Navigating Change with Tomás de'Medici
Updated: Nov 5, 2019
Tomás de’Medici is no stranger to change.
Over the past decade, he’s done more important work than I can ever imagine doing in my entire lifetime. After graduating from Trinity College with a degree in Urban and Global studies, he traveled to China for the 3rd time with his school as a TA on their “Megacities of the Yangtze River” trip, where they explored the hydroelectric gravity project - the Three Gorges Dam’s impact on populations and urbanism along the Yangtze. Next, he worked in grey-water hauling in Gary, Indiana, was an Obama 2012 campaign field organizer in Florida, and worked with various startups in Philadelphia before moving back to Chicago.
“I know I’ve started over enough times that I can exercise these different parts of myself to scale down the Imposter Syndrome and keep moving forward.”
Tomás is the perfect example of a person who you’d never expect to experience Imposter Syndrome. He’s extremely smart and well-spoken (he speaks 3 languages - English, Spanish, and Chinese). He serves as the chair of the Environmental Law and Policy Center’s Next Generation Advisory Council and co-chairs The Chicago Community Trust’s Young Leaders Fund. His current role is in solar development, serving rural and urban communities with low incomes in environmental justice areas.
Are you intimidated yet? Because I am - but there’s no reason to be. Despite all these accomplishments, Tomás is one of the most humble and kind people I’ve ever met.
“Can I build relationships and offer something to people I respect, and can I do it from scratch?”
When Tomás moved back to Chicago, he was at a crossroads. He gave himself 2 years to figure out his next move while working at a local deli. In those 2 years, if he didn’t find or create a space in the next phase of his career, he’d go to law school. In that process, he started his own initiative, The Chicago Sustainability Series - a series of discussions with local leaders and practitioners in the water, food, finance, education, and fashion industries.
For many people, it would be really difficult to start the next step of your career from scratch and do it in such a big way. But Tomás did. He didn't let self-doubt or lack of a title stop him from reaching out to people he respected and admired. And those actions led him directly to his present position working in sustainable solar energy, serving the low-income communities he cares so deeply about.
“Don’t let people with money or a title determine whether you have a right to the space.”
So how does Imposter Syndrome manifest in someone like Tomás? I was so eager to speak to him about this topic because from the outside, it seems like he's secure, confident, and well-adjusted. It's perfectly normal to actually be all of those things and still experience feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. He told me there have been times when self-doubt can creep in - times when he's thought to himself "I don't belong in this space - I don't even have an MBA". Times when he's gone above and beyond to prove himself without receiving any of the credit he deserves. But still, he keeps moving forward. Because it's not about whether or not you experience Imposter Syndrome - it's whether you're able to accept it and keep going anyway. I think it's important to remember that just because someone doesn't openly discuss or exhibit their insecurities, it doesn't mean they don't exist.