A Noobish Expert

As part of a marketing campaign for the product I manage, the company I work for published an article about me. Consequently, there is somewhat a weird feeling when I arrive in the office everyday, due to the fact that my photo – the same photo used in the article – is displayed on a massive TV in the reception area. To further my embarrassment, it was also printed as part of the company’s latest newsletter, thus becoming part of the marketing campaign for two finance exhibitions in Chicago and Singapore.

My photo used as marketing material for an exhibition in Singapore
My photo used as marketing material for an exhibition in Singapore. Urgh!

The feeling of discomfort is also caused by the fact that I become somewhat an office celebrity (or at least that’s how I feel). In the morning when I get stuck with colleagues in the same lift, I would usually rather hide behind my earphones and would avoid eye contact at all costs. But lately people have been purposefully introducing themselves to me, which makes me turn into paranoid overdrive of forgetting their names. I hate forgetting people’s names, because I don’t like people forgetting mine.

Though being a mini celebrity is not very pleasant, what irks me the most is the word “expert” used within the article. It may be a blessing for my career, but somehow it triggers the feeling of inadequacy within me, the feeling of doubt of whether I am capable of being an expert at something. What’s expected from an expert? What qualities do an expert possess? Since I don’t think I have the level of an expert – whatever that is – how would I get there, you know… just to keep my side of the bargain for getting advertised as an expert and thus reaping the benefits directly or indirectly.

I thought nothing further about it until today….

I discovered a mistake I made that has allowed me to re-think what it means to be an expert. On one of the project that I managed, my colleagues and I was due to give report to senior management next week. Everything seemed to be on track until the 11th hour, until we realised that the key supplier we relied upon could not deliver everything we needed. And the worse part, I could have learned about this at least two weeks earlier. The belated finding absolutely changed a lot of things because it greatly limits the options available for the project, and because I didn’t plan my time carefully, I won’t have time to recover from this mistake before the management meeting next week.

Before this happened, I was quite happy with my progress as an “expert” within the five months I spent in Stockholm. I felt empowered by the knowledge I had, and I used it to make good decisions. Work finally settled down, and people accepted me with open arms. I’ve gotten more trust from my bosses, and things were moving along just fine. However, I don’t have many people that I could rely upon as mentors like I used to in Sydney, thus it was hard to know how I had developed without much feedback. Most people here had only known me for a short period of time. There were always more things I could have done, but nothing that I had regret doing.

Today was a bad day, but as always, bad days are there to make the good days better. Unexpectedly after having a nice dinner with Potato Y, the recognition of my mistake has given me a new hope for much improvement – I have found an area where I can improve significantly. This turns out to be the only strategy I can think of, in order to become somewhat of an expert. I reckon this is a wonderful finding.

Let me clarify the previous paragraph by saying that I don’t only see one area to improve upon for my own personal development. In fact in the past, it’s more like seeing too many choices on what to improve upon, yet the time I have is very limited – there is only so many waking hours in a day, and the old uni student trick of staying up all night to train on something is not working very well anymore. For example, I can train to increase my personal productivity level, I can train on my networking skill, I can train on my presentation skill, but which one will give me the most bang for the buck? I am taken aback at how useful this mistake is, since previously I don’t have much direction to follow on my personal development path.

So I think the question “how do I keep my side of the bargain as an expert?” is the wrong question. A better question will be how do I keep up with the development of the rest of the world such that I can always be one step ahead of the others. And being one step ahead is the best definition of an expert that I can come up with right now. Accordingly, the best stance I can take is to open myself to take riskier actions, to allow myself to make the mistakes, so that I know what to improve upon next. Finding a mistake worthy to improve upon is a task on its own, and it serves as the door for the next level of character development.

My apology on my ramblings, if you have some thoughts on this from your own experience, feel free to share it 🙂

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