How Judy Anderson's imposter syndrome helped build her incredible career
Life has groomed Judy Anderson for a career as an entrepreneur.
Born to what she describes as “the perfect storm of parents”, her primary school teacher mother fostered creativity while her railway engineer father taught Judy analytical and problem-solving skills.
In fact, his idea of playtime was taking apart an old computer and getting Judy to put it back together in working condition.
At just 7-years-old, Judy won an invention competition with a tracking device she made for her mother’s often misplaced glasses.
“I put a tracking device on her glasses frame and a finder button on her car keys. So every time she lost them, she would press the button and it would flash and make a big beeping sound,” she said.
“That’s my childhood - always wanting to build things and figuring out how stuff works.”
During high school, Judy started a juice bar right behind the restaurant she worked at with a fellow waitress. Upon their request, the owners provided free rent of the unused space if they renovated it.
“Entrepreneurship made sense,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to have my own business, invent stuff and change the world and this is going to be a great way to do that.”
Judy’s unconventional nature and flair for business attracted her to the Bachelor of Business (Entrepreneurship) degree at RMIT University, where she proved to be an outstanding student.
From the outset, Judy was set to start her own business. Afterall, life had trained her for it.
There was just one thing - her imposter syndrome. This fear of being exposed as a fraud, of feeling unworthy and less capable than others which is experienced by many entrepreneurs.
Judy just felt unready.
"I had no idea how to start a business in reality,” she admitted.
Instead of embarking on her own venture, in the final year she opted for the Fastrack Innovation Program with Deloitte - a three-month program for top students where they work with a mentor to create innovative solutions for the company’s projects.
At Deloitte, Judy learnt that failures were just as valuable - if not more than - success.
“The whole project at Deloitte tanked. Every single thing we explored turned out to be unviable,” she said.
“Other teams had MVPs, signed on clients for Deloitte and all we had was this list of things you shouldn’t do.”
“But the director gave me the feedback that it is just as valuable for [Deloitte] to know where [they] should not spend [their] money compared to where they should. He said: what you learnt in 3 months would’ve taken us 3 years,” she said.
“That was when I genuinely learnt to love failure.”
Following her graduation from RMIT, Judy ended up working for Reece bathrooms, while she figured out what to do next.
‘After a 6 month rogue toilet selling stint...I became part of the innovation team at Deloitte’.
Given her wit and connections at Deloitte, Judy eventually paved her way back into the company. At 23-years-old, she was managing the Innovation programme’s micro-funding portfolio, advising Deloitte’s partners on investment decisions and developing a startup mentality.
Despite her privileged position at Deloitte, Judy begun to long for her startup roots again.
“After a few years in that role, I started to get a little frustrated with the pace, how large organisations work, and how much red tape and process there is,” she said.
Fueled by her interest in data-driven innovation, she moved to Inventium, an innovation consultancy company founded by scientist Dr Amantha Imber.
When she joined Inventium, Judy was only the third person on their team. Her unconventional decision in career progression alarmed people. They were aghast that she would leave a behemoth like Deloitte for a small startup.
“But it was the best decision I ever made,” she proclaimed.
“I spent the last four years in Inventium and that gave me my depth. It gave me genuine subject matter expertise in science-driven innovation.”
Inventium went on to co-create the Australian Financial Review’s Most Innovative Companies List, where they conduct research and apply methodology to rank Australia and New Zealand’s most innovative companies.
Most importantly, Judy’s time at Inventium quashed any remaining imposter syndrome.
“I was travelling the world, teaching companies how to self-disrupt their business instead of being disrupted by someone else - big superannuation firms or property developers and even not for profits,” she said.
She also set up Inventium’s Sydney office, leading the team there when it was recognised as one of Australia's fastest growing companies in the BRW Fast 100 list.
The knowledge she amassed allowed Judy to overcome any fears of inadequacy - and finally, she was ready to start her own business.
However, life had different plans.
An opening for the role of CEO at Startup Victoria came knocking on her door. Unlike the young graduate who felt like she knew nothing - Judy felt confident in her abilities to fulfill the coveted role.
“I’m the perfect fit - I’ve spent the last seven years helping corporations do this, I know the tools that work, I know the processes, I can help solve this!”
“How do you support founders in a really noisy space- that’s a really interesting challenge and I reckon I’ve got the skills to do that,” said Judy, who has been in the role for one month.
“I’ve always wanted to help anyone who has an entrepreneurial mindset, who wants to do something different and who wants to solve a problem that obviously does not have an adequate solution,” she said, perfectly summarising the niche she has carved for herself.
Startup Victoria’s mission is to create more founders and better founders. As the new CEO, Judy has a vision of expanding beyond events to grow a place for better founders and scale their businesses outside of Victoria.
“I’ve spent my entire career talking and coaching, this is the time for doing and building,” she said.
Judy advocates the importance of mentorship, admitting that her journey was confusing at times, and her pool of mentors was crucial to her success.
“They didn’t just fall into my lap. I chased the ones who pushed me in the right ways and I asked for their help,” she said.
“I’ve kind of always known that I don’t know anything. When I find someone highly intelligent and experienced, I’ll trust them.”
With her amassed knowledge and wisdom, she has become a mentor herself and dishes some valuable advice for startups:
“Customers always vote with their feet,” she said.
“The obsession with getting investment and venture capital is taking away from where the true value proofing is, which is with the customer.”
“Talk less and do as much as possible. Leave the building, go to where your customers are. You should only be at your desk half the time. Build, test. Build, test.”
She also recommends entrepreneurs to focus on finding a real problem to solve.
“Business ideas are a dime a dozen. Focus on finding a problem that no one has solved, or has not been solved adequately.”
Judy also has advice for her younger self:
“If I had my time again and I was a university student, maybe going through the RMIT entrepreneurship degree, I’d just start building things as quickly as possible.”
Come to Australia's leading technology & innovation conference, Above All Human, run by Startup Victoria.
Judy Anderson completed the RMIT Bachelor of Business (Entreprenuership) degree
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“That’s my childhood - always wanting to build things and figuring out how stuff works.” - Judy Anderson