Industry expert: "When are you good enough to become an industry expert?"

Originally published at:


Laurie Anderson has us covered…


Well he’s not wrong. As long as you’re doing the work, you’re allowed to call yourself expert. Some topics are going to require more rigorous knowledge than others (rocket science for example), but don’t hold yourself back if you’re doing something you love and want to give back to the community.

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“The professionals know they’re winging it.
The amateurs pretend they’re not.”

–Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking

I just read this line like half an hour ago, and I laughed out loud knowing how true it is.


“When are you good enough to call yourself an industry expert?”

As soon as Donald sees that you’ve contributed to his campaign.


The precise moment you say something that a rich person wants to hear.


Years ago when I worked in the Film Biz doing Props and Special Effects for TV Commercials, I worked on a spot (I think it was for BlockBuster Video or Sears) where E.T. was the big star of the Commercial. They licensed E.T. and a “handler” flew out with one of the E.T. arms that had the finger that lit up.

I was surprised at how stiff and aged it looked at the time, but it was latex rubber.

Anyways, I’m doing my thing which is all the props and also making them magically float up out of Xmas Stockings as they are supposed to be doing. Just another day on the job for me. The Handler makes the E.T. finger light up on command and everyone is thrilled.

As he is packing up his stuff and getting ready to leave, I manage to talk with him for a minute, lamenting how great it was to see him bring this to Chicago but how I wished there were more “real” Special Effects projects to get involved in. I said I always wanted to be doing Special Effects.

He looks around, then looks back at me and says "What are you talking about? You’re already doing it!"


When you finish that online course you bought off the Boingboing shop.


I didnt go to school for what i’m currently doing nor do i have previous relevant background, so i have a hard time calling myself one when there are a good number of more knowledgeable and experienced people around me. I do acknowledge that there are parts of what i do that i really excel at but at this point in time i really don’t think of myself as an expert.


According to many but not all other machinists that have journeyman’s papers (I do not), I’m not even a “machinist” let alone an expert.

I have a college degree in Japanese and the second they find any of that out it just drives their point home in their mind. To me- it says I can learn anything at a high level.

Funny thing they don’t know is I was doing more 6 years ago halfway through my career then most of them are doing right now.

In a span of about only 10 years with no apprenticeship I have worked my way up to Tool & Die Machinist, and I actually had to tutor on the job another Tool & Die Machinist of decades of experience who failed a mandatory testing on geometric tolerancing.

Basically for my day job I get treated like crap by people who are my bosses who have never actually worked as a machinist as well as Engineers who know nothing about Machining yet seem to claim that they do even though I can demonstrate to them exactly what they don’t understand in a kind way.

In my field the only people who gets to be called experts are the people who have journeyman’s papers and many of them don’t even know what they’re doing either.

It’s a thankless career and I have to prove every day and any minute that I know more than most everyone around me just to get treated with basic respect


Short answer: you’re an expert if your uncle went to MIT.


“Become an Industry Expert, now 94% off regular price!”


When I finished college I felt like an expert. For every year since then (22 and counting) I feel less like an expert and more like a guy that is pretty good at figuring out new things and applying those new things fast enough that non-technical people think I am an expert.

If someone actually calls me an expert I let them know right away that I am an adaptable generalist. If they don’t believe me I tell them about the times I decided to specialize in technologies that would never go away away like Cold Fusion and Silverlight. :rofl:


This describes my day job better than anything I’ve ever seen.

When you have to explain that you can’t make a cavity in a forging die smaller because it’s already a negative space to someone, which I’ve actually had to do, finally someone else frames the stupidity around me in a way that actually speaks to me.

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As someone who regularly rejects requests to review scientific papers that I’m wholly unqualified to judge, my experience of whether one is an expert mostly depends on claiming expertise. Its a wonderfully circular thing. As long as the person you’re dealing with isn’t themselves an expert in the field they really just have to take your word for it. Which is why accredidation and trust networks are critical; otherwise a person’s ego becomes the only determinant of “expertise.”



I went to school for a couple years for watchmaking to get accredited as a professional watchmaker, and to this day I explain the nuance to people who still ask me to fix their watch, even after I tell them I do not have accreditation, a Rolex parts account or specific testing equipment needed to do that properly under observed warranty, and they still don’t believe me because I told them I was professionally trained (I was, but having a 5000$ timing machine to service their coaxial escapement watch is not something I just have yet)

When they still insist they don’t care if the watch keeps time, but just runs- and I try to explain why that’s not acceptable service or even what I would charge them, suddenly they asked me why a minimum of $500 for a basic mechanical watch service is crazy and I have no right to charge that. Even after explaining the amount of work involved, and how I’d do more work trying to do the work for them since I’m not set up for it yet.

It’s always funny how you’re the expert until people find your expertise inconvenient for their reality


An expert actually solved this:


A classic and still (sadly) very funny, from my perspective as a software engineer.

However, I suggest it would in fact be possible to draw red lines with green or transparent ink, if you factor in the chemical composition of the medium (e.g. paper that would turn green and/or transparent ink red).

Or even better, fix it in post!


That’s what I like and hate about being an archaeologist. I’m a jack of all trades but very clearly also a master of none. I can use survey equipment but I’m not a surveyor, I know a bit about soil genesis, but not nearly enough for a quartenary geologist, I can use GIS but I’m certainly no GIS technician, I use multivariate statistics but a statistician would probably be horrified at that, I’ve taught myself coding but I’m certainly no developer, I can use a mechanical excavator but not on the level of an experienced operator, etc.

Some days this really depresses me because I think I’m not actually good at anything. Other days I think it’s nice to have a bit of professional breadth.