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Main illustration: Juan Tang Hon

A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that I had imposter syndrome at Intercom.

I’d spent the previous 7 years at Google and Facebook, and through public writing and speaking, I’d built a solid reputation for myself. Intercom at the time was a tiny startup. I was the 14th employee, and the first ‘public profile’ type hire.

But 3-6 months in, I wasn’t sure if I should be there. I didn’t know anything about startups. Or SaaS. Or venture capital. Or building a business from scratch. Or people management. I’d made some bad mistakes, redesigning parts of Intercom and breaking workflows for customers. We were growing fast. I couldn’t keep on top of everything. People were asking me questions I couldn’t answer.

I wondered if I was just a bigger company kind of person. I doubted myself.

Common syndrome

Imposter syndrome is common in our industry, and common at Intercom. It eventually passes for everyone, we all recognize it by now, and we know how to talk to new people about it. Joining a new company is overwhelming. Especially one growing as fast as ours. It’s very normal to feel like you don’t know.

It takes vulnerability to apply for a new job at a company you admire.

A realization I had recently was that imposter syndrome also happens to people long before they join a company. Many of our very best people nearly didn’t apply for a job here. They read our blog, saw our growth rates, saw us hire other people with solid public reputations, and saw us hire from big successful companies. Companies they hadn’t worked at. They didn’t think they’d be good enough. Or that we’d be interested. But they were wrong.

It takes vulnerability to apply for a new job at a company you admire. All of us working in tech have likely got a pretty good job already. Fear of failure is real and very human. It’s easier to not go there.

Anticipating potential

But at one point our very best people felt this way too. And I’m very thankful they did go there, they did put themselves out there. Our success so far, and our incredible potential for the future, would simply not exist without them.

When I was trying to decide whether to leave Facebook and join Intercom, my wife was the one that closed the decision for me. She asked me:

“Do you think you’ll regret it someday if you don’t join now?
Will you wonder about what might have been?”

My answer was yes, and I’ve never looked back.

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