Thursday, October 4, 2012

The consultant

I've had this cartoon up at my work forever.
There's an internet persona I encounter as a part of my job.  Basically, whenever someone has a question with a particular piece of software I work with*, he seems to weigh in.  Usually his comments decry that the original questioner is not a trained specialist, is asking ignorant questions, and he sharply criticizes management for not hiring professionals.  Obviously, this person has a financial interest in these comments - as he is a consultant who makes a living by advising in this field.  He's paid to be an expert, and to criticize the organization and its projects (right or wrong).

This type of arrogant attitude has always gotten under my skin.  In high school, a person was a "poser" without certain punk qualifications.  In college, it had to do with whether or not I had read certain authors or watched certain movies.  At my first job, it was whether or not my degree was in computer science.  For the record, at least that criticism had some basis in reality; a degree in computer science meant a higher salary and less job security.  If that company could keep hiring people without computer science degrees for a lot less money, they would fire the pricier computer science majors.

One sees this in former mormon circles a lot.  People have to trot out their mormon qualifications for speaking up about mormonism.  Born in the church, pioneer/polygamous ancestry (people don't usually mention the polygamy), mission, temple marriage, served in various callings are some of what's discussed.  Then, when they don't have that history, they're criticized for not have enough experience.  When they do, they're criticized for breaking sacred oaths and not enduring to the end.

So there's a vested interest in claiming people don't know what they're talking about.  Personally, I believe it's a balance. 

Of course people have to have a certain amount of knowledge and experience.  I wouldn't want an untrained doctor operating on me or my family. And some experiences cannot be learned.  I don't know what it's like to grow up as a male of color or in southeast Asia.

But it's ridiculous to always claim a person always needs certain education or experience that cannot be learned.  Humanity didn't get this far by assuming a person cannot learn, that they can only learn in certain ways, with certain official qualifications. 

Humans innovate.  They try to make things better.  Sometimes it's worth giving people the benefit of the doubt.

And if a person has read your diatribe against management hiring inexperienced people enough times that one can recognize your name and statements, maybe it's time to revisit your strategy.  I certainly wouldn't hire someone so obnoxious.  I would be concerned that my company or system would be dismissed - that the consultant wouldn't be working towards a solution. 

*For full disclosure, I found most of these questions by googling questions that *I* have had - so I wouldn't say the original questions were completely out of line. 

1 comment:

Freckle Face Girl said...

I love that cartoon. When I worked for a horrible company almost 10 years ago now, I was shocked when they brought in consultants to figure out what was wrong. All of us had been telling them for years. In the end, they decided to ignore the consultants too. I laughed because they spent all that money to hear what they didn't want to.

The difficult person you mentioned doesn't sound fun either. It seems like people who are overly critical are usually paranoid that their qualifications don't really make them stand out. They try to create job security and boost their self esteem. I think companies should avoid them too because a team work attitude always gets the projects farther along.