Becoming an Expert

2012-09-29 – When I started in my current career, I was called an editor, though I wasn’t hired for any editorial skills I may have had. I was hired for my expertise in tax law – and for my legal degree. I was a tax law editor.

When I started working for my current employer, some years later, I was still an editor, but my area of “expertise” expanded to beyond just tax law, but it was still related financial topics. And the twist on this second job was that the texts I was working on were used in continuing education.

About 10 years ago, the education angle became the dominant factor. Suddenly I wasn’t an editor anymore. Suddenly, I was a SME – a subject-matter expert. The SME title is something that appears in the field of instructional design and I read up on it. I thought that, if I was going to be a SME, I ought to know what it is. But in my heart of hearts I knew I was still and editor.

Now I have a new job. And the new job is much more focused on instruction. I am putting together teams that consist of an instructional designer, a SME, and a project manager (which we call curriculum coordinators). The SMEs in this new model are more expert-y. They are hired because of their knowledge of a discipline and, while they do writing for us, they are not editors in the sense that I and my colleagues were in the old days.

And I am now an expert, but not a SME. I am an expert in instruction, but not an instructional designer. My job is to manage these team toward the goal of effective adult education. I’ve now had years of experience doing this. And I’ve taken the courses myself and have a newly-minted degree.

But none of this makes me an expert.

The thing that is making me an expert will be writing and speaking about the field. Experts, after all, talk a lot. I began preparing my first presentation this week. I will be speaking to a group of other experts in the field. And when I go to the conference, my badge will say “presenter.”

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