Welcome to my first week
As you know, I started my first full time product designer position at a small Toronto start up. I want to recap on my week and how it went for me because as eager as I was to actually start on this journey, I may have jumped into the deep end without checking the water temperature first.
How was your week Chrystina?
I accepted my offer on the weekend before my first day at this company and I was exhilarated. I remember going to sleep the Sunday before I met my team tomorrow and it was exciting because now I was going to be paid to do what I spent weeks doing in the summer.
I woke up at my regular time of around 8am because I didn't have my onboarding until 10am, so I took my time and chose my leggings and sweater carefully and did a little bit of makeup because I had to be on camera today and I couldn't look like my regular fresh faced self on my first day, ya know, first impressions.
I looked through some of my stuff that I did from school, looked at my portfolio site and looked over the case studies and thought to myself, "What if I don't know what the hell to do? What if I forget how to be a designer? What if I have no idea what they're talking about and I fail?" I was so anxious, so I decided to fill my water bottle and make my vietnamese coffee to take my mind off my unrelentless thoughts of failure.
When I say imposter syndrome was strong, I'm not kidding. A prevalent thought all morning was "What if they see through me playing product designer and see that I'm actually a sales person?" I felt this way right up until I hopped on the onboarding call with my design lead and then the rock in my stomach just got heavier because I was so confused and could not think of what to ask.
I got tasked with the research and product strategy, I was also asked to help with another product they had and to be the liaison with marketing and devs and create decks for presentations for stakeholders. The rock in the pit of my stomach grew when I heard strategy and product strategy because in the moment I had no idea what I was supposed to do. Some things that ran through my head were "How am I supposed to research something I know absolutely nothing about? How did I do this before? How do they want these decks to look? What do they mean product strategy? I'm going to so fail!"
Once we could log off for the day, I was so mentally exhausted. I couldn't stop thinking that this was a mistake and I have no idea what I'm supposed to be doing. I did not get a good sleep this night.
My tuesday was rough to say the least. I woke up a little defeated and I still felt like I couldn't do this job. The amount of uncertainty that ran through my mind was insane. I woke up at 7:30am and immediately wanted to close my eyes again and sleep, I really just did not want to do it. I was mentally exhausted from yesterday and I could not wrap my head around what they wanted from me.
I felt like I was that kid on the playground who was the odd one out. The recurring question in my mind was "How can I call myself a product designer when I don't even know where to start?" "I'm such a joke, I can't fake this until I make it, they'll probably let me go after this"
I met with a few more people in the company during a meeting and honestly, I had no idea what to say in any meeting. I honestly felt like a fish out of water and I felt like all the work I was doing or was asked to do, made no sense. I had no idea where to even get my information or even how to start doing what my job was.
I couldn't wait until 5pm when we could log off because I was just so exhausted from trying to understand everything. It was like I was in a body of water just drowning, I could see the land where I was trying to swim to but the water just kept overtaking me and drowning me.
I really didn't think Wednesday would be any better because I honestly thought I was letting my team down because I couldn't figure out or understand what the ask was. Literally, the first step, I couldn't even get that down.
We're now halfway through the week and needless to say I did not sleep well at all the night before. I thought I'd be exhausted but my mind was running at 100 miles per hour and it just would not stop. It's important to note that throughout this week, I was also trying to get back into a morning routine and had set my alarm to wake me up at 7am each morning.
I didn't get up at 7am like I wanted to, I slept until 8am and moved my workout to the evening. Since yesterday, I kept having conversations in my head of my boss telling me that they had made a mistake and that my services were no longer needed. Any time there was a meeting between me and her or she messaged me, I got so nervous. Things that ran through my head were "I wonder if they can see through me yet?" "They can probably tell that I don't have the skills in order to do this job." "Maybe she knows that I look back at the information I had from bootcamp because the answer didn't stick"
In my mind I was in turmoil and to be quite frank, I was mentally exhausting myself. I had been so excited to start this journey and prove myself to an employer and now that I'm doing that, I felt like I just wasn't enough, that there were so many other qualified people who could probably do this job better and excel at it.
I didn't tell anyone about the feelings I was having and how discouraged I felt. I felt like I was just treading water but the company was asking me to do marathon laps and I was too afraid to leave the shallow end and dive into the deep end because I felt like I would for sure drown.
We had a meeting to present our findings from our research and when I tell you I felt like an idiot, that is no joke. I felt like I had researched something with no context and in a field that I knew absolutely nothing about. "I'm a fraud, I'm a fraud, I'm a fraud!" This is the one sentiment that kept going through my mind the whole meeting.
