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Amelia Ransom of Avalara: “Most of us think that imposter syndrome is just playing to our insecurities”

Most of us think that imposter syndrome is just playing to our insecurities. We should know how to tell the difference between imposter syndrome and not knowing whether or not we’ve prepared ourselves for the challenge in front of us. Imposter syndrome tries to tell you that there is some innate part of you that […]

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Most of us think that imposter syndrome is just playing to our insecurities. We should know how to tell the difference between imposter syndrome and not knowing whether or not we’ve prepared ourselves for the challenge in front of us. Imposter syndrome tries to tell you that there is some innate part of you that will keep you from succeeding. For example, impostor syndrome tells someone from the inner city, or a single mom, or any other differently abled professional that they’re not good enough. That success only comes to the privileged, the wealthy, or the white, which often comes from how the world certainly paints it in your life. I don’t have five steps, but I have this quote from former first lady, Michelle Obama who said, “I have been at probably every powerful table that you can think of. I have worked at nonprofits, I have been at foundations. I have worked in corporations, served on corporate boards. I have been at G-summits, I have sat in at the U.N. They are not that smart.” Finally, I would leave you with this thought, if all of the people in your company, school, community are so much smarter and better than you, why haven’t they solved everything? There will always be people who don’t believe in you, please don’t be one of them.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Amelia Ransom, Sr. Director of Engagement and Diversity at Avalara. Prior to this role, Amelia spent 26 years at Nordstrom where she held team, regional and corporate-wide leadership positions including Store Manager, Corporate Learning and Development Director, Corporate Early in Career Director and VP Diversity Affairs. Her areas of expertise include leadership development, Early in Career and Millennial engagement, executive-level mentorship and advisement and Diversity and Inclusion strategy and execution. Amelia serves on the boards of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Seattle Goodwill, The Institute for Sustainable Diversity and Inclusion and Building Changes. She is also on the advisory board for the Seattle Chamber of the Association of Latino Professionals in America (ALPFA). Amelia is also a thought leader, a sought-after mentor and an inspirational public speaker.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

I haven’t always been in HR. I’ve had roles in the business as a department and store manager. I believe that my success in HR has come from my ability to understand and drive business initiatives and lead large teams and connect each to the other

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Oh, there are so many stories, most of them are covered by confidentiality agreements 😊. One story that comes to mind is when I was in a regional Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) role early on in my career. I was buoyed by the confidence of a strong performance review and I told my boss that I wanted my next job to be her job. Though flattered, she informed me that I wasn’t going to be a candidate for that job without more experience in the business. I was crushed and I didn’t understand why. She asked me if she had ever lied to me or steered me wrong and asked for my trust as she supported me in getting a role as a store manager.

Fast forward, I was eventually promoted to her role after being a store manager and it only took me a few days in the role to know she was right all along. I needed the Profit and Loss (P&L) experience, needed to be accountable for a large team and a large volume in order to think broadly enough to build and deliver D&I strategies and initiatives for the entire company. And yes, I’ve thanked her again and again!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes our company stand out among the other SaaS (software as a service) companies is our commitment to our people. We are constantly seeking to drive innovation and productivity by creating an inclusive environment that attracts, engages, and develops diverse talent. We continue to invest in our people and strive to meet their evolving needs as we navigate through these interesting times.This year, Avalara sponsored and virtually attended Afrotech, Grace Hopper Conference, and Debug 2020 Summit to allow members of underrepresented groups in tech to learn, network, and be inspired by their peers in the technology industry.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I can still remember my first budget meeting that I attended when I transitioned from being a store manager to my first corporate role. I was completely lost and knew that I hadn’t understood anything that was said in the meeting. Afterwards I asked Rob,the company treasurer at the time, for help understanding what was presented in the meeting and he asked me if I had read the company 10-K report. Once I told him that I hadn’t read it, he gave me a list of materials that I needed to read before I came back to him with questions. He taught me how to learn instead of just giving me the answers so I could see the business in terms of a shareholder and not an employee. Following that experience we developed a strong relationship and became each other’s mentors. I mentored him through difficult conversations about race and issues we face in the corporate world and he mentored throughout my career on how to always ground every project, purchase or initiative through the lens of how it would deliver for our teams and our shareholders.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the experience of Impostor Syndrome. How would you define Impostor Syndrome? What do people with Imposter Syndrome feel?

