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3 ways to identify an expert

21 February,2016 by Tom Collins

Following on from Top 5 SQL Server Forums  and the amount of SQL expertise on offer within these database forums, I want to expand on  the problem of how to identify  an expert and how you can tell the difference between an expert and a novice

There is a serious amount of SQL expertise available on the internet. If you have the motivation and willingness to expand your  IT knowledge, there are many opportunities to deep dive into expertise and emerge with some knowledge. That doesn’t mean you automatically become an expert , but you can apply this knowledge in your own work.  Hopefully after dealing with thousands of problems you can call yourself an expert on a subject.

Working within the IT industry I’ve been exposed to a number of indepth experts across all areas of IT. Without having a formula , eventually I’ve started to see some patterns of behaviour. These are 3 ways to identify an expert

Experts are continuously learning

I’ve noticed with database experts , they have almost an obsessive thirst for knowledge. First there is the theory , which gained in different ways and then applying the knowledge\techniques to real world problems.    You realise yourself the more theoretical knowledge you possess , the more insight you have to produce a solution.  The secret sauce of the Expert is they apply learning to vast amounts of experience. The result is normally someone with a deep insight

Experts improvise selectively

When a SQL problem arises there can be a  standard procedure  to fix , depending on the nature of the problem.Experts tend to be able to either accept or reject the standard procedure by improvising. In a shared environment , the standard procedure doesn’t always work, therefore some “creative” input may be required – even if it’s just a temporary workaround.   Experience plays a large part in the ability to improvise. I’m not saying they are cowboys – because the expert will apply some due diligence e.g have we secured the data? , before trying any exotic solutions.

Experts are good teachers

Not every expert is a good teacher or wants to be a good teacher, but through their knowledge and experience can present ideas and solutions which raise your own level of curiosity. Sometimes if I’m working on a tricky problem , I may access someone who is a subject matter expert , who has probably gone through the learning process. It’s usually the simplicity of their ideas which strikes me. They usually know what I’m talking about – despite my clumsy question, and can give an immediate presentation on pros and cons of the subject. One expert introduced me to  Ask the Duck Your Question - SQL Server DBA. It's this sort of clarity which marks out the expert.  It’s not the actual manner of the communication but more what they say.

The 3 indicators are general  approaches and do not guarantee anything. The IT industry is one of those unusual industries where you don’t necessarily need qualifications. This has advantages and disadvantages. Different organisations have different  entry point requirements , but strictly speaking you can just buy a computer download some software and start learning.  Understanding to identify an Expert is a skill worth learning

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Author: Tom Collins (


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