What’s your expertise?
Recently a colleague of mine asked me what my expertise was in. Kind of awkwardly answering the question I gave her a few stutters that I managed to come up with. This seems like such a simple question to answer, but when you are put on the spot and wear multiple hats consistently – its not. So what is expertise really?
Expertise literally means: to have an expert skill or knowledge in a particular field. It is often said that if you spend 10 years or 10,000 hours at something you can claim yourself to be an “expert”. According to Psychology today, if you continue your skills with deliberate practice – or continuing to perfect your skills to be better than they were previously, it is a practice of one who becomes an expert. Constant training, refreshing and learning of new things within your skills is how you can claim expert status.
So, what is my expertise? These are 5 career related skills that I can honestly say I have full expertise in and well over 10 years or 10,000 hours.
I have an extensive background in design, in many areas that range from the fine arts to the usability of interactive design and user experience. I have been learning and continuing to take classes to upkeep my skills since I was in elementary school. I am interested in color, line, shape, typography, the principles of design, the elements of design and what makes up a good composition. I know how to evaluate why something is a good design not just from an artistic aesthetic but from a psychological viewpoint in its functionality and usability (what makes something have a good design flow). I follow the latest trends of what is popular in not just one industry but in multiple facets of industries. Finally I participate by teaching others the importance of design especially in industries that put less emphasis in these areas. I can officially claim I also have expertise in using design programs such as Adobe products (Illustrator is my favorite, photoshop, indesign, light room, etc.) My skills are primarily focused in 2-D design or hand drawn creations, I have limited ability when it comes to a 3-D program.
When I thought about this I was surprised, but I can honestly say I have expertise in writing. Early in my career I was often utilized for editing documentation, from that experience I moved into technical writing (which I personally think is the worse kind of writing to do -HOWEVER it is a good background skill to know), since then, throughout my career I have written many public relations documents, branding explanations, requests for proposals, and conference papers, the list actually continues quite a bit. Writing is not something that I have only done in my career, I also have been blogging since early college (you know before it was a thing that people did journalistically). My personal expertise within writing is in editing, short explanations, and coming up with flavorful flare to enhance a document with a personal spin.
3.) Social Media
This is an interesting expertise that I struggle internally with. I love social media, I deeply understand how to use social media because I use all popular platforms regularly. I know the background of statistics since I manage a few pages, and I understand the importance of demographics and where the most emphasis should be placed depending on what you are trying to share. I have been to a handful of conferences and often attend lectures on social media best practices. I also do extensive research on the latest trends, psychologically how people are using each platform, and deeper ideas of what new technology can bring to the table for social media. So where is the struggle? The internal struggle for me is that I feel constricted with what I want people to know about myself. I don’t like people seeing everything openly about who I am, I don’t want people to know where I am, what I like to do, I don’t like to feel like I am bragging, or that I am too boring… or that what I post isn’t perfect… I get in my own head about my personal social media accounts, which is why my personal accounts I don’t put the effort and work into don’t the rules and the ideas of what I know would create a greater following. I do practice the communicative aspect of social media though, and I can honestly say that I have expertise in social media.
Because of my expertise in design, public relations writing, and social media, branding is something that has become a natural expertise for me. Putting emphasis on a company or product and marketing them in the best vantage is something that I think about from multiple perspectives to provide an overall customer experience. I personally prefer to work with existing or established brands and supporting them by providing the assets that would be needed to showcase what they want to sell.
5.) Creative Problem Solving
My interest in creative problem solving dates back to my childhood. When I was in elementary school I joined a creative problem solving competition, I continued to participate in this competition until I was in high school. After graduating, I decided to become a coach, I coached my team of elementary school students for 2 years and both years they were able to get to the world competition. I now annually judge this creative problem solving competition. In college I was a research assistant and for a professor in a creative problem solving class. I continue to investigate new ways come up with innovative concepts and have even taken doctorate level courses in creative problem solving to keep myself updated. Creative problem solving is a skill that is broken down into different areas such as brainstorming, and looking at the problem from different perspectives. I may not always come up with the most innovative ideas, but I am continually researching new ways to look at life, and to take on a new perspective, I know how I can motivate others, and how to provide the best environment for not only brainstorming but conducting a productive meeting to solve a problem.
So what about things that I personally do not consider my expertise, but I have a very strong background include:
6.) System Integration
I wasn’t really sure what to call this because I personally think this is a communication skill. I have an expertise in interpreting and communicating the needs of subject matter experts to both design and to technical leads. Engineers and designers think very differently, both groups of people often think completely differently than those who are communicating their need or demand. Throughout my entire career I have been able to talk to the customers who have had a demand (or often a skill that they need to teach), and interpret it to both the designers and the engineers. Since this is a skill that comes with time and practice, not really continual perfection, I am not sure it fits within the “expertise” category.
7.) Serious Game production
I have never been the main lead on development, and my skills are limited when it comes to the actual creation of the game, however I have a very strong background in the serious games industry. I know the design process that goes into creating a video game especially with educational components, I can relay and interpret the specific needs from clients, evaluate what makes a good game and what needs to be fixed. I have experience in researching why design elements were chosen, and documenting results from its use.
8.) Event planning and production
Since college and early through out my career, I have been participating in event planning committees specifically for conferences and major events. In my current role, I provide the planning, support and logistics of all events for our project. This background has skills that include coordination and project management, organization, and problem solving. I don’t often deal with budgets or the development side but I must have an understanding of those areas. I have extended this into my personal projects such as video production, providing on set support as a production assistant on a video series in New York City. I also keep my household up and running on a regular basis (that’s got to count for something right?).
9.) User Experience (UX)
I suppose this could go in hand with my design experience, but I have a firm foundation of UX specifically in interactive design. I have the background design knowledge to understand flow, but I also understand the psychological usability perspective of how someone uses an object. My personal background is strong in games, mobile platforms, and web interfaces. I feel like I have the strength in this to claim I have a strong background in it, however I do not have the developmental background in practice, nor the research foundation to claim myself to be an expert.
Ok I had to throw a silly one in here, but let me justify how useful having an expertise in dance is. I’ve been dancing since I was in junior high (well over 20 years!). I have studied many different styles from ballet, jazz, contemporary, burlesque and my personal favorite belly dance. I have more recently been on a semi-professional dance troupe and am still taking classes and workshops weekly to improve my skills and techniques. Dance is something that even professionals struggle to reach their full potential because there is so much more to learn and improve. I have learned so many soft skills, (such as team work, communication and dedication), that have supported me in becoming a more well rounded person. I have learned in detail about different cultures and the history behind their civilizations. Dance has forced me to practice memorization techniques (chunking, repeating, etc), active listening, showmanship, and even some mathematics for different rhythms. So, I may not be the “best” dancer, but hey maybe I can say I have some expertise in it? eh?
Something to think about – What’s your expertise in????