs and stuff like that. It was taking screwdrivers to stuff and then trying to put it back together before anybody realized what I had.

[00:04:42] Tom: But then, you know, recycling centers, like a lot of places now have these little bins where you can drop it off and, and I, I'll be the first person to admit that, that it's not a perfect solution because we know that a lot of the e-waste actually gets shipped to other places where it's kind of melted down or, or picked over and then it becomes waste there.

[00:04:58] Tom: But it's better than just throwing in a regular landfill and running the risk that at that first stage that it could create a hazard for other people. But, but I'm a huge fan honestly, of kind of giving it away to people. Even if it's just putting it aside and maybe giving it to my children. Because if they're like, Hey, how does this keyboard work?

[00:05:16] Tom: I'm like, have at it. Take it apart. Tell me how you think it works, and then let's discuss it. And then when we're done with the pieces, you know, let's, let's figure out how to dispose of them properly. 

[00:05:24] Chris: Yeah, I love that.

[00:05:25] Zoe: Oh, that's wonderful. Part of the career journey I had is I w was uh, part of a hacker space and all of our equipment was all secondhand.

[00:05:32] Zoe: And when I was doing my ccna, which I never actually got , I didn't write the exam, I took the training, didn't write the exam. But, um, when I was doing that, I got, uh, donated old routers and switches as well. And cause you wouldn't use those at an organization, but it was brilliant for learning about routing and switching.

[00:05:50] Zoe: So I love that. I wanted to talk about being the organizer at Tech Field Day. I was specified. You also are more of a cat herder because you have to herd us the delegates, which is probably the hardest part of your job. What's, um, what's a typical day look like for you?

[00:06:08] Tom: A typical day for me feels a lot like research.

[00:06:11] Tom: I get up in the morning and I kind of look at what's going on in technology. You know, what, what's making news, what's being released. Uh, a lot of times my inbox is full of companies that wanna talk to me about some new solution, whether it's, you know, XDR or AI or, you know, I don't know, quantum computing.

[00:06:26] Tom: And I look through it, I'm like, you know, that's something I'd like to learn a little bit more about. So maybe I'll schedule a call with them or a briefing or something like that. Uh, and then a lot of it is interacting with the community. It's seeing what people are talking about today and, and kind of continuing that relationship.

[00:06:41] Tom: It's, it's, I, when I worked as a reseller, I used to have to tell my salespeople, you know, your relationship with a customer can't stop when they send you a check. You have to constantly check on them. You have to. Concerned or at least curious about what's going on in their world when you don't need money from them.

[00:06:57] Tom: In a way that's kind of the, the secret to community building is be invested in what people are, are doing. You don't have to be like, Completely involved in everything they're doing, but you at least have to have an idea. So I'll check up on people, I'll see what's going on. Occasionally I write things, I send lots of emails to people.

[00:07:13] Tom: But essentially what we're doing is, is we're building towards something. So if you think about it as a sports metaphor, that's the regular season. And we're building toward a field day event, which is kind of like, you know, the playoffs or the Super Bowl or the World Cup or what have you. And so the putting the pieces together, Figuring out who would be the best companies to present at that event, who would be the best community members to bring in as delegates and how to make all of that work.

[00:07:39] Tom: And then doing it at enough time so that we can book travel, book hotels, book restaurants. That's where the wedding planner aspect of it comes into play. Uh, you know, we have to tr make people travel, uh, have to make sure they can get around places, and then we make 'em sit in uncomfortable chairs for a couple of hours at a time and get preached at by, uh, People who are really, really evangelizing this technology, which it, you, you chuckle a little bit when you, when you think about it, but you know, Zoe, as you mentioned it, some of it is a little bit of cat hurting.

[00:08:04] Tom: It's like, all right, everybody, you know, it's 10 o'clock. We need to head back upstairs and get some rest because tomorrow's a big day. And everyone's like, but no, we're on vacation. We're gonna party. It's gonna be fun. And I'm like, you're gonna really regret that at nine in the morning when you're hung over.

[00:08:16] Chris: Yeah. It's such a wild transition from kind of, you know, hardcore network engineering into this. I mean, this really is a, an event management, people management, like community management job. Obviously, you know, gestalt, it, the, the, the operator of the tech field day events chose you for this role because of your technical pedigree.

