On Friday, I made a rookie mistake. Part of the reason being that I’m a rookie, and part being that I’m cheap, even when spending other people’s money.
Last month I was SHOCKED to be invited to speak at a conference. So shocked that when the woman with the British accent invited me over the phone, I assumed it was a scam and asked her to send me information via e-mail. Much to my delight/surprise/excitement, it was legit. A grad school classmate had even participated in the conference the previous year, so I could get first hand confirmation of the legitimacy and usefulness of the conference.
Following the realization that the offer to speak was legitimate (the first time I’ve ever been an invited speaker, as opposed to having a submitted abstract chosen for a talk), I got an acute case of impostor syndrome. I thought, “There’s no way I have enough stuff to make a worthwhile presentation. I’ve only been at this company a little over a year- are they going to agree to send me? Should I even bother mentioning this to my boss and the executive director?”
I turned to Facebook for encouragement and posted: “I’ve got a serious case of impostor syndrome. Moxie, don’t fail me now!”
I e-mailed the information to my boss and our executive director. Their response, “Work up an abstract and let’s see if there’s enough here for a talk.”
I scrambled and the next day sent them an abstract. The executive director made a few changes and said, “Go for it.”
So, I did. I accepted the invitation. I’m nervous.
Then came the rookie mistake. I got an e-mail from the organizer, who had initially contacted me, with info on how to register and a coupon code for $500 off the registration fee if I registered by Friday. Even though my company pays for me to attend conferences, I wanted to save $500. So, I registered. Mistake.
A few minutes later, while awaiting my confirmation e-mail, I got a message from the organizers: “I hope you’re well. I just received your registration for the stem cells meeting, as a speaker you aren’t obliged to pay for your place at the meeting.” Whoops. I thought that might be the case, but since the woman I had been corresponding with was the one who had e-mailed me about registering, I did.
So as if I didn’t feel like an impostor before, now I really look like one- an invited speaker who totally doesn’t know the ropes. D’oh.
They’re going to refund the money. Lesson learned.
With that faux pas behind me, my focus is shifted. As is the conundrum when writing abstracts months in advance, I was optimistic and included some stuff that wasn’t quite nailed down yet, so myself and my technician are pushing ourselves to get as much data as possible before the talk in March. Even if the worst happens and we don’t get it, I think I’ll still be fine. I only have to fill 15 minutes.
I am glad I spoke up and seized the opportunity. It will be a nice bullet on my CV that I’ve been invited to speak. I certainly think my boss and executive director were excited about it.
Now, since this conference is being held in the city where I did my post-doc, I’m looking forward to seeing old friends, taking Mac and Mabel with me, swimming in the hotel pool, oh, right- and I’m excited about the science.
(To find out more about Valerie Young and her work on The Impostor Syndrome, go here. And many thanks to ASCB’s WICB* committee for organizing a workshop years ago that helped me to ID and overcome acute cases of impostor syndrome) (*That’s the American Society for Cell Biology, Women in Cell Biology)