Turning Hated Expertise Around

You ever get a call from a family member to help you with a computer problem that they could have figured out with some research?

You ever have a friend doing an interview who called you to ask you what the person he was interviewing was talking about?

You ever find yourself cornered at a party or get-together to explain something about your job or industry to someone, and wondered how they didn't know something that simple?

Yeah.  Me too.  When we do something for a living, when we're truly into it – in short, when we're progeeks or would-be-progeeks – everyone uses us as a source of information.  It gets annoying.

We wonder in short, just what ARE Google, Yahoo, and Bing there for.

But here's the thing – it's not going to change.  Because people want the personal touch.

We're human.  We want to hear things from people, especially people we trust and relate to.  That's why your family uses you for tech support, your friend in HR wants you to explain obscure chemical terms, or that guy at the party really wants you to tell him about game patches.  Because people relate to information coming from other people.

That's not going to change.

What we progeeks can do – and aspiring progeeks can do – is use these situations:
* Use them to improve your communications skills with others.  Trust me, it's worth the time – and in general, most of us are worse at communicating technical, professional, and specific things than we think.
* Use it to understand how people who aren't you think.  That is incredibly valuable, especially as many of us work in professions people just don't understand.  Working with those strange questions and requests you get is insight into other people's minds.  Take advantage of it – empathy is important.
* Use it to get new ideas.  After all, if these people are asking questions, then there may be opportunities to train them, educate them, write for them, or get new product ideas.  Find a need and fill it . . .

Sorry, you're stuck being the expert, my fellow and future progeeks.  It's not changing, so get used to it – and learn from it!

– Steven Savage