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Tackling Your Professional Fears

January 2018- By Erica Woods, Manager of Contractor and Community Relations, Principal

CaseStudyBlog: PM/BA

At some point during your career you will have to confront your professional fears. Whether it be public speaking, interfacing with difficult customers or peers, learning industry jargon, or keeping up with the ever-changing technology landscape, there is always a new and scary skill to learn in hopes of becoming the best version of our professional selves.

We asked four of our internal leaders about the major challenges or fears they have experienced during their career and how they overcame those challenges.

For me, the biggest challenge in technology is always how to keep myself informed and relevant. Given the lightning speed at which the market changes, you can paint yourself in to a corner really quickly by choosing a technology that is unpopular and getting behind by only six months. We see this right now quite a bit with JavaScript frameworks. While there is always work for backend Java developers in the web services arena, most of the work is moving back in to the full-stack realm where some good JavaScript knowledge is required. I counter this by creating a solid RSS stream of news from all corners of development to map trends, then pick a new technology or tool I have never used (but is becoming popular) and spend a few hours each week experimenting with it. – Richard, Director of Applications Practice (Java/Open Source)

When I was a new manager, one of my biggest challenges was feeling as though I needed to take on everything because not only was I afraid of underperforming, but I was worried my team wasn’t “experienced” enough to handle the delegation of new tasks. This is a rookie mistake and I soon realized the best way to coach your team in new skills/responsibilities, and help offload some of your workload, is to delegate, especially if it’s a skill or area they’re interested in gaining more experience in. It’s really hard trusting others with tasks you’re accustomed to and held accountable for, but if you truly believe in them and put your trust in them, more likely than not they’ll feel empowered to perform at a high level for you. It’s a win-win situation because they’re developing new skills and responsibilities and you’re improving your management/leadership/coaching skills. –Director, Infrastructure

One major fear I had when beginning my career was contacting individuals and being able to speak intelligently about technology, a concept that was new to me and I wasn’t well-versed in. I was able to overcome this over time by learning to ask the right questions and building relationships with both internal Apex employees and my contractor community/base. I always researched new technologies/tools and leveraged the resources I had, including our internal technical SMEs, whenever I could. Knowing and using your resources goes a long way to overcome knowledge gaps that may be causing you anxiety! – Sarah, Sr. Recruiting Manager

I was terrified of public speaking. I would shake when I was forced to get in front of a crowd, and would often not remember much of what I had just said. But, as I took on more community evangelism, training and facilitation, and project management, it was a fear I couldn’t afford to get debilitated by if I wanted to continue down that path. I overcame by forcing myself to put myself in more situations where I was training/presenting, increased my preparation (one amazing public speaker I asked said “The best thing you can do to ease nerves is to fully know your content!”), engaged in visualization tactics (i.e. re-lived/visualized my last positive presentation), and took one hypnosis session. – Erica, Sr. Manager, Contractor Programs & Tech Philanthropy Initiatives

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