I would define impostor syndrome as a fear of being exposed as unqualified due to internalized doubts about their talents, knowledge, and skills. People with impostor syndrome feel inadequate, think that everybody else in the room has qualifications that they don’t have, and constantly feel like they are going to be found out.

What are the downsides of Impostor Syndrome? How can it limit people?

There is literally no upside to impostor syndrome for the person that is experiencing it. When people begin to constantly doubt themselves, and ask themselves questions like “do I look the part” or “am I smart enough to be here” then the company is not getting the best of them. The organization is missing out on ideas, perspectives, and insights from people experiencing impostor syndrome.

How can the experience of Impostor Syndrome impact how one treats others?

If I am with someone who is feeling inadequate then you’re not interacting with the real person, you’re talking to the person they are pretending to be to cover their insecurities. It makes it hard to delineate what is impostor syndrome and true development needs. People don’t have a way to correctly evaluate you to figure out what you need because you could be hiding strengths you have. Impostor syndrome keeps you busy not doing the real work

We would love to hear your story about your experience with Impostor Syndrome. Would you be able to share that with us?

People actually try to put impostor syndrome on me when I’m not feeling it. Sometimes it feels really

Oddly enough, throughout my career the only impostor syndrome I’ve felt has actually come from questioning myself as a wife, not a professional. In my career I’ve moved quite around the country quite a bit and every time it was time to relocate I always got questions about my husband at the time. I thought it was interesting that people asked me questions like “ is your husband coming with you, what about your husband’s job, or how does your husband feel about moving.” Those types of questions would momentarily make me doubt myself and question whether I was being too ambitious or sacrificing my family for my career.

Did you ever shake the feeling off? If yes, what have you done to mitigate it or eliminate it?

Yes, quite easily actually. The first thing I do when thinking about Imposter Syndrome is to remember who it benefits. The answer definitely isn’t me, my family, or my company. Knowing I had the support of my family was really all I needed. Other people’s opinion of me does not need to be my opinion of me.

It also helped me to remind myself to not let other people’s expectations stop me from doing what I want to do in my career. I refused to allow myself to be discouraged by a stigma that other people place on women making a big career decision. People don’t ask men questions about their significant other’s feelings when they make a career decision, so why should I worry about whether or not it’s okay for me to follow my aspirations?

In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone who is experiencing Impostor Syndrome can take to move forward despite feeling like an “Impostor”? Please share a story or an example for each.

Most of us think that imposter syndrome is just playing to our insecurities. We should know how to tell the difference between imposter syndrome and not knowing whether or not we’ve prepared ourselves for the challenge in front of us. Imposter syndrome tries to tell you that there is some innate part of you that will keep you from succeeding. For example, impostor syndrome tells someone from the inner city, or a single mom, or any other differently abled professional that they’re not good enough. That success only comes to the privileged, the wealthy, or the white, which often comes from how the world certainly paints it in your life. I don’t have five steps, but I have this quote from former first lady, Michelle Obama who said, “I have been at probably every powerful table that you can think of. I have worked at nonprofits, I have been at foundations. I have worked in corporations, served on corporate boards. I have been at G-summits, I have sat in at the U.N. They are not that smart.” Finally, I would leave you with this thought, if all of the people in your company, school, community are so much smarter and better than you, why haven’t they solved everything? There will always be people who don’t believe in you, please don’t be one of them.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

To learn beyond your own bubble. Beyond the things you already understand or believe. Beyond your career discipline, beyond your country, beyond your gender, race, and generation. We have to let information inform our well-worn narratives.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I can’t think of a person right now, but whoever it is please wear a mask.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on twitter @Ameliajransom or on IG @ameliaransom

Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!

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