The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast

Matt Vitale

July 18, 2023 Chris & Zoë Season 1 Episode 51
The Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast
Matt Vitale
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we feature Matt Vitale, Sr. Network Automation Consultant at Network to Code with 13 years of experience in the networking field.

Matt shares his personal journey of dealing with impostor syndrome, from landing his first network engineering job at Finish Line to presenting at NANOG 87 on overcoming impostor syndrome in network automation. 

Join us as we hear the story of how a simple configuration error led to a major outage at Rackspace and about the importance of being open to making mistakes as also recognizing and celebrating your own mistakes. 

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“I realized that more people felt imposter syndrome than I realized.
I always thought I was alone, or it was just me and one other person that I'm close with.
And it turns out that a lot of people do.
I think even just bringing that kind of awareness, really can at least help open conversations” 
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Matt's Links:  

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Thanks for being an imposter - a part of the Imposter Syndrome Network (ISN)!

We'd love it if you connected with us on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/the-imposter-syndrome-network-podcast

Make it a great day.

Machines made this, mistakes and all:

[00:00:00] Chris: Hello and welcome to the Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast where everyone belongs, especially if you think you don't. Welcome imposters. My name is Chris Grundmann. No Zoe Rose today. Don't worry though, she'll be back with us next week. This is the Matt Vitale episode and I think you're gonna love it.

[00:00:27] Chris: Matt has been in the networking field for over 13 years and is focused on automation and SDN technologies. He loves working with devices at scale and coming up with new ways to leverage automation.

[00:00:41] Chris: Hey there, Matt, would you mind introducing yourself a bit further to the imposter syndrome network? 

[00:00:46] Matt: Sure Chris, thanks for having me here. My name's Matt Vitale. I currently work as a senior network automation consultant for a network to code, so dealing primarily with network automation. Prior to getting into automation, I was primarily just a network engineer, working for a few different companies and working in the enterprise business or with like SDN technology, stuff like that.

[00:01:06] Matt: But yeah, that's essentially where I'm at today. Career-wise, it's been about 15 years now, since about 2007, so yeah, it's. I just can't believe it's been that long, you know? 

[00:01:16] Chris: Yeah, it's wild. And uh, we'll, we'll dive into some of that some more, but to start off with, I mean, any listeners who were at NANOG 87 in Atlanta earlier this year, probably saw your talk, which was titled Imposter Syndrome in Networking, overcoming Imposter Syndrome, to Further Your Network Automation Journey.

[00:01:33] Chris: I thought it was great. Thanks for doing that. We'll link to the slides and the video, in the show notes, and I'm sure we'll talk more about the content of that talk today. But I'm hoping you can start by telling us why, why present to a room full of pretty hardcore network engineers and architects, uh, and nerds about imposter syndrome.

[00:01:52] Chris: What was your motivation? Is it, is this something personal for you? Or, or, yeah, I mean, just, you know, why give that talk, why I go on this tour? 

[00:01:57] Matt: Oh, you know, it is, it is absolutely personal. There is a bit of a, a story behind that as well. Right? So I told you I work at Network to code we're a small. A smaller, uh, it consulting based company based outta New York, right?

[00:02:11] Matt: And we have this app in Slack, all our communications through Slack. And we have something called a donut app where every week it'll pair you up with a random employee in the company and just kind of chitchat for 30 minutes or so and get to know them, kind of personalize, which really helps since we are all remote, a hundred percent remote.

[00:02:29] Matt: So I noticed, uh, when I started working at Network two code two years ago, I struggled a lot with imposter syndrome. I didn't quite understand exactly what it was at the time, and I had a peer that started on the same day as me, and we really kind of helped each other cuz we were both struggling a lot with it as well, and then worked on it over time.

[00:02:47] Matt: As you start getting acclimated to a job, it tends to kind of die down a little bit. Never quite goes away, right? But it dies down a bit. Anyway, with that donut app, uh, about a year or so into working at Network two Code, I started getting paired up with these new hires who were all feeling the exact same way.

[00:03:02] Matt: That only came up through very like, candid conversations, just kind of having, you know, like talking about random stuff, talking about life, how's the job going, how do you like it here? Stuff like that on a very personal level. And I also noticed a lot of times they wouldn't open up until I started talking about my own struggles when I started.

[00:03:22] Matt: So I started doing an experiment. Like if I talk to new hires and I bring up how I struggled, are they more likely to talk about it? Right? And the answer was, yeah, they are. And I personally feel like I don't really like talking about being vulnerable in front of other people. You know? Like it's not something anyone really likes talking about or admitting, right?

[00:03:40] Matt: Your fears, your problems, your insecurities, all that kind of stuff. But when you do open up, you can relate more and then people are more likely to talk about it. So with that said to go how that got to NANOG, I put together an internal presentation on overcoming imposter syndrome at network to code. And we have a biweekly knowledge share where you can present on any topic, you know, something about and you just wanna share with the company.

