Tuesday, May 08, 2012

tuesdays in turkmenistan: not a sham

My entry from last week was strange and rambling and did not end well. It simply ran out of steam and I had no further energy to invest in the increasingly nonsensical train wreck. Today (or the night before), I finish it off. I mentioned two ideas right near the end of last week's entry. First, the Dunning-Kruger effect. In short, it is the general tendency for unskilled individuals to overestimate their actual abilities. In very brusque terms, they are too stupid to realize that they are stupid. Conversely, there is also the opposite tendency whereby skilled individuals tend to underestimate their abilities and accomplishments. That phenomenon goes by the name of Impostor Syndrome. This feeling often plagues me at work (and in general) despite my awareness of this phenomenon. However, I am not a sham and I do in fact know what I'm doing (most of the time).

Last week, I held a review and training session with the other engineers I am responsible for. It was just an hour, but I wanted to cover some recent things that had either come up in other locations or general information it was important for them to possess. It went really well. It felt productive and useful and that I was imparting useful knowledge on them. I will be doing a follow-up later this week to address some of the points they raised that we did not have time for, but the asked good questions that led me to believe they were both paying attention and understood why the material was important. And while this did not dawn on me then and there as I have been aware of this for a while, it was a reassurance that I am some sort of expert on what I do. Now, what I do is perhaps a bit ambiguous as well, but that's not really the point. Also, perhaps I am not an "expert-expert" (especially not at using quotations correctly), but I do know what I'm talking about and I am able to help train and develop younger engineers. It's an almost strange thing for me to admit that experience counts for something. Not actually strange, but almost. I have long recognized the value of experience and the expertise to be gained from a lifetime in a specific field. However, I also believe that enough intellect and passion and verve and a little charm can also allow someone to carry the day. Perhaps on the edge of ideas that is more often true. The edge where new ideas and created and explored and tested and where experience can even hinder one's ability to try something that many might regard as impossible or never-been-done. In those areas, where no one was direct experience, it is the verve and risk-taking and intellect that need to lead the way. However, most of the world is not in that place. That place is the frontier and it is an exciting place and where new ideas come from. Most of the world is fixed in the interior and looking to grind out tried and true solutions to problems that are just as tried and true. Keep in mind that this is not anything against new ideas and risk taking. It is only an observation that the newest of the new is but a small (albeit very important) part of the world.

In this way, I am most certainly not a sham. Getting back to that review session, it was a reminder that while I will never have all the answers, I know a good portion of them in the field I am currently in. I know what I'm doing. This guy, not so much.

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