When the day ended and I still had my job, I was relieved but also wondered how I'd be able to get through the next few days until the weekend...
We're now one day closer to the end of the week and as let down as I felt at the beginning of this week right up until yesterday, I also felt like I was starting to actually get a grasp of what we were trying to achieve. I actually did sleep well the night before, probably because I was so mentally exhausted that my brain just wanted to sleep.
When I signed into our daily google meet today, it was the first time this week that I actually felt like I could actually do the job I was hired to do. I still hadn't fully wrapped my head around what we were trying to achieve and I couldn't fully imagine what it was that we were working towards but that's the beauty of product design, you work in the stage you're in at the moment and conceptualize as you go.
It's not to say that I wasn't also concerned about being told that I'm not the right fit for this job or I'm not meeting expectations or that I'd be called out as a fraud, because I was very fully concerned about this. I still was not confident in myself that I knew what I was doing and that I could do what was asked of me.
I felt as helpless and as lost as I did during the first couple weeks of my bootcamp, in that time I also questioned myself a lot and the decisions I made to get me to that point in time. I felt like quitting then and I felt like quitting now, I wanted so badly to throw in the towel and reveal the farce and just tell them that I'm not cut out for this.
As good as I felt during this workday, I also had just as many if not more doubts about my capability to do this job. I felt like even though I had won today, it was one small battle in a war of doubts that I had to fight against.
So I signed off for the day and prepared myself for the end of my first week tomorrow and hoped that I wouldn't be told that they had made a mistake and that I didn't have to come back to work on Monday.
I woke up today feeling like I had finally found my footing and was starting to fully understand what the ask was. I started my day as I usually do and did a workout, made myself a vietnamese iced coffee and opened up my jigsaw puzzle app on my iPad to start myself off on the right foot.
When we started my work day and signed into the team google meet, I got down to work which was product strategy and compiling secondary research from earlier in the week that I had done. As much as I was starting to understand what the ask was of me, I was also having a hard time grasping the concept of what it was that we were trying to achieve.
I did have to constantly remind myself throughout the week though that this was all part of the design process and to just trust the process and trust myself that I would know what to do. Bootcamp gave me those foundations and I just now needed to learn how to apply that into the actual real world with people who were paying me to do what I had worked so hard to do.
So, I created my deck of information I had found and synthesized down and prepped for our end of week meeting to go over what I had spent my first week working on. I think the fast pace of bootcamp had made me feel like spending a week doing and synthesizing research was too slow and that I wasn't producing the results I should be producing.
I had this sense of of unachievement going into our end of week meeting and going over what I had done with everyone else on the design team and other leaders working on different projects. As I walked everyone through my deck, I felt like I was apologizing the whole way and it made me feel even more incompetent, the imposter syndrome was really wreaking havoc on my self esteem today.
At the end of my presentation of my findings and synthesization of all that I had found, everyone seemed happy with what I had found and what I had created in terms of building a solid foundation for the users we wanted to target and how we were going to be able to incentivize users and creators.
We ended the work week and we discussed what we were going to tackle next week, in the back of my mind I was like, I guess they aren't letting me go. I felt instant relief when the workday ended and I still had a job to come back to on Monday.
What did you learn?
I realized as I wrote this out, that I went through a gamut of emotions this week, from exhilaration to dread, all the way to incompetence. One leading theme throughout the week was how out of place, uncomfortable and how much of a fraud I felt, it was something that was the main theme for the week. I had major imposter syndrome and I don't doubt that it'll go away by next week.
I'm now more aware that I feel like I'm going to let my team down because of how green I feel. I think this is something that a lot of my fellow cohort and many cohorts before and after me have felt and that it's ok. It's normal to feel like you're faking it to make it, especially if you're like me who pivoted from sales to design. I went through a major career pivot and whenever I felt like I was spiralling into a place where I was talking down to myself and my abilities, I always went back to what I learned in bootcamp and that was it's ok to pivot, it's normal and you have the ability to be successful.
I know that next week I'll work on being more kind to myself and instead of focusing on what I feel I can't do, focus on what I know I'm great at and continue to be great at that and ask for help and guidance on the things that scare me or aren't strengths. It's going to be ok and I should be proud of everything I've managed to accomplish and overcome. My employer saw my potential and gave me a chance, so learn to celebrate my wins instead of downplaying them.
Until next time!