[00:04:03] Matt: So I did and I got tremendous feedback from it from both my peers as well as my management and executive team. So they really encouraged me that, you know, this is really good. Uh, this really hits home to a lot of us. I got a ton of private, uh, messages on Slack thanking me for it, saying I had no idea anyone else felt this way, which is really such a character trait of imposter syndrome, right?

[00:04:26] Matt: It's very much in isolation. So I put together the presentation, submitted to a couple of talks. I got accepted to Nano 87, which I was really excited about, and then I went out and presented. And the lady that sponsored me, I believe her name was Valerie or Val. Yeah, she, yeah, Val. Uh, so she really helped and she personally thanked me even on stage as well as an email because she said she struggled with it a lot in her career too, which meant a lot.

[00:04:53] Matt: So she was very happy to have me out there and talk. 

[00:04:55] Chris: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And that's interesting, right? I mean, one, one of the things you said there that, you know, I think might be worth digging into a little bit is, you know, this idea that, you know, nobody wants to open up and be vulnerable. We all kind of have to, you know, have this shell, there's a little bit of self-protection there.

[00:05:10] Chris: Um, you know, which is totally natural. I think I've found that what's like super counterintuitive about it is that as soon as you start to do that, if, if you do open up a little bit and you become a little bit vulnerable, I mean, it feels really. I mean, I, I don't know what the word is. I mean, it's, it's an intense feeling.

[00:05:26] Chris: I think the first few times you're kind of vulnerable with somebody new or more in public and things like that. But I think it also builds up like actual true confidence, right? Cause once you do it, once you're like, oh, wait a minute. Like, I mean, it sucked. It wasn't fun, but, but it didn't kill me. Maybe I'm a little stronger for it.

[00:05:43] Chris: And then if, and you keep doing it, and I think you know it, it's interesting that you know this. May actually be kind of one of the quote unquote cures of imposter syndrome is to talk about it a little bit. 

[00:05:53] Matt: Yeah, that is a very good observation. You're exactly right. Or at least one way to mitigate it.

[00:06:00] Matt: Right. I don't know if I'm lucky enough to ever be cured of it. Right. I've kind of accepted the fact that I may end up, you know, it may just be something that takes with me and ebbs and flows over time, and it's more of how do I deal with it when it comes on and when it, when I start feeling it. And one of the things that I talked about in my presentation is really understanding it and recognizing it for what it is and when it's present versus letting it kind of be like an all consuming kind of feeling.

[00:06:31] Matt: Yeah, it is definitely hard to talk about. I'll tell you, you should see if, I wish I had a heart rate monitor on right now. Like there was another guy at the NANOG presentation he had one on and you can monitor it live in real time. It was Oh wild. Really cool to see. But uh, yeah, this stuff, you know, it is, It is nerve-wracking, but it gets easier over time in the same exact way.

[00:06:48] Matt: It got, it was nerve-wracking to talk about it at first, especially where I work. Right. And then now it's easier and now like they call me the imposter guy here with love. With Love. Yeah. But you know, that's what they call me, so 

[00:07:01] Chris: That's great. That's great. Well, welcome to The Imposter Network. We're all imposters here, so it's, it's good.

[00:07:06] Chris: Thank You're in good company. Thank you. The other thing I, you know, the teased out there, kind of following on that thread is, Again, kind of right. You dove into this vulnerability to kind of talk about this, you found this thing that you had in common with other folks, which as a sidebar is exactly what was the impetus for this podcast for me.

[00:07:23] Chris: So I got exposed to Steven Foskett and Gestalt it and the Tech Field Day events and got, I got pulled in there as a delegate and that was one of the first times where I, I got to like go somewhere and hang out with other people who were. I mean, I, I don't love the term influencer. I hate the term thought leader, but you know, people who are out there talking about technology on a regular basis and, and, and some who are making a career out of it and, you know, meeting these people who, you know, some of them, right, like the folks you know from the packet pushers who I'd listened to for, for years were, you know, almost heroes of mine.

[00:07:56] Chris: At least, you know, at least kind of like distant mentors. And then you get to talk to all these folks who are analysts and research analysts and, and all this other stuff that's out there doing crazy stuff and realizing, oh shit, like they feel. Exactly the same way on a really regular basis that I feel, uh, and realized how common this was.

[00:08:12] Chris: And I was like, man, like you know, we need to talk about this more publicly, which you also did right in this talk. And I think it's interesting that, again, kinda same thing, right? You took that vulnerability, presented internally, started this kind of, you know, conversation inside of network to code, which is great.

[00:08:26] Chris: And then, By doing that, right, by putting yourself out there, got encouraged and pushed forward and went and did it, you know, on a, on an even bigger stage. Right. At Nanog. I mean, I think that's kinda just kind of an interesting sequence of events. 

[00:08:37] Matt: Yeah, it is, isn't it? You know, I'm lucky to have been supported.

[00:08:43] Matt: I work, I'm also was deathly afraid of doing it. I didn't sleep. Oh gosh. I didn't have a good night's sleep for at least a week before I flew out there. I mean it, you know, it was just, I was a nervous wreck. I was literally up there 30 in my hotel room, 30 minutes before I was supposed to present. Still rehearsing, you know, like, you know, it's, it was my first time on a stage, though.

[00:09:05] Matt: It was my first time. I did enjoy it. I enjoyed it a lot. I'd like to do it again. Because I think there's a lot of people that can benefit from hearing it who don't seek that stuff out necessarily, or they don't realize it. Oh, I did a few things when I presented internally, I read up on it. Uh, there's tons of blogs out there.

[00:09:25] Matt: There's obviously your podcast, there's others that talk specifically about it as well as they just kind of talk about it in general conversation. And then I read a, a couple of books on it as well, and. Took that information really to help myself. And then that's when I kind of put some of it into a presentation, right?

[00:09:42] Matt: Internally. And by doing that, I realized that people, more people felt that way than I realized. I guess that's a good way to put it, right? I always thought I was alone, or it was just me and one other person that I'm close with. And it turns out that a lot of people do. And in my slides I have. I think it was with, uh, blind, that company blind.

[00:10:04] Matt: They, they put out some study that basically showed like over half of the participants interviewed. Right. Felt that way. But if you flip that, that means almost half of the participants don't feel that way. So, It is, while it's, yeah, there's over half, there's still a good people, uh, a portion of people that don't.

[00:10:20] Matt: But I think the people that don't, may not realize the people they work with do, whether it be above them or below them or on the same level. Right. And I think even just bringing that kind of awareness, uh, really can at least help open conversations. That was my goal. 

[00:10:35] Chris: Yeah. I like that view a lot. I mean, so, so one thing, and not to make this pejorative, but I have a feeling that the half that say they don't.

[00:10:43] Chris: There's probably some percentage of those that actually do, and maybe either don't recognize it or don't wanna admit it, but you're right. I mean, no matter what, there's definitely some percentage and, and definitely a, a fairly large percentage of people who don't necessarily understand this feeling because they don't have it themselves.

[00:10:57] Chris: It's almost a form of diversity. I think you're right. And being able to recognize that helps us again, work, work together. Just like recognizing all other differences in, in cognition or, or whatever else, culture and all those things. 

[00:11:07] Matt: Absolutely. Uh, absolutely. And you joked about NANOG being a hardcore nerds and all, there were some very smart people there doing some really, really good stuff there.

[00:11:16] Matt: Uh, it was, it was definitely intimidating to go up and talk about something a hundred percent non-technical. Right. But the feedback I got was great. The questions I got a couple afterward when gentlemen was asking, as a manager perspective, how can I kind of work with employees that may or may not feel this way?

[00:11:32] Matt: So, you know, I thought that that was, that was helpful as well. But yeah, it was, it was, it was a good time overall. And then I told you I did that internal presentation. I wrote a blog post just trying to kind of get what I learned from reading and from my own personal experiences. Just kind of get it out there and then having these conversations.

[00:11:49] Chris: Yeah, it's awesome. So I wanna rewind a little bit in, uh, you know, the story of, of Matt and go back to kind of, you know, starting out in technology. And I'd love to kinda understand your journey a little bit better. I know from your LinkedIn that maybe the first, you know, we, we kind of quote unquote real job, uh, in, in network engineering, was that finish line?

[00:12:09] Chris: Back in, as you said, 2007, so about 15 years ago or so, 16, something like that. How did that come about? Like what? Like, I don't know, I mean, I don't know a lot of folks who land their first, you know, job as a network engineer. So maybe, you know, what was that process like? Like how did you end up as a network engineer at a big company?

[00:12:24] Matt: Pure luck. I'm gonna tell you something. You are completely familiar with pure luck and circumstances I had nothing to do with, right? So, and I say that little tongue in cheek, but, um, so. I'll back up a little bit before then. So I wasn't working any IT gig or any kind of kind of job. I had a strong passion for computers as I think most of us kind of do when we start this Right?

[00:12:48] Matt: Strong passion for computers. When I was younger, did a lot at home and from back in high school I took this uh, Cisco CCNA class. And anyway, I ran into the teacher of that class and he's like, Hey, you know, my brother-in-law's working a finish line trying to start up this networking department. Would you be interested in joining?

[00:13:07] Matt: And, or at least applying. And I took a shot. I didn't think I, I could, I didn't think I, I, I would, you know, get it, but I'm like, yeah, you know, let's take a shot. One of my questions when, uh, I was interviewing, they walked me around the building afterward. They showed me a, a Cisco 6509. They were running for their core good old catalyst chassis switch.

