Confidence and Paranoia

Posted on 16 July 2004 in Work (No comments)

Normally work away days fit into two categories - dull and tedious, or arty-farty with stupid exercises crap. Which is why I always view them with a little trepidation - like I did on Tuesday as I headed off to a day and a half event, located in the luxurious surroundings of a hotel, shoved near Gatwick.

In contrast to the above, this one was a quite interesting day and a half - most of which will be completely irrelevant for the people reading this but it had some interesting parts.

One of the most interesting things was a bit spent on "ourselves" Basically you walk up a line where various questions are asked about different topics around corporate life (starting at environment, then behaviours and all the way up to purpose and identity). Then you get to the top and you go back down again, with similar questions being asked. It works best if you come out as answers with the first thing that springs to mind.

The exercise did help me find an identity for what I do. Producer is a very vague term and few people really know what an "Assistant Development Producer" really means. I struggle all the time. Which is also why the exercise was great - it put "facilitator" in my mind. I'm not convinced it's the right term, but there it represents a good part of my current job. You don't physically make anything yourself - you just help everyone else to do it. And I kind of like that.

The other interesting result is that the task is designed so that you start off thinking of the depressing parts of work - the "why am I here doing this crap" territory, and as you move on you start to figure out quite why you are. And if you're lucky you come out near where you should be - and where you should be thinking. It's very hard to explain but it was interesting as I ended up walking on this line and everything that cropped to my head first lead me to think of my personal confidence in my abilities.

I'm a rather self-deprecating, modest kind of guy - back when I was coding HTML for the BBC, I knew I was bloody good at what I did in the department. I know that because people told me so, because I was always in high demand, because people would ask for me by name, because people used to come and ask me questions and because I had a pretty nice salary.

I never liked to admit it because it always felt like I was being arrogant. I prefered to shrug it all off - it just felt strange to admit it as, after all, I was just doing my job. It's just that I don't like doing a job badly.

But when I changed jobs and moved away from hands-on technical work just under a year ago, I was suddenly stuck. I didn't know if it was going to be any good at it. I was going to be stumbling in the dark for a bit, a bit dazed and confused.

And then recently I got my annual appraisal and it was pretty good - some things to work on - some useful comments. But one thing my line manager said has stuck in my mind. "No one is doubting you're a producer".

Just under a year ago, I drastically changed my working life. I went from a technical discipline to the production discipline. I went from an online world I knew pretty well to a set of technology that I didn't really know much about. And I went and joined a new set of people. And I did it and people seem to think I'm doing okay at it.

Which is great! Or at least would be because part of me still doesn't quite believe it - which is the confidence thing coming into play. And it's something I have to work on. The walk has spoken.

So the moral of the story is... away days. Not always crap you know.

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