08: Fighting the Millennial Imposter Syndrome for Career Growth

Millennials as a generation of kids grew up hearing they could do anything they set their minds to. Now they are questioning that ability. Now millennials are facing the Impostor Syndrome especially at work and it is affecting their career growth and trajectory. Meet a millennial rockstar who has successfully used mentors and colleagues to help her battle the Impostor Syndrome.

Janet Regal Hart is a Sr. Manager, Product Management at Amazon. Amazon.com, Inc., is an American multinational technology company based in Seattle, Washington, that focuses on e-commerce, cloud computing, digital streaming, and artificial intelligence. It is considered one of the Big Four technology companies along with Google, Apple, and Facebook.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

The Transcript - Fighting the Millennial Imposter Syndrome for Career Growth

00:01 Amanda Hammett: Hey, this is Amanda Hammett, and this is the Millennial Rockstars Podcast.

00:05 Amanda Hammett: All right, so in this episode of the Millennial Rockstars Podcast, we are going to meet a rockstar, Janet Hart, who's coming to us from Amazon. And so Janet actually shares with us a story about one of her early, early mentors and how he actually helped her to learn to tie her outcomes to financial results for the company and how that has made all the difference in her career. And then she also gets pretty vulnerable, and shares with us the story about how despite all the successes she has seen throughout her career, how she still, to this day, sometimes struggles with the impostor syndrome. So tune in and listen to what Janet Hart has to share.

00:43 Amanda Hammett: Hey there, this is Amanda Hammett. I am known as the millennial translator® because I help companies attract, retain, and engage top millennial talent. And speaking of top millennial talent, today, we have Janet Hart, who comes to us from Amazon. Janet, thanks for coming on the show.

01:00 Janet Hart: Hi, it's nice to be talking with you today.

01:04 Amanda Hammett: Well, great, great. So here's the thing, this show is all about you have to be nominated to be on the show and you have to be nominated by a former boss or a former co-worker, or a current boss or co-worker, and you were nominated by somebody that I actually respect and admire tremendously. She could not say enough good things about you. Let's just put it that way.


01:30 Amanda Hammett: Now, tell us a little bit, Janet, about your career.

01:33 Janet Hart: Well, so I started my career in 2001, at a company called Blackbaud, in Charleston, South Carolina, and I was there until about 2014. In my 13 years there, I had seven different positions and so I moved every two to three years roughly to a different part of the company. So I started working with third-party resellers and then I moved into a year where all I did was data analysis on sales performance metrics, diving deep into really interesting things. And then that prepared me to lead the global operating plan development and the regular operations of the sales work, did that for a few years, and moved into marketing. Learned a lot there, really focused on marketing automation, which was emerging at the time.

02:29 Amanda Hammett: Cool.

02:30 Janet Hart: Yeah, actually I really had a good time in that position, because we had put out some very large, and this was roughly like 2011-12. So we were looking towards 2020 as like, "What is our big goal for 2020 and how are we gonna get there?" And I thought we're not gonna get to this goal of acquiring customers if we're gonna call every single person individually, we need a better way to reach our market and a better way to talk to them with personalized messages. And so we... I led my team and we brought in marketing automation to Blackbaud for the first time and it has become an engine for them, which is super exciting. For me, even though I'm not doing that anymore, it's had a lasting impact. So I did that for a few years. And then, I moved on to a role where I was the director of operational excellence and led a major project for back office transformation.

03:23 Amanda Hammett: Cool.

03:24 Janet Hart: Where I had been on sales and marketing, then I moved to like, well, how do we iron it all out so that a customer and a contract comes in at the front of the business and goes all the way through to recognition smoothly. So that was...

03:38 Amanda Hammett: Wow.

03:38 Janet Hart: Yeah, the last thing that I did there. And then I was at a point where I was ready to do something new, take on a new challenge and I had to ask myself some tough questions: Do I wanna take on a new position here? 'Cause there was still more for me to learn. Or, do I wanna go and try to tackle a challenge at a different company and get a different perspective and way of thinking of things? And that's what I did. And so I ended up joining Amazon in the create space division here in Charleston and I'm a senior product manager and I have a team of product managers and I find it really fun work, very customer-focused like working backwards from opportunities to develop solutions and the work is very different than what I was used to before. The mental model is different in that you know... I just, I think it's been fun, so like that's the nutshell.