[00:13:26] Matt: Right. And I asked, so just curious, like, why don't you just use like Linksus routers instead? Like, I had no idea about networking at all. Yeah. Yeah. So they took a shot and I took a shot and I know I had a manager there. Um, his name was Robert and he was instrumental in helping me out, and he, later on he told me one of the things he liked about me when I interviewed versus maybe some of the other candidates was, even though I was very entry level, which is what they were looking for, my passion was very, very high.

[00:13:56] Matt: Like, this is what I did all the time. I really wanted to get into it, and I, I showed it by doing it as a hobby at home, so, or at least learning, trying to learn computers and, and how things work, stuff like that. So basically I got in as a network technician, entry level, Hey, here's how you log into things.

[00:14:13] Matt: Don't do this, don't do that. Uh, only do this while you're learning. That kind of thing. I was very, very limited, but they were really open in helping me and letting, and giving me trust to like have, not have free reign, but trust to not break things while still being confined while I'm learning, if that makes sense.

[00:14:31] Matt: And then from there I worked at it, uh, and kind of kind of moved up into network engineering. I was there for about six or seven years before I moved on. And. Uh, that was, that was really, that's really how I got started. And kind of from there, I've been doing networking ever since past like five years or so.

[00:14:47] Matt: Now it's been more automation focused. 

[00:14:48] Chris: Sure. Yeah. So you mentioned in there, right, this freedom you were given and, and I think that's fairly common, at least for folks of. At least, I dunno, my, my experience in the folks I've worked with, right? I mean, to become a network engineer, you're kind of given the keys to the castle a little bit pretty quickly because that's, you know, in order to get into a network, you know, a router and, and be able to change things and move around, you've, you've got some, some pretty big power there.

[00:15:12] Chris: I guess it's probably the same for sysadmins and, and, and I know other folks that, you know, db, admin, whatever it is, right? You kind of have this privileged access to whatever domain you're working in. And you said, you know, not necessarily free to make mistakes, but I'm wondering. Have you made any big mistakes in your career since then?

[00:15:27] Matt: Oh, have I? Yes. So I'm trying to think of which one would be the best one to talk about cuz there's a few, so I'll give you one from a recent job that I had. So the, the job before this, I worked at Rackspace and I was. Uh, network security architect there, I was basically working on all internal infrastructure at Rackspace, uh, firewalls and load balancers, but really wasn't as much architecting, it was more automating, like architecting automation, going in and working on that stuff.

[00:16:02] Matt: So I get in, I fly down to San Antonio for like the meet and greet couple in like introduction, training, et cetera. I fly back home. I'm gonna work a hundred percent remote cause I, I live in Indiana and within the first month, I break something pretty big. So what happens is they have for different environment, for their main internal production environment where almost all of their critical apps run through.

[00:16:27] Matt: It runs through an environment that has a dev, a test, and a prod environment. Okay? So I go to, basically it's basically deploying a new environment. You gotta configure VLANs routes, um, all, all, all sort, all sorts of stuff. Uh, acls on firewalls. Anyway, I'm learning this process, so I'm doing it manually, one step at a time.

[00:16:44] Matt: So first I do test. Goes, great. Then I do dev. Then it goes great. Then I go to do prod. Or it may have been dev stage prod, I don't remember. But anyway, I go to do prod. And when I do prod, the uh, port channels for the firewalls were configured differently than in dev and stage. Awesome. Okay. Yeah. So I forget the exact syntax, but I think like the VLANs were applied differently.

[00:17:09] Matt: The commands were different. I don't know. It was a config difference, right? A config drift essentially. And so I went to do prod the same way as Dev and Stage, and it broke the link. And so I broke the first one. So then a good firewall pair, right? It fails over. So then I go do the second one, not realizing I broke it and then I break it.

[00:17:27] Matt: So then I keep working cuz I'm working remote. Like nobody, like I'm brand new. No one's really talking to me. I don't know who to talk to. So I go back and I do everything. It's not working. I go back and check like, you know, 15 minutes later. And I realized one of the port channel links is showing down, down, or down, like, uh, error Disabled or something.

[00:17:43] Matt: Same thing with the other one. So I go and I message one of my teammates and he didn't hear of anything yet. So he's like, well, if you haven't heard of anything broken, don't worry about it. I'm like, something seems wrong. So then I go to our like, infrastructure organizational channel with like 20 or 30 people of like our, a few departments in it.

[00:18:00] Matt: And it's blowing up with people blowing up. There's a war room going on, like everything's broken, like it's affecting customers like. Everything's down. So I revert my change on the prod comes right back up, right? And I go, I go into the channel as the new guy within 30 days, and I tell them I broke it. I had to tell them.

[00:18:23] Matt: I'm like, yeah, this is me. I'm so sorry. And I got kudos for that. I didn't get fired. Yeah. And on the RCA. They never told me this, but I saw it on like a screen share. One time later, like my director put down for the rca, like something like New guy mistake or something like that. Right? You know, like something like I didn't get fired, I didn't get in trouble and they respected me more cause I owned up to it.