[00:08:34] Chris: How much does that plays into it? I mean, I, I guess you know, specifically for the tech Field Day events, I'm assuming you have to know enough about the vendor's technology to understand whether they're a good fit or not. But I mean, how, how much does your technical knowledge go into this role? 

[00:08:45] Tom: It feels a lot like it's been transitioned more into an architect.

[00:08:48] Tom: I don't necessarily need to know how to enable, you know, uh, ceph forwarding on a switch. But I need to know how this switch operates with the rest of the enterprise. You know, I, is the transition to cloud something that networking people need to be concerned about. Why is ransomware suddenly becoming such a huge explosion of a problem and how are people fighting it?

[00:09:08] Tom: So, like, for example, uh, one of the things that I've seen recently that has come up is the fact that a lot of companies who have, uh, formally focused on backup and disaster recovery. Are starting to kind of do this, uh, slight pivot into calling it data protection, which involves being able to recover from ransomware.

[00:09:23] Tom: Well, that means a different kind of backup. Instead of storing it offsite, maybe it needs to be an immutable copy. Instead of, uh, being able to trace the lineage of that backup and, and verify it, now you need to know exactly when that file became corrupted so that you can recover it, uh, so that the ransomware stops spreading all through your network.

[00:09:40] Tom: You have to understand where the shifts happen. and that requires you to be technical. You don't have to have like a super advanced technical certification to do that. But knowing the basics really does help so that you can kind of understand when someone comes to you and go, we're doing the, and then like 10 minutes of marketing jargon, and you look at 'em and go, uh, you don't actually do a thing.

[00:10:02] Tom: You, you say that you do that, but, but it's not, that's not what you're. 

[00:10:06] Zoe: Well, yeah, it's like you are doing the, um, initial audition. So what does that show that you guys have in America? It's like the, um, America's Got Talent, isn't it? Yes, that's one of 'em. Yeah. Where they have the initial auditions and there are disaster and then some talented people get through.

[00:10:22] Zoe: So you're essentially that initial audition, which probably is a lot of fun. 

[00:10:26] Tom: It, it can be, but I, I tell companies when they ask to be a part of Field Day all the time, I'm like, my goal in briefing you and, and walking through this is to avoid those first like three weeks of America's Got Talent. We want everybody to have a great time to be very productive.

[00:10:42] Tom: We do not want the train wrecks, for lack of a better term, because yes, while it is amusing to see kind of what happens, We also understand that there's a purpose behind all of it. The purpose is to get the word out about what you're doing to build positive sentiment in the community. And if you come out and you do a bad job, that doesn't benefit anybody, 

[00:11:02] Zoe: hundred percent.

[00:11:04] Zoe: I would like to touch on the, the comments you made about being not as technical, not as hands-on anymore. How do you feel like you can, uh, maintain, because I know you said you understand the foundations, but technology is constantly changing and in my role right now, I'm in a much more senior position and the biggest challenge I have is just keeping on top of all of the changes.

[00:11:26] Zoe: I do have the foundations, I do have the technical background, but making sure that I keep up and how to keep up is, uh, for me, really important part of my job. How do you do it for you? . 

[00:11:37] Tom: So I leverage the community in, in all honesty, the reason why I still find value in what we do, even outside of work, is because I can take the information that I'm being given or shared with, uh, from companies that are providing that, you know, Hey, here's this great look at what we're doing and we'd love to get your thoughts on it.

[00:11:56] Tom: And then I can reach out to people and go, you know, Hey, I, I got this briefing from this company and they showed me this thing. What do you think about it? Like, here's what I think, but, but I'm curious to hear what you have to. and so I'm still collecting those diverse viewpoints. I'm still understanding from people who are practitioners.

[00:12:11] Tom: Yeah. I don't really see the value in that because I have a tool that does something similar or I think that this has the perspective to really change the way that we do stuff if they would do this with it, and then that gives me the, the color to that picture. So that I can come back and go, yeah, I think that this is, this is the important part.

