Like you realize how the knowledge worker in his decision factory is actually not that different from the blue-collar worker in the real factory (salaries aside). How everything is a cog in the great gears that power our individual worlds, and when boiled down to their essence everything starts looking like... well... the same thing.
In that line of thought, I started trying to pay attention to the little signs that indicate someone's been around for a while and knows what he's talking about. I think that I come across as an experienced person - because I am, see line above about being nearly-40 - but what exactly is it that gives it away?
I can read about all the psycho-freudian-jung-ish stuff about authoritative sound and positioning, but as far as I can remember I always sounded as if I knew what I was talking about, even when I had no real clue (very important skill when you're a consultant by trade), so I guess the real difference is that now I know that I do know what I'm talking about most of the time, instead of knowing that I was pulling rabbits out of my hat.
How does that transpire to others though?
In my professional life I have met and worked with thousands of IT professionals, and all of them left an impression, as is inevitable. My binary brain will default to sort these people by "has clue" and "clueless", and while sometimes you get the privilege to work with someone long enough to do a proper evaluation, most of the times you get 1-2 days at most. And yet, that clue/clueless binary decision is taken anyway.
Be aware, I am not trying to determine whether someone has or hasn't a clue - I'm trying to understand what is it about those people that makes me think they (don't) have a clue.
Some things throw me completely off:
- Bragging - I did this, solved that - immediately makes me think of daddy issues and insecurity, a sign that this person needs others to think they have a clue. Goes into clueless bin almost immediately.
- Asks the same thing twice. If someone asks me how to do something twice - even if it's 6 months or 3 years apart - person goes into clueless bin. Not applicable to real technical terms, as in "which property of object X gives me its width", or "do you have a sample of how to get the current device context" - these get a degree of forgiveness - but definitely applicable to conceptual descriptions, as "what is the Ambient Data Framework" or "why would I use Java for that". Perhaps I should rephrase to "asks same thing twice without realizing I already explained it before"
- Dismissing any technical challenge as "trivial" - especially if it has to do with CSS. I have the utmost respect for good CSS hackers. Great CSS hackers are like gods to me.
- Blaming others for their failures. When ministers resign from their governments is typically because someone way down the chain did something they were not supposed to do. Is it the minister's fault? Most likely the minister didn't even know that there was one person in their ministry that was supposed to empty thrash bins in the first place, let alone that this person could have contacts with the press and was really good at reconstructing shredded paper.
- Honesty. Being able to admit that they tried something and it failed miserably. You only truly learn with your own failures.
- Accepting guilt, not too eagerly, but understanding that perhaps it failed because the person did not understand or listen correctly to advice given, or assumed that doing it alone was faster
- Understanding that sometimes you are way out of your depths and asking for help.