[00:18:49] Matt: Which is something I've always tried to do. 

[00:18:50] Chris: Yeah, that's a big deal, right? I mean, and again, tying back into the ipo, imposter syndrome kind of mentality, you know, that feeling makes you wanna shrink away from that a lot of times, I think, right? I mean there's definitely like almost a natural tendency to go run and hide versus, you know, stand up and be like, yeah, that was me.

[00:19:04] Chris: I broke that. It's hard to do, and it's good that culture at Rackspace, you know, at least at the time, was open to making mistakes. Right. I mean, I think, you know, there's definitely two kinds of shops out there when it comes to it and digital infrastructure, and there's, there's folks who want to fix the blame and folks who want to fix the problem.

[00:19:20] Chris: And it's good to know that, you know, that was, uh, that was one where you're, you know, o okay to make mistakes, you know, to, to a degree. Right. I mean, obviously not on purpose or anything, I'm guessing they're not mistakes. 

[00:19:29] Matt: Oh, definitely not on purpose. And yes, you are. Exactly. You are exactly right. Like when I interview there, I like to ask, when I interview anywhere, I like to ask, tell me a time, something broke.

[00:19:41] Matt: What happened? How did it, how was it handled? And they told me about a time somebody fat fingered something and broke something big. Right? Some BGP routing thing. And the way they handled it, I really liked, they modeled it after aws when they took down the entire, I guess, I don't remember exactly, it was years ago, but they took down like all of EC2 on the eastern side of the us.

[00:20:00] Matt: I don't know. It was a big outage. Right. And AWS. Addressed the problem saying an engineer accidentally made a typo and it broke everything. So we fixed the typo from being allowed. We didn't fire the engineer. Right. And Rackspace did something similar, right? Somebody made a, uh, ran a commanding that was an accident on a very privileged, uh, co, like a core BGP router kind of thing.

[00:20:22] Matt: And they basically implemented controls to prevent unauthorized or. Changing commands unless you have a change window, basically. You know what I mean? Yeah, yeah. I, I forget the term for it, but yeah, it was very, uh, I, I liked the way they handled it.

[00:20:33] Chris: One thing you mentioned there too, just kind of back to the kind of career path and journey side of things, was at Rackspace, you were a network security architect, maybe more focused on automation, but I.

[00:20:44] Chris: That's an interesting leap, right? So I'm curious as to how you went from, you know, network engineer, senior network engineer into network security architect. They're like, you know, why shift to security? 

[00:20:55] Matt: Oh, no. Okay, so, so now we're going into the imposter stuff here, and I'll get to that in a minute. So I was at finish line.

[00:21:03] Matt: Uh, I wa so I had left finish line and I, I went back, I was there about a year and a half and I was working on a side project. I called net config and I'd had this idea for a long time of basically a pretty UI for interacting with Cisco devices over that only have cli like, uh, your ASAs or your Catalyst switches, stuff like that.

[00:21:22] Matt: So anyway, I wrote it up and I, I, after six months of working on it, like sometimes I'd be up to like one in the morning working on this thing, I released it and I got tons of good feedback, including like a couple of people from reaching out at different companies such as Rackspace, Hey, do you wanna come work here?

[00:21:36] Matt: So that's kinda how I got my foot in the door there. But they reached out. I really liked them, interviewed, and then basically I got put on that team and they brought me in from being a senior network engineer at Finish Line, which is, uh, a mall based retail, basically all around, uh, the United States pretty much.

[00:21:54] Matt: And then to working at Rackspace, which is. Massively larger than finish line's data center, right? So, uh, or even entire infrastructure footprint. So, uh, I got brought in to help specifically with automation on a team that really needed it. For example, that thing that I broke that I told you about earlier, because everything was done manually.

[00:22:13] Matt: So thing, and then config drift happens. So automation really could kind of help not only deploy without issues, but also prevent that config drift over time. So that's what they brought me in for. So, My first week I'm in there. My boss pulls me aside after I'm done with the HR training stuff, and he sits me down in a conference room and he starts drawing out everything.

[00:22:32] Matt: And I'm like, okay, hold on. Like this is a lot. And he's like, what I want from you is an entire automation plan on how we're gonna automate things. Go. And I'm like, I'm like, what? What? I'm like, they were showing me things, my team was showing me stuff, and I'm sitting there. At work, trying not to cry with this overwhelming feeling of what did I get myself into?

[00:22:59] Matt: And then like two weeks later, I fly back to Indiana and I'm working at home alone. I don't even know where to start, right? Again, I didn't know what it was at the time, but the impost, that was the strongest I think I've ever felt. Those imposter feelings was making that leap from. Doing like, uh, us learning Python and scripting and doing a little bit of automation, a finish line to being like, okay, do your thing.

