What sort of problems make a newbie an expert?


Featured image credit to iandale.net

More thoughtfully, what sort of specific problems should one be able to solve to consider him or herself an expert?

Disclaimer: you won’t read the answer to that question in this post. In fact, if you know the answer, please share it with me.

At least in Tech, the impostor syndrome haunts many people. I admit I got myself into this trap ever now and then. But today one thought came to mind, what makes an expert?

According to Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours of practicing a skill. Although this theory is already refuted by new studies, the number is reasonable for me: you should practice enough a skill to sink it into the back of your mind until you become a master on doing that with less effort and faults.

But if you practice the same skill, or let’s say if you solve the same problem, a ten thousand times, does it makes you an expert in that area or that problem?

Of course, this is a rhetoric question, the answer is you will become an expert in solving that problem. If you solve many problems within one area of knowledge, you will hopefully become an expert in that area.

So here’s my point: what sort of specific problems should one be able to solve in order to consider him or herself an expert?

In software engineering, there are domains and expertises that, if applied the question above, could be easily answered by general categories. If you want to call yourself a JavaScript expert, you should know X, Y and Z.

Let’s dive deeper: what’s the meaning of knowing? In practice for me, it is to know how to solve a problem using a set of tools delimited by that language. So here it comes the question again: what are the problems to solve?! Should one know how to build React library from scratch? Or at least read it source-code? Should one be able to contribute to TC39’s GitHub branch with no hesitation?

This is an open question that has been hovering my mind, so if there’s any takeaway from this perspective is: take the skill you want to learn and ask yourself,

What problems did an expert in this skill solve and how can I learn from the solution and the mindset that lead to the solution?

Bonus: this guy says you only need 20 hours to learn anything:

About The Author

Thiago Ricieri

I'm software engineer at Pluto TV, working on iOS, Android and Roku platforms. Personally interested in machine learning, algorithms, data science and tech industry. I travel a lot and take good pictures.

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