Episode 95–Crush Your Self-Doubt and Unleash Your Creativity with Denise Jacobs

 In Podcasts

Today, Phil’s guest is Denise Jacobs. She has been working in the IT industry since 1996. Over that time, she has been a developer, designer, writer, speaker and mentor. Right now her focus is on teaching, in particular helping others to recognize and overcome self-doubt. A positive step that frees developers and programmers to be more creative and excel at what they do.


­­­(1.08) – So Denise, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Denise explained that she started web design when the web was really young in 1996. She worked for Microsoft and several other companies. In the end, she realized that what she really liked doing was teaching. So, she started teaching web design and development at Seattle Central Community College. When she moved to Miami she worked at a software company that produced a CMS. That experience made her realize she really wanted to work for herself. She also started speaking at conferences. Around the same time, in 2009, she was asked to write a book. The CSS Detective Guide was a big success. Writing it and speaking about it got Denise more interested in the creative process. So she started to talk publicly about that side of IT work. Her latest book is about silencing your inner critic, so you can unlock your creativity and get into a flow state so that you can do your best work.

(4.47) – Do you feel that writing the original book was that reason for getting into this more creative area? Denise explained that it was really the catalyst. The process of writing the book made Denise realize that she had crippling self-doubt. She was always seeking validation, questioning her developer and writing ability. Worrying about how she was perceived. Writing the book got Denise to the stage where she finally felt comfortable with her work.

(7.48) – Phil asks Denise for a unique IT career tip. Denise’s advice is to “be your brilliance” – tune into what you do well and focus on that. Unfortunately, we rarely recognize that we are good at something, especially if it is really easy for us to do. She gave the example of a gymnast. They will think nothing of balancing on a beam and not really think about the fact that doing that requires a good sense of balance. Yet, the fact is that they have an excellent sense of balance, something which is obvious to everyone else. To identify their brilliance, Denise advises people to – “think back to the last time that you did something that was so enjoyable that you lost time.” If you were so consumed that you forgot to eat or use the bathroom you were, likely, in a flow state and working in one of your areas of brilliance.

(9.50) – Denise is asked to share her worst career moment by Phil. In one job Denise was singled out by one of her managers for “special treatment”, but, not in a good way. The company had a flexible working policy. Yet, her manager bullied her into coming in before 9 am and staying late. For Denise it was an awful time. It did not matter how many sacrifices she made her efforts were not recognized. Instead, she was demeaned. For example, one of her project managers was an introvert, so she ended up picking up the slack quite a bit. Effectively she became the de-facto manager. Despite assuming all of the stress and much of the physical work, when presents were handed out to everyone all she got was a joke gift of a date ball. That was it; Denise saw the light and took a step back.

(14.08) – Phil asks Denise what her best career moment was. For Denise becoming a public speaker has turned out to be a highlight. It has opened up a whole new world for her and enabled her to meet and help so many wonderful people.

(15.36) – Phil asks Denise what excites her about the future of the IT careers. The opportunities are huge. Recently, an HR manager told her that a lot of positions are going unfilled. So, there is plenty of work available. More importantly, there is room for innovation and creativity. The possibilities and opportunities are huge.

(16.32) – What drew you to a career in IT? Actually, Denise fell into an IT career by accident. While working at the University of Washington, she realized that the website was not getting updated. So, she sought out the person who was responsible for the website and discovered they were no longer keen to work on it. So, Denise learned HTML and a few other skills and took over. That was the beginning of her IT career.

(18.10) – What is the best career advice you have been given? Denise says it is important to surround yourself with people who are ahead of you. She called them “opportunity models”, people that can help you to recognize the possibilities and opportunities.

(18.42) – If you were to start your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Denise said that she would still focus on learning and teaching what she knows. She believes that is the fastest way to learn more and grow your community.

(19.17) – Phil asks Denise what she is currently focusing on. Right now, Denise is working to grow her reach and provide value. She has a lot of information to share that she has been too busy to get out there. So, over the next year, her plan is to share a lot more content.

(20.08) – What would you consider to be your most important non-technical skill? Denise picked out two things. Firstly, being able to write well and communicate effectively. Secondly, her design skills, which enables her to make her content visually appealing and engaging.

(20.43) – Phil asks Denise to share a few final words of advice with the IT Career Energizer audience. Denise says it is vital not to let your self-doubt get in your way. You need to be able to identify when you are suffering from imposter syndrome, procrastinating, worrying about being judged or doubting yourself. That is the first step to breaking through those negative thoughts and dealing effectively with them. There are tools you can use to hack your thought patterns, so you stop holding yourself back.


(4.25) DENISE – “It’s about silencing the voice of self-doubt, so that you can actually unlock your creativity and then get to the point where you’re doing your best work.”

(7.16) DENISE – “Negative self-talk is the number one barrier to success.”

(7.35) DENISE – “Creativity is really just about solving problems.”

(8.01) DENISE – “Be your brilliance. Tune into what it is that you do well and really do that.”

(15.43) DENISE – “The number of positions that go unfilled is ridiculously high because there aren’t enough people who actually have the skills.”


Twitter: https://twitter.com/denisejacobs

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/deniserjacobs/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/denisejacobs/

Website: http://denisejacobs.com

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