[00:23:24] Matt: And they also put faith in me. I learned a lot there in working there for about three years. Made a lot of good progress, did a lot of really cool automation. Learned a ton from it as well, and I think I really kind of helped a lot like that process. I told you that broke that firewall pair, automated that entire process.

[00:23:42] Matt: End to end. You basically submit a ticket and everything gets done right and it, and it does all these kind of validation checks. But that took a while to get, uh, that took a while even just to learn how to do some of that stuff. So that's how I got to that role. And the imposter feelings that came with it.

[00:23:59] Matt: Yeah. Wild. 

[00:24:00] Chris: What would you say so far? I mean, you've done some great stuff, right? Like what's, um, you know, so far. What's the greatest achievement of your career, in your opinion? 

[00:24:10] Matt: My greatest achievement? 

[00:24:11] Chris: Yeah. And it could be from any, any angle, right? It doesn't necessarily even have to be something big, but, uh, you know, something that, uh, you're proud of having done or having, you know, gone through even.

[00:24:21] Matt: Yeah, that's a hard one. It's hard for me to say technically, right? I would say there's a couple, I would say more personally, like even just start even recently starting to recognize this and come to terms with it, with myself. Has been a, a, an achievement, uh, and the imposter syndrome, kind of what it is and helping others out with it.

[00:24:42] Matt: I would also say back at Finish Line, for example, I was training up some of our entry level techs as well, and they really liked that they were able to move on to other, kinda other roles, either outside of Finish Line or move up in the networking departments at Finish Line because of that, and they, they were.

[00:25:01] Matt: Really appreciative. So achievement from a non-technical perspective, I would say it's means more to me, but it also is hard for me to say technical cause I downplay it so much. Right? Like I joked before about kind of how I, it was pure luck. I got into the role where I look back and it's, it always feels like it was pure luck.

[00:25:21] Matt: I got into every role that I did and I moved up in, and yeah, I've done some really cool technical things, like I've done core route of migrations where I planned the entire thing. Not exactly myself, but I led pretty much all of it. Or I led the team is what I mean, on the whole project. I've done some really nice automation stuff, but yeah, I mean, I can go into those if you want, but I, I don't know, it, it, it's always me just like downplaying it, like, yeah, yeah.

[00:25:45] Matt: You know, anybody can do it. Right? Anybody can do it. Right. 

[00:25:48] Chris: Yeah. There's, I mean, there's, there's a couple sides to that I think, which is interesting and, you know, We tend to do that. I think, I mean, for, for, for a couple reasons, right? I mean, one, there's this kind of, you know, potential for just, you know, genuine humility.

[00:26:00] Chris: There's also potential for false humility. There's also this, you know, in one of the slides you had for, on the nano presentation, you talked about this kind of loop where you get success and then you, you downplay that success, which may be exactly what you're doing, but then also at the same time, there's this other piece of it, which, which isn't necessarily the, you know, imposter feelings, but just the, you know, once you've, it, it's kinda like the phrase, you know, everything's impossible until it's done for the first time.

[00:26:23] Chris: And then after it's done, it's no longer impossible and it doesn't feel like that big, that much of a big deal, right? Or where maybe you really worked in your knuckles, you know, hands to the bone or whatever you say for weeks or months did something. I think for a lot of us who, especially who work in technology, as soon as it's done you kind of just move on.

[00:26:40] Chris: So we, you know, we don't take that moment to kind of put that new feather in our cap, or I don't know, logo on our. Side of our vans or whatever you do to celebrate the win. Yeah. We don't give out medals for, for automation or, or, you know, uh, code upgrades. 

[00:26:55] Matt: Well, I, I always joke like, uh, well, that boss, Robert, I told you about, he would call networking as like the central nervous system of, of a company, right?

[00:27:03] Matt: Where it is in the backend and it, and it interconnects everything and everything has to run through the network. And no one knows you're there until something breaks, and then they're very aware that you're there, right? So, and I think that's also a lot in part in general with it, especially on the infrastructure and the backend side.

[00:27:19] Matt: Uh, maybe not just networking, where people may not recognize you're there until something breaks. And then it's like, okay, you gotta fix this now. Why is your stuff broken? It's never, hey. They come by on a random Tuesday. Hey, thanks for keeping a stable network with an ad domain. And you know, like active directory infrastructure.

[00:27:36] Matt: Like thanks for everything. It's expected to work. So I think sometimes this job and this industry, it can kind of, I mean your, your peers and your managers definitely help, but when you get that from outside, this industry can be, you know, ripe for that. I would say. Or for those imposter feelings. And then the other thing that I learned that you were talking about kind of from the books is recognizing and acknowledging your successes and not just downplaying them.

[00:28:01] Matt: Right? So like I joke about downplaying them and all, but it's gotten easier to accept them as having been real successes versus prior to I started trying to read about this stuff and learn about it, where it was always being dismissed. So for example, I was saying, yeah, it was a, you know, I did a core router migration.

