Many moons ago, I read this blog post by one of my favorite coders and technology mentors (via blogs and forums), Scott Hanselman. If you can, take a little moment to read it before going on here.
It basically talks about “Impostor Syndrome” and how some people, mostly very successful (career-wise) people, just basically feel like they are cheating at what they do, that they are failing, not being true to themselves and others, and that they are frauds.
It usually comes in around the mid-30’s – sometimes later, sometimes earlier – depending on how bored you are and how much pressure you are under.
I came across a post the other day on that same blog from 2011 where someone was asking Scott if he still felt like a phony. To a certain extent and after so many years, he said yes.
I give some thought to this entire notion of being phony each time I use Excel; let me explain why to you.
When ClicData was in its early stages of development, even before it was launched to the public, I met with some investors, early beta users, friends, and business intelligence/data people that have seen it all.
At one point during one of those meetings, an investor asked me why I was presenting my financial business plan in Excel and not using ClicData.
My response was that ClicData is not a planning tool or a “what if” tool that lets me “play” around with numbers as we usually do when coming up with business plans.
“I add an extra 0 and boom, my sales are going through the roof and I am profitable yesterday!” This is the type of thing you do in Excel. Don’t lie to yourself, you have done it. We all have. Be truthful…
But here is the thing. Deep down, that comment struck a chord somehow.
Even though that particular person did not know anything about BI – consistent and automated reporting, KPIs, data connectivity, APIs, publication, dashboard embedding, and a whole lot of other things – I still felt that I was a phony. I, or rather something that I had a big part in creating, could not do what Excel could and that upset me. I thought that I failed – since ClicData could not do a simple business plan, it was a lack of vision, of features, of my decision making. I felt like a phony.
It took me some time to get over that and to finally realize that: a) the person didn’t get it, and b) ClicData is not ideal to build a business plan. It was never meant for that, and I should not try to make it so.
It is about trying to prove to everyone that we are the best, that we can do it better than anyone else. It is about proving the naysayers and haters wrong – all those that doubted you when you told them you were going head-to-head with multi-national software corporations that have been around for years and have all the big-name clients.
But more importantly, it is about building a better product, to solve a problem, not only for the big-name clients, but for everyone. There is nothing phony about that. My previous five attempts at building this product, and the numerous ideas and domain names that I purchased along the years served towards this one purpose. They helped me shape what I am and what the product is.
I was frustrated with big-name BI tools. I was tired of the chaotic sea of spreadsheets. It is a problem for everyone! And, I can solve it. Or at least, I can get a bunch of people together and work my hardest and smartest to solve it.
These days, I am focused. My work is focused on being the best BI platform ever – not being a “do it all,” “multipurpose tool” like Excel. My software does not have a built-in game flight simulator (if you are too young to know about this see youtube.com/watch?v=-gYb5GUs0dM), and it is not meant for business plans, grocery lists, and fancy multi-sheet, macro infested documents that change every day and nobody has access to.
These days, of course, I don’t do as much cool stuff as before. In fact, I haven’t written a line of code in two years. However, I am knee deep with guys that are amazingly bright, hardworking, and are the real deal. They are far from phony.
I have finally answered this question that has chased me around for years. I am not phony. I just want to do cool stuff that impact people’s lives for the better. I am a coder at heart, and I can do amazing stuff with computers. There is nothing phony about that.
I love doing it and I am happy for it. Nothing phony there. I know that I am not as fast at typing, at learning, at remembering or at coding anymore. I have developed other skills: how to run a business, talk to customers, help them solve their challenges, work with sales teams, run marketing, manage engineers, work in solving wider problems, architecture, design and so many other areas.
Much like a computer, there is only so much capacity, so you have to give way to the new stuff. That is ok. It’s not phony – it’s growing up.
And I have read and learned from you and your books and blogs. You are the real deal – not phony.