An UPFRONT conversation with Alix Dunn
Entrepreneur, facilitator and speaker Alix Dunn advises organisations to strategically adopt technology to power their work.
She’s the founder of Computer Says Maybe, where she builds teams and solutions to help shape an equitable future.
We should recognise that systems and society instil confidence in those with privilege and stamp it out of people without privilege.
We caught up with Alix to learn about how she overcame imposter syndrome, her thoughts on not allowing perfection become a blocker to good work, and how privilege, or the lack thereof, affects the ability to be confident. Check out her full story below.
What does confidence mean to you?
Confidence to me means the comfort and ability to use your perspective and experiences to shape your conversations, relationships, and the world.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered?
When it comes to confidence, I struggled early on in my career to align my actions with my intentions. I had lots of ideas and felt very comfortable sharing them in small groups, but struggled with asserting ideas and perspectives in the wider world with people I would never have a chance to engage directly with.
I found public speaking – and sometimes even writing for audiences – terrifying because it didn’t allow me the space to hedge like conversation did. I also had raging imposter syndrome, always waiting for someone that knew more to tell me I had gotten everything wrong.
And in response I would work to shape spaces and support others – instead of (rather than in addition to) refining and sharing my ideas.
How did you overcome these challenges?
To overcome them, I committed to speaking engagements that I *really* didn’t want to do, found places in my regular work life where I could practice more presentation style communication and cultivated a network of supportive colleagues whose feedback I could trust – they didn’t go easy on me, but they handled me with care.
I started to identify ideas that I cared enough to nurture and spell out in blog posts, which then led to giving talks on the topic. This allowed me to explore an idea and build it over time in a way similar to projects.
I forgave myself when I said stupid things or was imperfect with my delivery, I gave myself plenty of time for practice, iteration, design and debate with different people, so by the time I was on stage or writing I felt deeply confident with the content.
What are some things you have on the horizon for building or challenging your confidence?
I have gotten far more comfortable with giving talks, and over time have developed a few that I really enjoy giving and engaging with.
I want to be better at identifying, seizing, and developing more new ideas, and build a process for myself. From a-ha in the shower to reflecting to building to a polished presentation.
Eventually, I want to be able to build things that I feel comfortable releasing into the world that people can use. This requires so much confidence that you’ve considered what you need to consider before releasing your ideas and resources in the wild, without expecting to be there for everyone who may want to talk about how to make the most of it.
What would your advice be to people reading who want to be more UPFRONT?
Know what you know. Know that the perception you have of yourself is easily visible which is at once terrifying because it means you are communicating all of the time but also liberating because if you can generate fake courage it will become real courage.
Know if you are a think-by-talking person or a think-by-preparing person. I’m the former so I have doubled down on people who can engage with me and help me grow. If you are the latter, find ways to build process that supports your preparation and reflection. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good – being a harsh self-critic can be beneficial for the first 60% of a project, but crush the project if overdone in the last 40%.
Why do you think organisations like UPFRONT are important?
Most people that struggle with confidence are told to fake it until they make it, or to just push through. And while I think that’s part of the process, it’s also not the only part. I appreciate UPFRONT works hard to help people recognise and understand this truth.
We should recognise that systems and society instil confidence in those with privilege and stamp it out of people without privilege. Communities and support networks that can help to draw attention to those systemic issues, and provide actionable support to those that are affected by them are critical.
Thank you Alix for sharing your story with us.If you’d like to learn more about her and what she’s up to, you can visit her website and follow her on LinkedIn. Make sure you also check out her talk on technical intuition, where she talks about critical skills for nonprofits in the digital age, and her guidelines to help anyone develop them.
UPFRONT is on a mission to change confidence. Our tailored workshops and programs for businesses are meant to help build more confident, stage-ready organizations. See us in action here!