[00:28:20] Matt: It's nothing big. To be really honest, that was a lot of work. Like that took me like three straight months to do, map out everything. I had physical cabling, diagrammed, cable, literally every single cable to be moved in a Visio diagram mapped out in Excel. I had layer two, I had layer three, I had full configs like pages upon pages of configs.

[00:28:40] Matt: I had 20 people in overnight coordinated. I had an eight hour downtime for the company, which was fully online. Uh, that's when I worked at Angie's List. And then I had a project plan written up, worked with a pm, got that delivered to the executive board in order to get that eight hour company-wide downtime.

[00:28:53] Matt: I'm like, this was a big deal. And I, yeah. You know, it was just a small, little core routing change. Nothing big. No, no. It was a, it was a lot. And I think past me would have said, yeah, you know, it, it's not a big deal. But now what I have to do is not only recognize that yeah, you know, I did put in a lot of work and it did, it was successful.

[00:29:14] Matt: And I got a lot of kudos for it and it was a great boost to my career. But at the same time, not be afraid to talk about it like right now. Right? Like so to not be afraid to talk about it and downplay it is always the imposter in me trying to keep it down and trying to say, well, it was successful because of X or because Y or not because of you.

[00:29:33] Matt: And sure I had help and sure I worked with other people and, and I didn't do everything a hundred percent myself, right? But it was still a good achievement for me. And it was still a lot of work that we ended up doing. So it's important. 

[00:29:45] Chris: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And well, and, and that's where, you know, you know, you mentioned earlier that, you know, you don't think imposter syndrome can be cured.

[00:29:52] Chris: And, and I agree with you. I think you, it, it's one of those things where you, you treat it, you deal with it, right? Um, yeah. Yeah. And, and, and I think, you know, the real important thing there is, you know, is the, are these feelings weighing you down and dragging you down and, and making your life worse? Or, you know, is there a way to harness those feelings and, and let it motivate you and drive you?

[00:30:14] Chris: And obviously the drive can be negative. It can, it can go too far, but a little bit of it I think is potentially good. I think, you know, I've, I've found, at least in my life that a lot of things, right, when it comes to like personal strengths and weaknesses, like they're always tied together. Like, whatever, whatever you think your greatest strength is, there's probably a weakness like lurking there behind it, right?

[00:30:32] Chris: And whatever you think your greatest weakness is, there's probably a strength there. Lying behind it. And I think imposters these feelings are, are, are similar where. You know, the reason I keep doing the next thing is because the last one wasn't quite good enough. Right. I'm not satisfied that I did a core migration.

[00:30:47] Chris: I'm not satisfied that I rolled out IPv6 across, you know, the third largest Metro-Ethernet network on the planet. Yeah. Um, I am ready for the next thing. Right? Yeah. Like, like, like, let's do it bigger. Let's do it better. Let's figure out how we can, how we can make this better. And I, and I, I think that's almost required for success in this industry.

[00:31:02] Matt: Yeah. Industry changes a lot, right? It's changing all the time. I haven't really done true network engineering in about five, six years. Right. Been doing this automation stuff and now I go and I'll go to these little nugs like network user groups around, uh, in Indiana and listening to some of them talk about, or what they were talking about at NANOG.

[00:31:22] Matt: I'm afraid to go back to network engineering, you know, like some of the new tech I left when 10 gig was a big deal in the data center and now I don't even know what they're up to now. 400 gig? I don't know. It's creeping in. Yeah. You know, I, I, I think they were talking 400 gig. That's crazy to me. So, and then that's just networking, let alone, uh, the DevOps space or the automation space, or all these other tools that are coming out.

[00:31:44] Matt: Uh, it is very intimidating and it's hard to keep up with. So I think what I've also kind of started to recognize is I'm good at Python or I, you know, I'm, I'm good at, good at, good at it, good enough to get by, right? But, um, there are people, there are better than me and there are people that are not as good as me, but I have to accept that I am where I am at the moment and I'm, and I'm where I should be.

[00:32:04] Matt: And I can keep growing where a software developer will run circles around me, right? Just hands down. But he's a software developer. I can run circles around him with networking, whereas a pure network engineer, right, I can run around him with automation, but I mean, he could probably deploy IPv6 on a metro ethernet environment, right?

[00:32:25] Matt: That I wouldn't even know where to start. So it's kind of accepting that it's really hard to not compare myself to other people, and it's really hard to say, oh, you know, Python and Golang, or, Hey, you know, Docker and Kubernetes and AWS and Azure, and all this stuff that I don't know, or I don't know, all of it.

[00:32:40] Matt: Like you do. Very hard to not compare yourself. So on my journey, it's been accepting not only where I'm at, that you know it's okay to have a skillset. In some things and not everything, or not everything that your peers do, and let your peers kind of help round you out. You know what I mean? 