[00:12:28] Tom: It just, I don't have to then go out and try to sell it to a customer and try to implement it, which, you know, is honestly where most of the headaches from my old technical job came. I loved learning about technology. I just didn't wanna have to face an angry customer when I was trying to put their firewall in and nothing worked.

[00:12:43] Chris: Yeah, definitely. Implementation is where it starts to get a lot hairier, uh, right. If it's, It's easier to make it work on paper. 

[00:12:49] Zoe: Uh, I would say I like the implementation part. It's the angry people part. , that's the difficult part. 

[00:12:54] Tom: And part of that, honestly, for me was as my role transitioned a little bit at my re uh, the reseller job that I had, I actually became the, uh, the person who would talk to the angry customers.

[00:13:05] Tom: We've all kind of run into that situation before where like, you know, this, this things are down and we need to, we need to, all hands are on deck and you've, you're on that conference bridge and there's a lot of gruff discussions back and forth and you can just see people with their heads down on keyboards.

[00:13:17] Tom: And when we would do that in person, if I had a team with me, I would actually, I would send them into the data center and be like, okay, I need you to check this and this and this. I'm, I'm gonna go deal with, with angry. And you know, they'd, you'd see 'em coming down the hall and they got a folder and a scowl on their face, and I'd be like, mm-hmm.

[00:13:30] Tom: Turn around. We're gonna go that way. And they're like, why? I'm like, because they're working and you don't need to interrupt them. If you want to yell at somebody, you can yell at me for a while. And you'll feel better if you have something productive that you want to discuss. I will relay it to them without emotion and, and in a way, you know, growing up playing video games and things like that, I used to refer to myself as a tank.

[00:13:48] Tom: My job is to soak all of the hate so that my people can do their job and I'm good at it because I don't take it personally. 

[00:13:55] Chris: I see why you are an event organizer for Tech Field Day. As you were describing that job, right, and, and how you keep up with technology and, and kind of understanding where the shifts happen and, and drawing on the community for that knowledge.

[00:14:06] Chris: A lot of that reminds me of one of my current roles, which is as a it like industry analyst, and I know you also do a lot of that work as well as kind of an independent network analyst for Gestalt it and that family. Maybe we can talk a little bit about what an analyst actually does. 

[00:14:25] Tom: It's funny that you mentioned that because my son came up to me a few weeks ago and he said, dad, there are people on YouTube who talk about stuff all the time.

[00:14:34] Tom: I'm like, what do you mean? He goes, they pick a thing and they talk about it for a while and they tell me why it's important. I'm like, yeah, it kind of sounds like an analyst job. And he goes, people can get paid for that. Yeah, son, your, your dad kind of gets paid for that. And he goes, how do I do? Like, like he was all excited.

[00:14:50] Tom: I'm like, well there, there's a little bit more to it than just talking about it. A lot of analysis is taking information that you're given and selecting the important parts and providing context. So if you think about something like, uh, okay, we're all nerds here. Think about the bridge of the enterprise.

[00:15:09] Tom: So, and I'm talking about the enterprise D because Captain Picard is the best captain. And if you, if you wanna fight me in the comments, feel free. Uh, but Picard is faced with the situation, right? He has received information. It could be the Romulans in the neutral zone, it could be the K Clingons doing whatever it is, K Clingons do, and he needs perspective.

[00:15:27] Tom: So what he does is he asks the analysts on the bridge, yes, they're officers, but they have areas of expertise. Warf, the security officer, provides his perspective. Troy, the counselor, provides her perspective, uh, data as the resident science guy provides his perspective. And then he takes that information and the analysis that he gets from it and he makes a decision.

[00:15:46] Tom: And sometimes he, well, okay, almost never does he pick the wharf option, which is just blow everything. But sometimes he's, he has to make a, a, a di a difficult decision. And, and even with having a first officer there, who honestly, whose job it is, is basically to say, yeah, but what if you're wrong? That is still kind of a perspective that allows him to say, okay, well this is the decision that I have to make.

[00:16:08] Tom: Because ultimately that decision has to be made if you're working in an industry or working in IT. You have to make these decisions. Do we decide to put in this new firewall? Do we decide to keep the equipment that we have? Do we, uh, decide to go to the cloud? A decision has to be made, and yes, not doing anything is a decision.

