Category Archives: expertise

Sooner or later? Expertise and the new

I will learn how to sell, sooner or later. The question is: sooner, or later?

Years of experience can help a lot when you’re selling. You know your stuff. You have war stories. You might even have a great reputation. So there’s a good argument for getting into sales later, when I’ve got years of consulting experience to back me up.

On the other hand, for the areas I’ve excelled in, I’ve done so without decades of experience. (I’m 26. I can’t have decades of experience.) In my current role, I’ve made a big difference in the way we find experts and hold innovation conversations. In my previous project, I picked up a new platform. Less than a year after I started, I spoke at the developer conference. Same for my past interests: computer science education, wearable computing, and so on. A little passion and effort, compounded, can result in a lot.

I like working on the edge, where things aren’t clearly defined. That’s where I can get the most scale by sharing what I’m learning, and where there are the most opportunities for the newcomers.

One of my mentors advised me before to keep looking for the new areas. After all, when a field matures to the point of having IT architects and specialists with decades of experience, a relatively recent hire like me is at a disadvantage. But when everything’s new, I’ve got a fair shot at helping make a difference.

I remember feeling that ol’ imposter syndrome when I was one chapter ahead of the students in the course I was teaching. I hated not being able to bring lots of depth to the class. But work doesn’t have to be like that. Not only can I reach out and find experts and mentors, I can also learn on the job.

I think we can make this work. Not only that, I think it will be awesome. =)

If you throw enough pots

2It’s important to make room in your life for randomness. New ideas come from serendipitous juxtapositions. That’s why I have a Random Posts widget which picks some posts out of more than 4500 posts that I’ve written in the past five years. It gives me a reason to keep coming back to my own blog. For example, after I posted the entry on writer’s block today, I stumbled across an entry that I’d written over 2 years ago about expertise and writing577. It’s as true today as it was then, and my goal today is the same goal I had back then. I want to learn how to express my thoughts, and there’s no substitute for practice. Practice, practice, practice.

Practice means writing something even if I don’t feel like doing it. It’s funny, but once I start writing, things come a little more easily. Kirk is right578. I don’t have to expect my first draft to feel right. I just have to get it out there, so that I can find out what I’m thinking, and I can edit it. Writing is mostly editing, anyway.

When I was writing my master’s thesis, I got stuck on chapters as well. What helped me then was the realization that it didn’t really matter what I put out was my first draft, because I was going to fix it. My supervisor was going to help me fix it. My thesis committee members were going to help me fix it. I just had to get the raw material out there, so that we all had something to play with. Once I got the raw material out there, putting together a full length draft that my supervisor could then read, things went so much faster.

I’m like that with this book as well. I need to get the chapters out of my head. It’s a little embarrassing posting all of these things and finding version dependencies, typos, bugs in my code, bugs in my writing… but the important thing is that it’s out there. I’m really lucky that people are reading it, commenting, correcting my errors, suggesting other things I can look into. I wouldn’t have that feedback if I didn’t write.

So I just have to get things out there. I need to throw some pots, because each pot will teach me something that will bring me closer to what I want to be able to do. I need to practice. I need to practice, practice, and practice. Even if it sometimes it doesn’t feel like I’m making much progress day by day, eventually I’ll get to the point where even I will be able to see the difference between how I’ll do things and how I used to do things before.

What are you working towards?