Validating Experts

5 minute read
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I can’t know everything, and I often need to bring experts on board. Many people have asked me for a way to validate experts. How do you see through the smoke? So I started paying attention, and here’s what I found.

Let’s say I have to bring someone in for an AI specialty task I know nothing about. First, I do some basic research and find terms unknown to me. Then I backfill my knowledge gaps, the things I don’t know that stand out. Like, what’s “gradient descent or linear regressions”? So I look it up, and it’s actually simple but sounds like a buzz word. Now, when I interview the candidate, I’ll ask for an explanation. If I get a clear answer in simple terms, then I’m probably talking to non-idiot, which is an excellent start.

Can’t fake it

If they stutter around and reach to make up something, I notice. Reaching is different than not knowing, and I’m not sure how to express the difference in words, but I can feel it. If they don’t know and they say, “Hey, I’m not sure, but this is what I do know. This is what I’m aware of…” Now that’s professional. The medical consultant that never admits knowledge gaps can be very dangerous to patient outcomes.

If they can explain the path of progress simply, that’s what I’m looking for. Then, at some point, I’ll challenge them to go deeper. They should have a firm grasp on all parts of the plan. If not, they haven’t done it before.

Feynman Technique

Richard Feynman won the Nobel Prize in physics, and Albert Einstein and Bill Gates are considered some of Feynman’s biggest fans. He’s been referred to as the Great Explainer. How did this intellectual giant explain things? As if he was teaching a child. He dedicated his whole life to explaining complex things simply, and he has mastered it as the Feynman Technique. When I can across this I was surprised because this is what I had been doing. And I even had my own method for it which I called Reduce, Refine, Repeat.

What do I say?

I’ve been validated tons of times. Sitting in a board room full of experts in their own fields, the grilling begins. If someone is validating me, they’re thinking, “Do I want to take this guy to the ball?” And so the dance begins. In some cases, they might just ask me what I would do about a certain application. If it’s a vague “rewrite-a-system” process inquiry, my response might sound like this:

“First, I’ll check how well the business objectives line up with your code. Are there 20 different features but only one truly benefits your business? If so, we’ve identified bloat, technical debt, lack of customer centricity or a number of other words that mean the same thing, bad.

After comparing the source code to business goals, I’ll help you decide: rebuild or continue with what you have. Then we’ll set up a roadmap, a week by week plan. I’ll provide you with constant updates, and you’ll sign off on everything. Don’t know much about testing? We’ll it’s really important, and I can show you how to monitor it easily.

I’ve been writing code for 17 years. I only work with the best people on my teams. I know exactly what I’m asking people to do, how long it should take them to do it, and how to evaluate quality….”

And so on…

You see, I can explain it forever in down to earth language. The reality is that I typically only get a quarter of the way through my monologue before questions come up. I have no problem getting interrupted to drill down into detail. I give them a full menu of topics to choose from, and the answers get served up piping hot.

Experts love being validated

The other day I had a guy come over to my home to fix a gas leak. While we walked around the house, I peppered him with questions to validate him. The guy just oozed knowledge about his trade, and he even looked the part in his overalls and all. He could talk about gas lines and ovens all day without missing a beat. There was no doubt the man was an expert.

Watch how smoothly they respond. Give them a platform to share their experience. If they get defensive, they’re hiding holes in their experience. If they respond with passion, enthusiasm and an abundance of knowledge, then you’ve got your expert.

What should you do?

When validating an expert, it might not be clear exactly what to do and this can be tricky. The people at the top in life are always working, growing and improving with the help of others. It’s how you got to where you are, and it’s how you will get up through the next stage on your journey.

I have experience that you can leverage. If you don’t use me, use someone else. The point is for you to get what is on your mind resolved immediately, don’t wait. Set an appointment with me and tell me about your situation so I can help. Click this link to reach out. Something else on your mind? Whatever you need, I’m here. Life is meant to be done together, just reach out.

Joel Beasley

Joel Beasley founded the Modern CTO Podcast in 2017 while writing his book, the Modern CTO book, with the goal of interviewing CTOs and sharing their experiences with others in the tech community.

Joel’s conversational style and insightful questions quickly gained traction, attracting high-profile guests such as Microsoft’s CTO, Kevin Scott, and T-Mobile’s CIO, Cody Stanford. With each episode, the podcast’s popularity continued to grow, and soon, Joel found himself with a waiting list of future guests.

Today, the Modern CTO Podcast has become the number one leadership and tech podcast in the world, with over 150k active listeners, including CTOs, lead developers, and rising tech leaders. Joel’s commitment to creating a conversational atmosphere for his guests to share their experiences has inspired a new generation of leaders and innovators.

As the success of the podcast grew, Joel founded ProSeries Media, a podcast production company that helps companies worldwide create their own podcasts. With a team of producers, content creators, and podcast bookers, ProSeries Media produces over ten shows, providing a platform for companies to connect with their audience and share their expertise.

Through his work on the Modern CTO Podcast and ProSeries Media, Joel Beasley has become a respected voice in the tech industry, inspiring others to share their knowledge and insights with the wider community. His passion for creating engaging content that informs, inspires, and entertains has made him a sought-after speaker and advisor on all things tech.

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