[00:16:26] Tom: So, Do you want kind of an armchair sort of analysis about it where it's like, ah, I don't know a lot about cloud. Maybe it's a good idea or not? Or do you want someone who's like, yes, I've worked with this quite a bit. I understand it thoroughly in these particular use cases. I think it makes sense, but overall for you, maybe you need to wait two years.

[00:16:46] Tom: I know most people would say the second one, even if it's not the news you want to hear. Is the news you really need to hear. 

[00:16:52] Zoe: Definitely. There's been many situations where that does not happen. And then they ran into a problem and then I was hired as a consultant to get them outta that problem. And sometimes it was, chose the wrong solution.

[00:17:03] Zoe: So I really, I, I think that kind of goes down to the other question I was gonna ask is, what happens when you make a mistake? Like have you been in a situation where you made a absolutely rubbish mistake and how did you get out of it? And also, Impact your confidence long-term, or maybe it was something you were okay, I can deal with that.

[00:17:22] Tom: Yes. The short answer to all of your questions is yes, But in my mind, if you're not making mistakes, you're not taking enough risks, you're not trying things. And yes, there have been times, whether it was a technical mistake or a managerial mistake or something like that, where I have said or done something that has caused me to pause and say, I did not do this correctly. 

[00:17:46] Tom: And so depending on your personality type, and especially for the people who have imposter syndrome and are immediately thinking that they don't deserve to be here, they're going to be very, very, very introspective. I, I can't believe I did that. I'm such an idiot. I should not be doing this. The hard part is we talk about a lot in the industry about blameless postmortems, right?

[00:18:05] Tom: I don't care who screwed up, I just wanna know what happened. So the first step that I always do is I look in and I go, what was the. Was the mistake in, in a technical area where like I brought down a network, was the mistake more in the way that the news was delivered to somebody? Was it the fact that somebody forgot to book an Uber ride for someone?

[00:18:22] Tom: Once I've identified the problem, then we can identify how to fix it and how to make sure it doesn't happen again. And by divorcing the emotion from it, it really helps cut down on that self-reflection, self paralysis, but also it allows you to go forward and. Adjust the expectations of others. Like, for example, it let's, well let, let's say it's a data center going down, right?

[00:18:45] Tom: I messed up, I, I typed something into the switch and everything, you know, shut down. Obviously there's, there's a lot of of stuff that's going on. So, a, what caused the problem? B, how do I deal with the angry people? Well, if you deal with the angry people by being angry, then you are not going to solve the problem.

[00:19:02] Tom: You're just gonna make it worse. You have to be able to, to dispassionately say, I hear what you're saying. I understand that this is a problem. I totally agree with you that this shouldn't have happened. Here's what occurred. Here's how to prevent it from happening in the future. If you can kind of diffuse that situation just a little bit and, and find that common ground to discuss with people and not be accusatory, well, you are the one who didn't do this, or It's not my fault because I did this and it didn't work, then you will eventually be able to work through the problem.

[00:19:34] Tom: But yes, it is very easy to fall into that trap of, uh, I'm not good enough to do this. Whether it's, you know, playing a song in a guitar and not being able to do it correctly, or, you know, taking down an email system. Uh, but again, if you're not making mistakes, you're not taking risks if you are doing things safely the same way every time, you don't grow.

[00:19:55] Chris: Yeah. I, I think that's great. Uh, insight and advice, Tom. On that note though, I wanna dig a little deeper. You know, a, as an analyst in in particular, but maybe also as, as the event host for Tech Field Day. I mean, obviously a, as the event host, you're constantly surrounded by people who are really, really smart, right?

[00:20:10] Chris: With the folks presenting and the folks that are delegates are, are often drawn from some really, you know, talented, talented people. And then, but maybe even more so as an industry analyst. Your job is to be an expert. Do you ever yourself deal with imposter syndrome? Do you feel like you're not quite good enough or not quite smart enough, or that this is all a ruse and they're gonna find you out?

[00:20:31] Tom: Yes, all the time. It sounds a little bit trite, but there are times when I feel like I'm in completely over my head. I joke with my boss, Stephen Foskett. There was about a year where I became a storage analyst. And I only became a storage analyst because I kept going with him to events where they were talking about storage.

