Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Modest and proud of it

So it's been an interesting time for me lately. The contract that I work for didn't get picked up by my company. Another company was probably going to get it, and we were all going to have to switch companies. Then because of some kind of legalese stuff, maybe we weren't. Then maybe we were going to have to go on furlough, then blah, blah, blah, they don't know. So while all of this stress inducing stuff was going on, I'm also refinancing my home for a lower rate, registering for college at Columbia Southern University to finish my bachelors, and still trying not to be a pig and have some sort of a healthy-ish diet. Then, on top of that, I was trying to find reasons to justify a raise because I felt like I was being under paid for the skill sets and experience I bring to the table. While searching to find other jobs that I would qualify for and what salary they would pay, I came across a job that I would much rather have, and I qualify for it. So I decided to test the limits of my stomach lining and my sanity by trying to get a new job on top of all the other things going on.

So trying to get more money for myself is very difficult for me. I'm basically modest. I can sometimes be cocky, but it's more of a joke than anything else. I am pretty confident in my skills as an electronic technician, but I'd rather prove myself by fixing something than I would by talking about how awesome I am. I'm also more of a jack of all trades than I am an expert in any one particular piece of hardware or software. I have some basic knowledge of a whole bunch of things, and then I've got really good fiddling skills, and I'm not afraid to click buttons or flip switches to figure out what something does. I'm also not afraid of technical manuals, in fact if there is a well written one for whatever new system I'm about to try and fix, then I'd rather dive in to it and learn. I can't say how many times I've "fixed" a system just by following the instructions that no one else wanted to read.

One caveat about the level of confidence that I have, it's based on the Dunning-Kruger effect. Here's the most important parts of it grabbed from Wiki

Kruger and Dunning proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:

  1. tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
  2. fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
  3. fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;
  4. recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they can be trained to substantially improve.

I remember a time when I thought I was a lot better at fixing electronics than I actually was. I thought I was the shit, and that I could fix anything just by being near it. I didn't know any better techs than myself. I was in over my head pretty quickly. That pretty much matches a description of someone that doesn't know what they are doing so much so that they can't even identify that they don't know it well. It's been a long road since then, with many lessons learned, and I can see now how naive I was. I also see how much I still don't know, and that most of it will probably remain that way. I've also met some real geniuses that are astounding in the things that they know.

More from Dunning-Kruger effect..

Meanwhile, people with true knowledge tended to underestimate their relative competence. Roughly, participants who found tasks to be relatively easy erroneously assumed, to some extent, that the tasks must also be easy for others.

I also get confused looks quite often, and I falsely assume that things that are simple to me, are actually simple to everyone. So based on the fact that I know I was ignorant before, and that I also know that there is a lot I don't know now, and the confused faces people make when I talk about technology, I have to force myself to be confident, in order to more accurately represent my skill level. So in applying for the new job, I was astounded by the things my references said and wrote about me. Thank you so much, and thanks for giving me a big head. Now I've got to figure my stoked ego into the reverse of the Dunning-Kruger effect? Oh well, who knows. Maybe I'll never know if I'm talented or delusional.

I ended up getting a job with the new company as a Field Support Engineer (FSE) and at a substantial raise. Cool new job title, a job that actually aligns with my talents, experience, and interests, and more money? So is it a happy ending? Well, mostly, but I will have to go overseas again, possibly Iraq, probably Afghanistan. Feeling a little over whelmed being the lowest on the totem pole, and the least trained. Guess we'll see how smart I really am...

And now for one of my favorite quotes. Seems the Dunning-Kruger effect isn't exactly a new idea.

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science. - Charles Darwin

Now for something that's fucking peristeronic as shit for XKCD.