Hybrid Expertise

Originally published: 12/2011 by J Wynia

Had a conversation about "being the best" that reminded me of something I read a few years ago. Scott Adams (of Dilbert) talks about how the advice that most people give to be the number 1 best at something doesn't make sense.

Think about it. In a given field, if anything other than being number 1 is deemed failure, almost no one will ever be considered a success.

His advice instead is to be in the top 25% at a few different things. In doing so, you DO become the best at that combination and essentially can carve out your own niche. Being in the top 25% in something you're interested in isn't terribly hard.

For me, I did this by accident. My degree and educational background is in English and communications. I took tons of writing and public speaking classes. I took a bit of art and design classes giving me skills to make my communication look and sound better than it would otherwise. I think I have good evidence that I'm in the top 25% for those kinds of skills.

I have loved computers since I sat in front of TRS-80 and TI-49A computers in 1985. I'm self-taught as a software developer, but think I've managed to get to top 25% there too.

I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and learned a LOT about how to run a small business as I grew up.

The thing is, when you combine those, you get a software developer who is good at communicating with non-developers and understand business. THAT combination turns out to be fairly useful in the marketplace.

Other synergies from that combination have also shown up, such that I'm suited to speak at software conferences (something I've started doing over the last few years), I mentor and teach other software devs on my projects, I'm working on my own software product that I'm aiming to get to be a profitable business so I can quit selling my time, etc.

I might even go further than Adams does and think that enough skills where you're even just above the 50% mark (just barely better than average) can work to build a solid niche.

The Dilbert Blog: Career Advice

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