Dealing with the fear that you're a fraud

I was recently made the scrum master of my team. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m only a couple of months into this job and every day I fear I’m going to be fired for incompetence.

Every one of my pull requests gets tons of comments and requests for changes.

Not surprisingly, as a result I now dread going in to work each day.

Just had to vent.

I think you need to elaborate a bit more about your situation. Do you have experience with scrum ? Did you expect to lead that role when you got the job ?

Getting comments on your pull requests is not necessary an indication that your team doesn’t respect you as SM or dev. You’re working in a collaborative environment and it’s normal for other devs with different levels of experience to comment.

As for your impostor syndrome/fear of being fired… the only thing I can say about that from personal experience to help is … ask yourself … what proof/evidence exists to support the case that you’re not doing a good job ? Forget about what you feel or think… what do you know to be factual ?

At my previous job, the offices had very thin walls and sometimes I would ear bits and parts of conversations and my name would be mentioned. I had no idea if it was good or bad but I would always worry that people were talking negatively about my work (i’m too slow, not good enough, etc). We always think about these things in terms of good or bad… but in reality most of the times we just don’t know.

Hi, I like your username.

I do have some experience with scrum, just not as a scrum master. I’ve read several books and done several online courses and the particulars of the role just haven’t clicked with me. I also have really bad social anxiety which makes facilitating meetings really hard.

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Do you have a dedicated manager? I find that having weekly checkups is good for gauging how I’m doing. I definitely recommend setting up a 1 on 1 so you can get feedback - that way you’re not just left in the dark as to how you’re doing.

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I don’t think I have anything helpful to add, but I definitely know the feeling. I have been in a similar situation before. That particular role (Scrum Master/Project Manager/Dev Team Turnaround Artist) was not right for me at that time in my life, not least of which because I was in over my head in a leadership role. One of the things that experience led me to was taking a weekend and a few thousand dollars and become a certified scrum master through the Scrum Alliance. It was out of my own pocket, I had to make a number of financial sacrifices to make it happen, but I don’t regret it and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

That’s the boat I’m in. I have no leadership skills to speak of so I feel like I’m in over my head. Our sprint demo is on Monday and I’m freaking out because this time there is going to be a bigger audience.

Are you leading the demo? If not, who is? Who is the most important person in the audience to “speak to” and why? Sometimes that is the customer. But if your manager or another higher up will be there, that might make it confusing who your demo should “speak to”. I have done the best in these types of situations when I have been able to let go of trying to impress the higher ups and just give the best prezzy to the intended target audience as if they are not in the room.

I have been in the same position - not really a scrum master role but I was working at an agency where I was rapidly promoted from entry level to team lead and then to front end architect in a span of 2.5 years. I was a total noob when I joined but I just happened to be able to give a false sense of advanced knowledge to my managers because I did a couple of Lynda/Pluralsight/Udemy courses. Very soon I was knee deep in doing advanced config/work flow setup/ridiculous guesstimation for full blown ecommerce projects!!.

In my team lead/architect role I had to take responsibility of a team of 3 - 4 devs who were all more experienced (in years of experience) but simply lacked architectural/workflow/JS knowledge because they had not bothered to learn more. But anxiety + responsibility of managing team, providing estimates, planning tasks, assigning work and just doing my job scared the crap out of me every day because deep down I knew that if a real front end architect reviewed my work I would be exposed as a fraud. Because there was no formal code review process - my managers thought that I could do it all and do it perfectly - which was very far from the truth.

What kept me going? 2 quotes that I kept repeating to myself every day as I started my work or when I was afraid that I was going to crash:

Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.
-Marcus Aurelius

Just keep swimming

Even though I eventually quit that job due to lack of learning opportunities, I am glad I did it. I don’t know if I did it well or poorly but I delivered and it taught me a lot about architecture, best practices, leadership and led me to stoicism - which has helped me to greatly deal with obstacles and anxiety. I hope it might help you too -

How are things going now @thinksincode? I see this was posted a month ago.

Things are a little better. I still get really bad anxiety whenever I have to run a meeting as scrum master, but I have gotten positive feedback so I’m keeping at it.

As for my doubts about my skills, they’re still there. I’m kind of stuck on a problem right now, and I feel really dumb that I can’t figure it out. And of course, that makes me jump right to fearing for my job.

I’m taking it day by day. Thanks for asking. :slight_smile: