Acknowledge it: Be aware that you’re feeling like an imposter. Naming is something is usually a great first step.

Focus on Your Strengths: Make a list of what you’re uniquely good at. Return to your list when you feel your confidence is rocky or you’re unsure of yourself.

Decide What You Want to Improve: Everyone has room for growth. Decide what skills you want to grow and actively work to develop them.

Find a Mentor: Identify someone that you look up to, both personally and career-wise. Ask them to be your mentor, so you have someone you can talk with when you run into tough moments at work.

As a part of our series about how very accomplished leaders were able to succeed despite experiencing Imposter Syndrome, I had the pleasure of interviewing Douglas Ferguson. Douglas is an Austin-based entrepreneur and startup advisor. After serving as CTO at multiple Austin tech startups, Douglas launched Voltage Control, an agency that specializes in helping companies achieve their full potential. Voltage Control works directly with companies to design customized, collaborative workshops that jumpstart new projects and products.

While serving as CTO at Twyla, Douglas worked with Google Ventures to run Design Sprints for understanding consumer behavior, and he now brings this process-based experience to solve many types of problems across a wide array of industries around the world.

Douglas recently released his first book, Beyond the Prototype, which details a tangible, 6-step plan to help organizations move from idea to finished product. When he’s not working, Douglas can be found patching together his modular synthesizer, playing guitar, or watching documentaries.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

I’m an entrepreneur and human-centered technologist with over 20 years of experience. Currently, I’m the president of Voltage Control, an Austin-based workshop agency that specializes in Design Sprints and innovation workshops. Prior to Voltage Control, I held CTO positions at numerous Austin startups where I led product and engineering teams using agile, lean, and human-centered design principles. I graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University where I studied math, biology, and chemistry.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

While I was CTO of Twyla, a startup that sold limited edition contemporary art prints, we worked with Google Ventures on a Design Sprint, which we were running to learn more about what customers want and to improve our business model. While, ultimately, Twyla didn’t work out as a business, the huge benefit of this moment is that I got to experience the Design Sprint process from the “masters” and creators, including Jake Knapp. I fell in love with this way of working and this experience lead me to launch my company to help share this way of working with other companies.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We’re not dogmatic. We’re all about bringing together different ways of working and not following one methodology. Instead, we mix and match the right methods to meet the specific needs of our clients. Another thing that makes us stand out is that we are committed to building a community through our work. For example, we’ve started something in Austin called “Control the Room,” which is a yearly event for professional facilitators where they can meet each other and learn new skills.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the experience of Impostor Syndrome. How would you define Impostor Syndrome? What do people with Imposter Syndrome feel?

To me, Imposter Syndrome is the feeling that you don’t know enough about the field of business that you are working in and then everyone will soon find out. People with Imposter Syndrome lack full confidence in their skills and background and worry that everyone around them knows more than they do.

What are the downsides of Impostor Syndrome? How can it limit people?

The downsides are that you limit and question yourself when you’re paralyzed by Imposter Syndrome. When you second-guess yourself or get too caught up in your own fears or insecurities, you’re not at your best and you’re probably not taking advantage of some of your biggest strengths.

In your opinion, what are the steps that someone who is experiencing Impostor Syndrome can take to move forward despite feeling like an “Impostor”? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Acknowledge it: Be aware that you’re feeling like an imposter. Naming is something is usually a great first step.
  2. Focus on Your Strengths: Make a list of what you’re uniquely good at. Return to your list when you feel your confidence is rocky or you’re unsure of yourself.
  3. Decide What You Want to Improve: Everyone has room for growth. Decide what skills you want to grow and actively work to develop them.
  4. Find a Mentor: Identify someone that you look up to, both personally and career-wise. Ask them to be your mentor, so you have someone you can talk with when you run into tough moments at work.


How I Was Able To Thrive Despite First Experiencing Impostor Syndrome, With Douglas Ferguson was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.