[00:20:47] Tom: And if you ever wanna feel in over your head, start talking about things like drive geometry or, you know, throughput on, uh, you know, Q L C flash. Like, like I know how bits work. But once they get in that thing, I'm, oh, that's really fascinating. Like Uhhuh and like I even, we were talking about it right before the podcast came on.

[00:21:08] Tom: I even developed that defense mechanism of just kind of smiling and nodding my head a little bit as people start talking. Looking for that context clue that allows me to jump into something. But it also encouraged me to go out and, and fill in those gaps. Maybe I'm not gonna be the best storage analyst in the industry because there are people who are way better at than me.

[00:21:26] Tom: I just need to know enough to be able to fill in those gaps when people start talking about things and where the value then comes into play. Is in that analyst role, in that architecture role because now that I know just a little bit more about what they're talking about, I can see how that becomes a sticking point and then it pays off in the future.

[00:21:44] Tom: So learning a little bit about storage, learning a little bit about how it operates both on the on the box and off the box, meant that when this whole new category of data processing units, dpu, IPUs, whatever you wanna call them, came out. Where they're effectively just offloading io whether it's networking or storage.

[00:22:02] Tom: I go, wait a minute. Now I understand how all of that works together in that little box, which is not something I would've been able to do. And, and we all have that fear, if you wanna call it. We don't wanna do different things. I got this. I'm comfortable and, and everyone listening to this podcast has worked with somebody before who is extremely comfortable in their job.

[00:22:22] Tom: They don't wanna do any extra work, they don't wanna learn anything new, I'm gonna go in and I'm gonna do the same thing every day, whether it's, you know, working on a factory floor or, um, you know, assembling the, the little buttons that go on a shirt or checking the servers to make sure that the backup's completed every day.

[00:22:38] Tom: If that's what you wanna do, then that's great, but I'm not that kind of person. I constantly have to be looking for input, uh, for lack of a better term. To help me grow and that process is not something that's comfortable. So if you get used to the idea that you're gonna be a little bit uncomfortable in new areas, it won't be quite as off-putting for you.

[00:22:57] Zoe: No, definitely. I do really relate to what you're talking about because being a Tech Field Day delegate, every time I go on site I'm like, why did you invite me? There's so many more brilliant people sat here with me. So it's always that balance of actually, okay. Some things I think do have some benefit.

[00:23:17] Zoe: and I, I feel like it takes me, once I ask the first question, like the first question that I have for the thing, then I'm like, okay, I've earned my place here , cuz I've asked them one question. Um, and I think that for me, for those events, that's, that's how I take it. And then if I can write about it after, but I take the same approach that you take, is I ask other people and say, how did you understand that presentation?

[00:23:39] Zoe: Does what I think relate to how you. 

[00:23:42] Tom: And it's funny that you bring that up because I had the same reaction. Uh, God, it's been 11 years ago when Stephen asked me to be a tech field day delegate for the first time. Like he, he sent me an email and I was at a stoplight and I looked at it and I was like, I almost drove off the road.

[00:23:56] Tom: I was like, are, are you sure you have the right guy? Which is ironically enough, a very common response that we get. Are you, are you sure you're talking to the right Tom Hollingsworth? Well, yeah. I'm almost positive. And so part of it for me, and going back to some of the the things that I've said about imposter syndrome in the past is knowing that somebody believes in me, knowing that somebody doesn't hear the internal monologue that I have with myself, and is willing to step back and say, you know what?

[00:24:25] Tom: You are good enough. You do know what you're talking about. You are a valuable person. And Zoe, you and I had that conversation years ago at an event where I got up in front of everybody and the first thing I started off was, everybody in this room deserves to be here, whether you believe it or not. And if you don't believe it, believe that I believe it. 

[00:24:46] Tom: And since then, I have given that a version of that speech to a number of people, both in tech and out. and they usually do it the day when something big is supposed to happen, whether it's a training course or a, a big event. And I, I just set 'em down and I go, it matters to you. And you're worried because you're worried that you're gonna be enough, and that in and of itself should be enough for you to understand that you are where you need to be because you can affect the change that you want to see.

