LAWG Week: Dealing with and Overcoming Imposter Syndrome by Maira Rosas-Lee

Evaluators and Imposter Syndrome: This is not just a grab-bag candy game.

My name is Maira Rosas-Lee, an evaluator at the Minnesota Department of Education and president-elect of the Minnesota Evaluation Association. I am a nerdy Mexican-Korean-American and major introvert (INFJ/counselor). Minnesota is home for many amazing evaluators, but the community at large can be quite intimidating for young evaluators of color. For a while, I felt the realness of Imposter Syndrome – feeling like an intellectual fraud, unable to internalize – let alone celebrate – achievements.

Dena Simmons gave a TED Talk about Imposter Syndrome; below is what resonated with me:

I have eternal imposter syndrome. Either I’ve been invited because I’m a token, which really isn’t about me, but rather, about a box someone needed to check off. Or, I am exceptional, which means I’ve had to leave the people I love behind. It’s the price that I and so many others pay for learning while black.

-Dena Simmons

How do you support someone who feels like this? How do you overcome this? If you’re an introvert like me or new to the field of evaluation, below are some of my tips and tricks to overcome Imposter Syndrome. Consider trying these out at Evaluation 2019 in Minneapolis.

Hot Tip: Stop saying fake it ‘til you make it.” I was hesitant to become President of the AEA-local-affiliate organization; my name (or the initials after my name) does not have as much grandeur as my predecessors. They, however, supported and reassured me. While I may not hold that title or position, I am not alone and will be working with a team of brilliant evaluators that will be right alongside me.

Cool Trick: Don’t say “I don’t know” – instead ask questions. That three-word sentence was my default to everything. Part of this is I’m a processor; I need time, books, and other minds to help me understand. The other part was I was scared to be vulnerable with my ideas out loud without a filter or proper context. Instead, ask a question back. When clients ask about measuring outcomes, ask, how do you know we’ll get outcomes? When asked about particular tools, ask, how do you want to use that information? This strategy then allows your clients to feel like they came up with the idea.

Cool Trick: Get social with informational interviews. I have met so many incredible evaluators at random social events that MNEA and AEA-TIGs have hosted. These social events and information interviews (where you talk about where you work, what’s the work culture like, how you got that position), are therapeutic! We usually end up commiserating together about how we feel like imposters… In reality, it’s not that we feel incompetent, it’s because our clients really do not understand what we do.

Hot Tip: It’s All About Community. My training began with learning community-based participatory action research principles and practicing authentic community engagement that drives research and evaluation projects. As experts let go of their power and engage marginalized communities to realize their own expertise and actually do the work themselves, we open the doors to answer so many questions – many of which we never have had to consider, but our communities do know the answers. We’re more often than not inviting our communities to the decision-making table.

I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.

– Toni Morrison

We’re looking forward to the fall and the Evaluation 2019  conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to aea365@eval.org.

2 thoughts on “LAWG Week: Dealing with and Overcoming Imposter Syndrome by Maira Rosas-Lee”

  1. My colleagues and I have a paper under review right now about the Impostor Phenomenon in evaluators that we hope will set the groundwork for an association-level discussion of the topic.

    1. Maira Rosas-Lee

      Hey John – thanks for the comment! This sounds super interesting! I was thinking about how to make this a series of workshops to talk about this and in what ways this shows up in our work as evaluators. Maybe we can connect to see how we can work together on something? I hope the paper gets published soon.

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