04:39 Amanda Hammett: That's awesome. I mean you've had a really fascinating career. And one thing that I really wanna point out to our listeners who are leaders of millennials is that you mentioned, and this is something I've seen consistently. You mentioned that every two to three years, you were ready for a new challenge. But the fact of the matter is, is you stayed put at one company for 13 years, and millennials do not have a reputation for being long-term employees, when actually that is, that's false.

05:15 Janet Hart: Yeah, I think I was lucky at Blackbaud to have good leaders that I worked with, who recognized that I needed that change, and that I was flexible enough to be able to move to different competencies or functions in the company, learn about them, figure out what could be improved, or what needed to be started and didn't exist, like tackle something. So I think that that is one of my sort of super powers is being flexible, because I bend, I can bend in a lot of different directions, but I don't break easily, so I'm really up to kind of a variety of challenges. And I had one mentor there who I was lucky to work for twice. He helped me think about my career differently. I think in a way, we were of different generations, and so a little bit of friction and frustration that we had when we had career development conversations, is he was like, "Well, what do you wanna do long term? What do you wanna do in 10 years?" I was like, "I don't know." I really can't think that far in advance. I'm much better at saying this is what I don't wanna do or this challenge seems interesting, and maybe only thinking three years in advance. And so he's like, "Alright, well, then, we're just gonna put you on this tour of different parts of the company."


06:45 Janet Hart: And he really helped me think about the skills that I was gaining with every job. And I think at one point, he had a finance background. He used an example of, there are multiple different types of accounting, or tax or parts of financing. You can specialize in one part, but it's really still accounting, and so what do you wanna add and build to your skill set? And his concept was, "You could do it again, but it doesn't make your check mark any darker, really." So...

07:17 Amanda Hammett: I love that.

07:21 Janet Hart: Yeah, think about the breadth of what you wanna learn and survey opportunities from that lens.

07:27 Amanda Hammett: I love that he was very aware of that. And do you mind me asking what generation he was from?

07:33 Janet Hart: I think he is in his mid-50s now.

07:38 Amanda Hammett: Okay, alright.

07:39 Janet Hart: Probably a baby boomer, I think.

07:40 Amanda Hammett: Yeah, so I love that he said that about the check mark not being any darker because previous generations, they always thought of their career is very much a ladder and it's always the upward movement. But millennials really look at their career, I consider it more of a lily pad, so jump laterally to laterally. And you're picking up skills along the way, and yes, you're moving up a little bit, but not these one wrung after the other. So I love that, and I've never heard the check-mark thing so...


08:13 Amanda Hammett: That's awesome.

08:14 Janet Hart: He has really stuck with me, and I have said it to more than one person on my team, and it helped me provide coaching guidance to other people like, "Well, what do you really wanna get out of it? Let's think about the components of the job, and not just could you do it every day, but what is gonna be the outcome and benefit to you." So yeah.

08:32 Amanda Hammett: That's so fascinating. So let me ask you this. You mentioned a little bit about your mentor, and I would like to circle back to him or maybe another one a little bit later, but let's talk a little bit about your career and what kind of stumbling blocks have you seen and what... How did you get through them?

08:55 Janet Hart: Yeah. I would say learning, there's always... When you take on something new, there's always a learning dip, and so it's like you go down a little bit and you have to climb back out of that dip. I think that one of the things that I've learned is the importance of perseverance and tenacity and continuing to push through some of those things. Where you have road blocks it's in many of my jobs, it's been about solving something or building something, and so every setback is I have taken the approach of, "Alright, well what are the new conditions? How does that change my thought process, and how can I adapt to that?" And that's something that has really served me well, especially as I've grown in my career, because it's never a hard no, or a total dead end. There's usually a way out or around something. You just gotta be persistent. So that's been a good thing for me. I would say a personal stumbling block, probably has to do with self-confidence, and I have seen other people who have been a little bit more aggressive in pursuing their next career step, going maybe bigger and higher instead of my of zig-zag approach. And I think we talked about this with some of my co-workers on my current team, is that I think it's called the impostor syndrome.

10:30 Amanda Hammett: Oh yeah.