[00:25:16] Tom: And the number of times that I've had people come up to me after that and say, I didn't realize that I needed to hear that until you said it. Still resonates with me. Yeah. 

[00:25:27] Zoe: Oh goodness. Yeah. I'm one of those people, I remember you sitting us down and saying that, and you've said that at every tech field day I've been at, and it's a huge, I don't know, it's just, it's like, I dunno, I, I, I don't have a dad to say I'm proud of you, but it's kind of feels like you're, you're the dad and you're saying you're proud of me.

[00:25:44] Zoe: So I love it. I, I, yeah, I think it's a really, important... 

[00:25:47] Chris: And I actually had a counter experience, I guess one of the first conferences I ever got invited to speak at. I got invited, I went there and the day before the conference, you know, there was kinda like the speaker's dinner. And again, this was the first time I had ever been at anything like this.

[00:26:02] Chris: So I, I was very much in that, that, that space of like, oh my God, like I'm the dumbest person here. I'm the le, you know, I'm the youngest person here. All the things. And we went around the table to introduce ourselves and I definitely did not do a great introduction because I was overly humble and just kind of.

[00:26:15] Chris: Putting myself down. And the guy who would organize the event, I forget what he exactly said, but he kind of like, I saw him doing the mental math and like recalculating what he thought of me based on the way I introduced myself. And he didn't really say anything harmful, but he asked something about it and I just all of a sudden felt like I really didn't deserve to be there.

[00:26:33] Zoe: Oh, that's awful. 

[00:26:34] Chris: Which was the opposite of, of Tom's kind of, Hey, we're all here and we all, we all deserve to be here. So, I don't know, just that is really important to do. And you wanna underline that? 

[00:26:41] Zoe: Yeah. No, definitly. 

[00:26:42] Tom: It's very easy to be super critical of people. In fact, it's far too easy to be super critical of people, especially when you have knowledge, when you have, um, gravitas, for lack of a better term.

[00:26:51] Tom: Like, like people listen to what you have to say. . And so you have to stop and think about how you're framing your conversations. And there's, and, and we see this a lot at Field Day, when you invite a group of experts into the room and show them technology that they either may or may not be familiar with, it's very easy to take a very critical path.

[00:27:07] Tom: I don't think it's gonna work the way you think it's supposed to work. Um, I don't know why you're providing value there, because there's actually no value to be provided. Why does it cost so much? But being negative doesn't gain anyone anything. And you don't have to be glowingly positive, but I think it's better if you frame those conversations of, you know, I like that you've taken an interesting perspective on this.

[00:27:27] Tom: Can you maybe help me understand why you chose to go your own way as opposed to using something that's more of a standard? That's not necessarily a negative comment. It's, it's an inquisitive question and, and especially the same way with people. And one of the things that I've learned over the years when it comes to dealing with people.

[00:27:44] Tom: Is the more imposter syndrome you have, the more likely you are to kind of fumble those introductions or to, to feel like you need to put on a brave front to feel like a part of the group. And the easiest way to disarm that is not to ask about the reason why you're there. It's to ask about who you are.

[00:28:02] Tom: I teach public speaking to teenagers, to to the scouts. That's the other thing I do when I'm not doing field day stuff. And I said, everybody has a five minute speech in them. You just gotta talk about yourself. Find a cool thing that you do, find a thing that you love. It could be about comic books, it could be about gardening, it could be about, you know, but it has to be something that you care passionately about.

[00:28:23] Tom: And if you can find that thing, if you can figure out what that is, you can get somebody to come outta their shell and completely leave imposter syndrome behind because they're talking about something that they genuinely care about. And that is, is the key, is to just get them comfortable and let them go.

[00:28:38] Zoe: Yeah, that's, that's literally what my teacher did back in school is I did a talk about tender drumming and I was an absolutely, I was not a good speaker. I was very, very shy, but I remember, and that it's held through to, to this day is I remember exactly how I felt presenting about, you know, random topic.

[00:28:56] Zoe: But I was just so excited about it and I got to express that excitement and it's definitely changed my perspective when it comes to public speaking. Last question I had was motivation. So I remember the last Tech Field day event that I was at with you. We were sat in your hotel room. Um, there was more people there, to be clear, not to be creepy, um, but we were doing what I think you called the term body doubling.