[00:32:57] Chris: Yeah, for sure.

[00:32:58] Chris: You know, a lot of, you know, leadership and management advice comes into that I think, a little bit, right? This idea of like, not trying to be the smartest person in the room, but, but filling the room with smart people and, and making sure that all the pieces kind of fit together in interlock. And I think it was, uh, Phil McKinney who, who talked to me about this idea of.

[00:33:16] Chris: You know, cause we talked about like T shape engineers, right? Where like you're really deep in one area, but you're, you know, you're pretty broad across the top. And I think the, and he talked about no, what you really need to be as like a pitchfork engineer, where you've got, like, you've got like, you know, one really deep piece, maybe that's where you started at network engineering.

[00:33:29] Chris: Then you've got like another depth, maybe it's in Python, right? Or maybe there's another little depth that's, uh, I don't know, you know, the restful APIs and then, and then, you know, and then kind of this connecting kind of breadth on the top. But at the end of the day, like as you said, right, you can never do everything.

[00:33:42] Chris: You can never know everything. It's changing too fast and it's too broad. So, You know, give up on that dream, I think right away. Um, but it's, but seeking of dreams and kind of this dynamic, you know, evolution of, of your career in the industry and stuff. I'm curious, you know, what do you wanna do next in your career?

[00:33:57] Matt: I haven't figured that one out yet. Um, I don't, I don't know yet. Um, I enjoy this kind of stuff. I enjoy doing presentations. One of the things that I do when I start recognizing I'm feeling like an imposter, like when I bring on a new project or something that's, A new job, not a new job recently. Right.

[00:34:16] Matt: But like new project. As a consultant, I'm always changing projects. Uh, it comes on a lot whenever I do. So I've learned, when I start feeling that way, I need to pause and do something that is fun for me and comfortable for me, right. Work related, but still. So I start doing things like presentations, like that, imposter syndrome presentation.

[00:34:34] Matt: I do similar stuff or I start trying to work on things like that. I like talking about this and helping others. So I don't know if I wanna get into management later on. I've thought about it. I'm still trying to figure out, do I wanna get into because I really want to, or the imposter is in me, is telling me I'm not good enough at tech and I can't keep up, so I need to change to an non-technical field, you know?

[00:34:56] Matt: And it's always hard to kind of know sometimes is it the imposter in me leading me somewhere, or is it my genuine desire? So, Kind of where do I wanna go? Uh, I really like where I'm at. My goal is to get into network automation. I'm really happy where I'm at now. I'm not trying to jump into management or anything else just yet cuz I'm not quite sure yet where I want to go.

[00:35:18] Matt: That helps. 

[00:35:19] Chris: Totally fair. And uh, unfortunately that is all the time we have for today. Matt, do you have any, any projects, anything going on out there? I mean, obviously like maybe it's the things we already talked about. Right? We'll link to the podcast you were on with heavy networking and, and, uh, the packet Pushers, guys.

[00:35:35] Chris: Yep. Um, the stuff from NANOG. Anything else though that we should, uh, you know, let the Imposter Network know about? 

[00:35:42] Matt: Yeah, so after I did my internal presentation, I wrote up a blog post on network to code's blog. I'll send you the link for the, for the meeting notes, but it's basically, Very similar to what I did internally and I just put into a blog format to kind of talk about otherwise.

[00:35:56] Matt: No, I don't have a really big social media presence online, or at least not yet. But, um, I really appreciate you having me. This was really, really fun and really great talking to you. And I do appreciate all the work you do with your past host too. Um, I really like them and they've helped me a lot, so thank you.

[00:36:11] Chris: Awesome. Yeah. Well, Matt, thanks so much for, for sharing your story with the Imposter Syndrome Network. And thank you to all of our listeners for your attention and your support. We 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.

[00:36:29] Chris: Don't forget also to share this episode or this podcast with anyone. It could help. Don't keep it all to yourself. 

[00:36:36] Chris: Now, Matt, I do have this one last question here. I, I don't know if you're a big reader or not, but I'd be curious, you know, what's your favorite non-technical book? I, I see some, some Star Wars stuff on the wall behind you there.

[00:36:45] Chris: Maybe it's sci-fi, maybe it's not. I don't know. What, what, you know, what's, what's your favorite, uh, book that's not about networking or automation? 

[00:36:52] Matt: Oh, okay. So I've recently started reading, uh, these Star Wars books by Timothy Zahn all about us. Grand Admiral Throne, he's a character in the Star Wars universe, and I think they're coming out with him with the new Disney Plus series.

[00:37:06] Matt: Oh, cool. Love that. It's a great fun, uh, book series to read. Uh, he has like, uh, 11 books on it, I think. And I've read, I've read all of them. Those are my favorite from like a science fiction, uh, related one or from like a, a pleasure, fun kind of book, you know? Definitely. 

[00:37:20] Chris: Awesome. We will be back next week.