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Working with Experts? Know Thyself.

Ever work in a place where you looked up to everyone there because they are experts at whatever they do and can pretty much solve any problem that arises? That’s what working at Exaptive is like. It’s a mix of expertise across various computer/data fields that works very well. Ever felt like you didn’t belong in a place like this?

It’s hard to work for a small software company and see everyone wearing multiple hats but see that you just have one that fits and doesn’t feel quite as important: designer. This can be internalized negatively by thinking you HAVE to learn something you may or may not be capable of to carry your weight. My first instinct was, “Well, I’m going to learn javascript so I can be more useful.” It’s been four years. I still know just enough javascript to be dangerous.

Image from "The Matrix," (c) 1999; scene: Choices... and a Cookie
Image from The Matrix (1999), scene: Choices… and a Cookie

So what happened? There is a scene in the Matrix when the Oracle gives Neo a cookie, she asks him what a sign above the door says… Temet Nosce (know thyself). Was I hired to write code? Nope. Was I hired to design all the things? You know it. So why would this place want me doing design work for them? It took me a bit to come to this conclusion, but it’s because I am an expert. My grandma thinks I am an expert. She also thinks I hung the moon so I don’t think I can trust her completely. Coworkers? Yep. The boss? Yep. Sometimes others can see what is in us better than we can ourselves because we get blinded by our own perceived flaws or shortcomings.

Is all of this from a lack of confidence? I don’t really think so. I know what I can do. For me, it came from not always seeing how what I was doing is leading to better outcomes for our clients or helping the sales team put its best foot forward. Recently, we launched a new version of the website and I have started to better consolidate our collateral designs into a cohesive set of messages (thanks to Shannan, Jill, and Mike) to go along with a slew of conference appearances. The result has been hearing first hand how design has an impact, which in turn makes me feel like I am doing my part to help (without all of that pesky coding). Achievement Unlocked.

The bottom line is that if you look around and see a lot of great people in your organization and have self-doubt, don’t. Any place that will hire only the best considers you to be exactly that. Go own it.

 

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