[00:29:21] Zoe: And it was how to kind of keep that motivation for not the most fun tasks sometimes. And how to encourage yourself when you're slightly of the neurodiverse, uh, spectrum, I guess is the term. 

[00:29:34] Tom: That's, that's pretty fair and that's a very analytical way to look at it. Uh, yes. I will tell you that one of the things that came out of the pandemic is that I finally bit the bullet and realized that after 40 plus years, I am neurodivergent.

[00:29:48] Tom: I suffer from ADHD and eh, let's be fair, probably a little bit of, um, well used to call it autism, but it's, it's a different, uh, uh, part of the spectrum and, and I masked it. I managed to figure out how to adjust around it, and then when the world shut down, I didn't have any coping mechanisms anymore, but, As I started doing more research, which ironically enough came from TikTok.

[00:30:08] Tom: There's a lot of great creators out there that are doing great stuff, and one of them helped me kind of understand because it was like one of those things where she'd make a really short video and be like, you know, if you're like this and you do this, then this is the result. And do you feel like this sometimes?

[00:30:19] Tom: And I just looked at my phone and went, crap, that's me. Body doubling is a great way to basically cause the executive function in your brain to kick in. Uh, when you're by yourself. It's very easy to just constantly say, I'll get to that in a minute. I, I, I can get to that after a while. There's no control. The way that I've, I've heard it discussed is imagine an elementary school classroom with no teacher. 

[00:30:41] Tom: With no executive function people are just gonna do whatever they want. So maybe I'm gonna sit there and binge watch Star Wars Andor, because my brain is like, you really should be doing something. And I'm like, no, no, no, no, no. This is more fun. But by having somebody there, even if they're not even working on the same thing that you're doing or the... Whatever.

[00:30:58] Tom: It forces the executive function in your brain to go, wait a minute, we really need to be doing what we're supposed to be doing because there's somebody else here, because there's proximity. And I have a really good friend who has worked with me on that in the past. She's like, I don't understand what you do in tech.

[00:31:15] Tom: I don't even know what you're talking about, but if you just wanna sit here and send emails and do stuff while I do the same. I'll do it because being able to register to kick those things in really helps you overcome those things. Can you fix it? Totally. Probably not. But finding those healthy, productive coping mechanisms instead of being like, you know what?

[00:31:39] Tom: I'm just gonna play Mario Brothers for the next six hours because it sounds like a cool idea. 

[00:31:43] Zoe: Oh, I didn't realize I did that. And it was only when you introduced me to the term that I realized I've been doing that for so long, because I'm much more productive when somebody's shadowing me at work. Even if they're not sat beside me, but they're on like a teams call with me or something.

[00:31:57] Zoe: I am, I can get so much done, but when I'm sat alone, either in the office or at home, I'm like, What is computer ? 

[00:32:06] Tom: Yeah. Yeah. And it's more of that social aspect of things. It's understanding that some, you know, even if we're introverted by nature or extroverted, eh, most of us are probably introverted if we're listening to this podcast.

[00:32:19] Tom: There is value in having people nearby. I often tell people I will go to Starbucks. I, I work from home. I've worked from home for almost a decade. I will go to Starbucks sometimes. Not to be around people, but to be around noise, to be around things that force me to focus and you know, you can go find any amount of research that tells you that certain people need to have that, whether it's white noise or that, that presence there.

[00:32:45] Tom: I didn't realize I was doing it at first until I figured out why I was doing it. And I was like, oh, now it makes total sense. If I'm sitting around other people who are doing things, I'm going to be motivated to do things instead. And, and sometimes we cope without realizing it and we have to get to a point where we feel comfortable agreeing.

[00:33:04] Tom: Yeah. That's the case. 

[00:33:06] Zoe: Yeah, that's what I did when I owned my own business. I basically ran it from a pub. Probably wouldn't recommend a pub, but it was very effective. 

[00:33:14] Chris: Me as well. I definitely, I have not ever been tested or diagnosed with any of these things. But, uh, a lot of the things I do is like, things that I like are like my, like life hacks I've now seen start popping up in articles about how to deal with ADHD and how to deal with, you know, being on the, uh, Asperger's spectrum, all these things.

