Generalists, Founders and the Impostor Syndrome
As the technical co-founder of a web startup, it's easy to think of yourself as a software engineer first and a founder second. This is patently wrong and potentially dangerous for your mental health.
To make my case, here is a list of job titles that I could quite easily give myself based on the work I have done this week.
- Business analyst (considering the benefits and implications of switching payment provider)
- Data analyst (running analytics on some data to see if it can help us find a solution to "the big problem")
- System architect (planning how our application should integrate with a new API)
- Rails developer (integrating our web application with the new API and a new payment provider)
- Front-end developer (building out the HTML and css for our webapp)
- UI/UX Developer (trying to improve our sign-up flow)
- Marketing (improving our pricing plan communications, blogging about our company's second birthday)
- Copywriter (both in-app microcopy, and marketing copy on our website)
- Design (designing/building a page to thank our Founder members: http://floatapp.com/founder_plan)
- Customer support (interacting with users via email and phone calls)
I don't say all this to boast or complain, it's simply a fact. As the technical half of a two-person company, I have to cover a number of different roles.
Truthfully, I love it. I have been, and always will be, a generalist. However, I also push myself to be the best at every individual thing that I do—no small feat given the list above—and this is where the imposter syndrome kicks in. Instead of evaluating my performance holistically, I tend to compare myself against experts in each of the roles I perform.
Having spoken to two other co-founders with similar feelings this week, it's clear that this is a foolish mindset. A more appropriate perspective is:
This shift in thinking has a had a massive positive effect on my mental health—but I'd love to hear what other founders think?