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Byte-sized Thoughts: Expertise

Recently a friend of mine asked what he could do to increase his impact beyond the team. The project he’s working on is rather isolated from a lot of other products in the company and even the technologies used are different. As a result, others are improving their skills in the company’s main tech stack while he’s invisibly working on his own things.

I suggested that he view it less as isolation and more as an opportunity to be a trailblazer. Share the knowledge you have in this new area that others don’t yet possess and you will slowly become known as the go-to person for the subject. Making it more accessible will ensure more people end up using it which in turn increases your own visibility within the organization.

All of this is good and well if you feel really confident about your subject knowledge but the reality is that most of us don’t. Often we’re simply the first people within our small circle (e.g. a company) that touch on a subject for the first time. That doesn’t make us experts, it just makes us slightly more informed than our peers.
This in itself can form a great barrier towards sharing knowledge: the moment you do, there might be follow-up questions that we can’t answer. Or we’re asked to give our opinion on related topics that we haven’t heard of before. It’s a breeding ground for impostor syndrome.

The advise I would like to impart here is that experts don’t create books, books create experts. It is the act of researching and writing about the subject in close detail which produces all the nuggets of wisdom in the final product. Writing down your thoughts and imparting them onto others will flesh out your own understanding of the subject at hand. It is a necessary step in the pursuit of knowledge.

Follow-up questions will remain and you won’t have all the answers each time. As you share more, you’ll learn more. As you learn more, these answers will come more easily.

Published 10 Apr 2021

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Jeroen Vannevel on Twitter