[00:33:31] Chris: So interesting stuff. 

[00:33:32] Tom: It, it's funny cuz if it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, obviously it's a swan. Uh, but no, it's, it, and obviously, you know, I'm not a medical professional. I'm barely a tech professional most of the time. If you feel like you may have some sort of neuro divergent condition.

[00:33:46] Tom: Please get tested. Please go actually talk to medical professionals before you try to fix it. But remember that a lot of the things that we come up with are, you know, the reason why we do them is because we want to feel more productive. We wanna feel like we belong. We wanna feel like we deserve to be here.

[00:34:02] Tom: And sometimes that. Manifests itself in doing three times the amount of work when nobody's looking, because we feel like it's the only way we can catch up with people. And one of the things that I know for myself that took a long time to understand is that one of the reasons why I, I worked as hard as I did wasn't even necessarily that I wanted the work to be done.

[00:34:20] Tom: It's just that I wanted somebody to go, you know what? You did a great job and I sincerely appreciate it, and so I started doing that a while back. I wouldn't just say, Hey, good work. I would say, Chris, you did an amazing job on recording this podcast and I feel like you asked some really good questions.

[00:34:35] Tom: Called you by name, identified exactly what you did, and I told you that I liked it. And that resonates with people so strongly because it means that you're paying attention and you actually understand, just like I've taught my kids, I don't want you to say, I'm sorry. I want you to apologize specifically for why you did something wrong.

[00:34:51] Tom: You identify that you are sorry for what. And you tell the other person because when you do that, it registers in your head that that's a behavior that needs to be changed. And by being deliberate about it, cause my children, God bless them, are my children. My eldest has been diagnosed, he's actually was diagnosed before I was.

[00:35:10] Tom: There's a relatively decent chance that the rest of my children will have some form of neurodivergence. I know what I need to do to make it work for me. By training them now, they don't have to spend the next 30 years trying to un-mess up their head when they go get older and go, wait a minute, something's not right here.

[00:35:27] Chris: Yeah, I love that. 

[00:35:28] Chris: Unfortunately, that's all the time we have for today. Tom, thank you so much for sharing your story and some great insight and advice. This has been really, really cool. Um, but thanks for sharing all of this with the Imposter Syndrome Network, and thank you to all of the imposters out there for your attention and support.

[00:35:45] Chris: We do have a LinkedIn group for the Imposter syndrome Network that we'd love for you to join and get or give career advice, mentorship, or just general community support. One last thing before we close out, Tom: what is your favorite non-technical book? 

[00:36:00] Tom: Oh hmm. That's interesting. Um, so especially when I was younger, I read a lot be growing up in the country, there wasn't a whole lot for me to do.

[00:36:09] Tom: I got pulled into, uh, the Battle Tech Universe. Uh, battle Tech is a tabletop role-playing game with big stompy robots and they, they did a great job of world building. And so I think probably my favorite non-technical book would be... Uh, Blood Legacy. I think it was the first Battle Tech book I ever read, and I like, as soon as I read it, I was like, I've gotta get into this.

[00:36:30] Tom: And there's like thousands of years of history to consume. A lot of people have compared it to something like Warhammer 40 K, which has like, you know, hundreds of books. It's a way for me to kind of put myself into a different place and kind of unwind for a little bit and also get to smash things with big stompy robots.

[00:36:48] Chris: Nice. I love it. Do you have any projects we haven't touched on that you would like the network to know? 

[00:36:54] Tom: I mean, I do a lot of work on Twitter. I mean, I'm at Networking Nerd on Twitter. I also do a lot of work, like you said, through Tech Field Day, but I have, uh, regular things that I publish on gestalt, which is the kind of the media arm of what we do.

[00:37:06] Tom: I have this monthly episode, uh, series called "Tomversations" where I will sometimes. Pick a topic around, you know, whether it's XDR or wifi six E, and I'll be like, so here's what I think about it and here's why you need to pay attention. And it, it's a way for me to kind of connect back to the technology, but also to provide a valuable resource for people in the community to understand the way that I see things.

[00:37:24] Chris: Fantastic. Find those links in the show notes and we'll be back next week.