[overlapping conversation]

10:32 Janet Hart: Yeah, and so one of the women in our office went to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Technology, so Grace Hopper was a pioneer of tech. They have this conference annually, and she attended a session about the impostor syndrome. And she came back to our office, and she's like, "It has a name." She's like, "Everyone, it has a name." And so you could see collective sighs around the room. We're all like, "Yes, okay. We all suffer from this," and it was a great moment for everyone to say, "What do you mean? You do? I never would have thought that you would have self-doubt, or be super hyper-critical of your own work in that way, because it's amazing." So we unofficially formed this network just to be able to talk about it and it was really nice. But I'm still working through that stumbling block.

11:25 Amanda Hammett: Well, honestly, it is something that I have struggled with, and I'm sure that men face this as well, and I know that they do. But I feel like women face it at much higher rates and are a lot more self-critical of themselves. That was... Sorry. But what have you guys since within your team, you have noticed this and you've discussed it, or do you find yourself calling each other out saying, "Hey that was awesome. Don't worry about that," or what are you guys doing about it?

11:57 Janet Hart: We do. So we haven't developed a really formal mechanism to address it yet, but... You know, little things, like in written and email communication when people say, "For what it's worth, this is my opinion," just being able to recognize that even that is a confession to someone else that your opinion's not valid. So it's small stuff like that, that maybe you don't realize is in there. And so, I will say, the woman to the conference, she's like, "You guys should all just read your communications, write them, read them and look for these trigger words, and try to remove them." And it's interesting.

12:37 Amanda Hammett: It is.

12:39 Janet Hart: Surprising.

12:40 Amanda Hammett: Actually, on this same very topic, I interviewed someone earlier this week and she is a sales leader and she's managing a team and one of the things that she had to learn early in her career is to stop apologizing. And she's like, "I teach that and I coach that to new sales reps all the time." She's like, "There's obviously a time and a place where you do need to apologize," but she's like, "You're walking down the hall and somebody's looking on their phone and not paying attention, they bump into you, you don't need to apologize for that." She gave three or four other examples and I was like, "I do that, I do that." [chuckle] So, yeah, I love it. That's fantastic, that is really fantastic. So you mentioned earlier and I'd like to revisit your mentor or another mentor or boss. So is there anything that your boss, current boss, old boss, mentor, co-workers have done that have really kept you engaged and productive and wanting to just keep driving forward?

13:42 Janet Hart: Yeah, so I will say the mentor that I mentioned previously, he was very good about helping me understand the connection of my work to the long-term impact on the business. So not only was I able to learn and add skills but also demonstrated proof and evidence of additional incremental revenue I was able to drive or cost savings and efficiency, and really being able to quantify things.

14:11 Amanda Hammett: That is fantastic.

14:12 Janet Hart: Yeah, and so everything I am doing, it does matter and here's how. Here's how we can show that. So that's what has been really important to me, I really love to see that my work at the end impacts the customer or the company ideally both to the mutual benefit. And I'll say something else that I think is important in my current team is really flexibility. Understanding that life is more integrated with work. And so, sometimes you have appointments with children, and you're taking care of that, but then you're getting online whenever you can. You're getting the work done, and that is what matters more than clocking in at particular times. That's one thing, and then I'll also say, more importantly than that is really safety, to be able to experiment and fail at things and really try and grow. Everything doesn't need to be studied until you know it's going to be perfect before you do it. Some things we should probably just go ahead and do it and see what happens. And so I think that that's a great culture where you can learn, and you might have some positive surprises that you if you had studied further wouldn't get. I'd say just to recap, like tying my work to impact, flexibility of schedule, and safety to experiment and fail, or really succeed.

15:43 Amanda Hammett: That's awesome, I love companies that really encourage that failure piece because, honestly, that is something that millennials did not grow up with in their educational experience, and our culture just didn't support that, that thought process. But now, in order to be successful, in order to innovate, we've got to do that and you guys are the kings and queens of innovation over there. So [chuckle] you gotta expect this is... You're gonna have some great successes and you're gonna have some failures, and that's okay.

16:17 Janet Hart: Yeah.

16:18 Amanda Hammett: I love it.

16:19 Janet Hart: Yeah, failure's scary, it's not fun, but you don't learn, really, if you don't try.

16:26 Amanda Hammett: No, yeah, you're absolutely correct. Alright, I gotta ask. You've worked for some really fantastic companies and you've had multiple jobs, especially at Blackbaud. When you were going through that interview process for any of those positions, do you feel like there was anything in particular about you or a way that you talked about yourself or anything, your resume, whatever, is there anything that really made you stand out to a hiring manager?

17:00 Janet Hart: Oh, that's interesting. I'll say at one point now, because I've had so many different positions. On the plus side, I think people look at me and they're like, "Wow she could do a lot of different things." Someone on my team last year said, called me a Swiss Army knife. Like, "I can ask Janet just about anything and if she doesn't have that deep experience, she knows someone who does." So in a way, I think that that helps me stand out, but on the other hand, I think it can also make it difficult for hiring managers to know exactly how they should use me. It's not as clear that I've had a 15-year career in marketing, therefore I'm gonna go run a demand generation program. There are pros and cons, I think, of my background, but more pros.

17:50 Amanda Hammett: Yeah, I would think so. I would say so, yes.


17:55 Janet Hart: I think, too, as I mentioned, tying my performance to impacts, those are all on my resume. And I think that that helps. And then I can easily sort of peel the onion back and talk about those, like what was the context of the situation, what did I do, how did it work out, you sort of present the full picture of the accomplishment.

18:16 Amanda Hammett: Absolutely, I think that there's... Especially in those of us that have careers that are more squishy like mine where there's no hard and fast numbers, I think being able to tie numbers and events to what you have brought to the table is phenomenal, and that is something... I've noticed when I sit down with CEOs and I say I bring out dollars and cents, their eyes and their brains start thinking in a completely different direction. They might have seen me in one way but now they're like, "Oh, okay, this is what we need." So, I love that. I love that your mentor really taught you to do that, that is something I feel that's gonna serve you well.

19:00 Janet Hart: Yeah, I don't think it was his quote originally, but he said it often, what gets measured is what gets managed.

19:05 Amanda Hammett: Yes.

19:06 Janet Hart: And so that was drilled in.


19:11 Janet Hart: Never forget that.


19:14 Amanda Hammett: Were you repeating it in your sleep, was it like that?


19:17 Janet Hart: Yeah, I say these things to my daughter.


19:22 Amanda Hammett: I love it.

19:23 Janet Hart: Yes.

19:23 Amanda Hammett: Awesome. Okay, so now, is there anything... You are on the older side of the millennial generation. Is there anything that you're seeing now that you're bringing in new younger employees, is there anything that you wish that they knew as they're starting out their careers?

19:47 Janet Hart: Now that's an interesting question. I think it almost depends on where they are starting their careers, like if they're starting their careers in a role that allows them to have project work and kind of get to a point where they can demonstrate some of that impact versus someone who's starting more in like a frontline role like in customer service for example. I guess I would say no matter what your job is, there's probably opportunity to improve it. And so, being curious about how things work or how things could work in representing that to your leadership team like, "Hey, I identified something, I think this could be better. Here's how I think it could be better." Those are the kinds of things that I think will get associates noticed. It's like someone with some initiative, drive, curiosity, and who wants to add that value. It's more than just coming in and doing the job. Those are the things that I would recommend.

20:49 Amanda Hammett: That's I think really awesome advice, really, really awesome advice. Actually, I'm getting ready to go talk at a university and they always ask me questions just like that and so I think that that was a perfect answer.

21:04 Janet Hart: Okay.


21:05 Amanda Hammett: Perfect, I might borrow from you.


21:07 Janet Hart: Sure.

21:08 Amanda Hammett: I'll totally give you credit.

21:09 Janet Hart: Yeah, no worries.


21:11 Amanda Hammett: Well, wonderful, wonderful, Janet. Well, we're gonna wrap up, but if anybody from the audience wanted to reach out to you on LinkedIn, would that be okay with you?

21:19 Janet Hart: Yeah, definitely.

21:21 Amanda Hammett: Perfect, perfect. Well, I will include your LinkedIn profile link into the show notes and otherwise I thank you guys so much for joining us for another episode of Millennial Rockstars, and of course with our lovely rock star today, Janet Hart. Thank you so much.

21:38 Janet Hart: Thank you.

21:39 Amanda Hammett: Thanks so much for joining us for this episode of the Millennial Rockstar Podcast. If you are looking for even more information on millennials and some free resources, visit my website at amandahammett.com. The link is below, it's amandahammett.com. There you can download a free millennial employee engagement guide that will give you all kinds of tips and tricks on how to keep those millennials engaged on a day-to-day basis, because we all know that millennials who are happy at work are more productive at work.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

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