Experts: Are They a Dime a Dozen?

Recently, I’ve realized there are quite a large number of experts around in our industry. It’s not that I didn’t realize this, but I think the magnitude of them has hit me. It leads me to wonder if there is a glut of experts?

It happens that I was having some conversations with various consulting companies in the past few days and I realized they are chock full of industry experts. That’s no surprise, but when you think how many experts they already have, one begins to realize that each one of them needs just some select number of experts that will then guide all the more junior people. What I’m saying is that they have some number of experts and don’t need more experts – they need more bodies to do the work. Additionally, if you add their experts all together, they would make quite a number of them.

Also, if you consider the number of experts that are writing for the magazines in our industry, plus all the people like me who are out there writing independently and add those people together, the number gets even larger. For example, I was paying attention to just one magazine and noticed they already had so many experts that they could almost start their own company, just from the people they’d gathered for their articles.

In fact, there is so much written out there that I’ve run across people who claim to have made themselves experts merely by reading all of what has been written about our industry, in the past years.

There are a couple of software vendors out there that claim they don’t have enough experts for various aspects of their implementations but whose job ads suggest they need someone more junior. Possibly their shortage are due to poor recruiting practices.

Large services groups that want to get into our industry sometimes look for industry experts in order to build their practices in these areas. Yet, it isn’t easy to find these types of people who both have the industry knowledge and the business knowledge. In this particular instance, this combination of person is probably difficult to find.

If you think you’re an industry expert and you’re looking for new opportunities, you’ve got a few choices:
1. Give up on your expertise and take a lesser job. Personally, in the past, I’d done this and it’s hard to feel satisfied when you do this. I find it frustrating when you know you could contribute more but work for those who know less and don’t want to hear from you. Unless you’re desperate for work, this is probably the hardest choice to make.
2. Find some large services vendor who wants to get into our industry. This is a tough choice, too. First of all, you must have the business skills to do business development and to hire and manage people, but you also have to be able to devote all your waking time (plus some of your non-waking time) to this effort. Basically, you will probably give up your life for it. Make sure there’s great compensation before you do this. A couple of options are some kind of bonus based on sales or to make partner when you hit some goal.
3. Go off on your own. I was just speaking with a couple of people about this very option, lately, and it’s probably the only way most of us will ever be allowed to make real use of our industry expertise, to reap any real reward out of it, and to enforce our own work-life balance. However, this route is not for everyone. Some people won’t like working for themselves, others won’t be able to build the necessary business skills to do this (business skills are as necessary as the technical or industry skills), or will just find it too scary and frustrating.

There are a choice few people in the industry who will get other choices., Consider this, though – for every job in our industry for one kind of expert or another, there are a LOT of people who won’t make it to that level.  I mean that there are a LOT of people who will remain systems analysts, junior programmers, technical writers, system architects and the like.

Let me be clear that I’m not trying to diminish the important role these people play in our industry. They’re the cornerstone of any industry. They make it run. Without them, no work would get done. However, these aren’t the thought leaders. They aren’t the people that guide our industry. These people represent the multitudes of jobs available in our industry. Those of you who aspire to become an expert – a thought leader – someone out in front of the pack – you need to find a way to stand out because there’s a LOT of competition to be an expert. So much so that some of you who are truly talented might want to consider looking at other industries where there’s less competition and more ability for you to create your niche.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

4 responses on “Experts: Are They a Dime a Dozen?

  1. I agree with everything you have posted. It still leaves my company with the problem of finding the best staff for my company. I find that we must shape our work to fit the workers rather than shaping the worker to fit the work. We find the need for more flexibility so we must partition the work to fit the work force which includes skills and availability. Just because someone works for you full time does not mean they are available for new work.

    We break all work up into small tasks and allocate the tasks based on skills and availability. Sometimes that means we give work to those who are over qualified to do that work. The worst thing to do is give work that is too hard for the person given their expertise.

    I would like to develop a central database of available talent and make it a shared resource for everyone in our industry. They hire from that shared central pool and we all provide knowledge bases, documentation and training material openly so as to create yet an even larger pool of available labor. I am not sure how practical all of this is but the idea is a sort of open access staffing resource. Our linkedin groups are about the closest thing to that. I hope to make a resource called someday that will be just this sort of resource that is a cross between Linkedin and oDesk.

    Of course none of this will appeal to the large Pharma companies, government or other enterprises where such approaches do not appeal to their HR department. This will be better for companies like mine and my clients and there are a lot that fit in that range.

    • One more comment I’d make regarding the topic of whether experts are a dime a dozen or rare, whether they make good employees or not, and similar issues has to do with trendy articles. If you follow articles on how to manage your people, there are articles on why you need to have some stars around and why you need to treat them differently. Then, you also find articles suggesting that you ignore the stars – that good, solid people who do the bulk of the work are the ones you want to focus on and reward, and probably the stars don’t add enough to bother with.

      So, who is right? I’d say there’s some truth in both of those. I think having some “stars” is probably a good thing to help watch the trends, guide the direction of the company and such. However, when they’re allowed to push all the other people aside and make the others feel as if they’re not making a contribution, that probably doesn’t help overall morale. For those companies that don’t care about morale, it’s not a problem, and there are plenty of those out there.

      As for a central database of people, one thing that database full of people seem to handle fairly well is when they are databases of potential employees. But if you’re looking for consultants, most databases do a poor job of handling these. In consulting, there are really two ways of working that I think most people follow:
      1. For those consultants who want to work through services firms, they tend to know which firms to call. They tend to have an idea which recruiters to stay in-touch with. People will trade names, if they aren’t the right fit, might suggest someone. Recruiters also go into LinkedIn to find these people just as they would look for employees in this manner.
      2. For those consultants who are looking for their own customers, like myself, we have to do business development. Period. Once we put ourselves into any database, we get numerous calls from recruiters instead of end-customers. I’ve never quite figured out why customers hesitate to look for consulting resources through some of these databases, but they just don’t tend to do that. On the other hand, I do sometimes hear them complain that they can’t find experienced people, so it’s not that they couldn’t benefit from this.

      Just speaking for myself, thinking back over the years, if I think of the various ways I get customers, I’m pretty sure that I’ve never gotten any customer or any type of work even as a subcontract by putting my name into databases like DICE, Monster, etc… or even any of the industry efforts made to do this. Specifically I think Scientific Computing used to try to do this and whatever LIMSource is currently called had been doing this. I don’t know if any of these survived.

      And, maybe people like me wouldn’t be good candidates for this, either, depending on the focus of this. If it’s more to help people hire full-time people, then, of course, that wouldn’t be a good fit.

  2. Gloria, again, so well said. On the ‘Star’ front, I guess yahoo, google and the like have stars but I would venture to say that in the boring world of LIMS, there simply is no room or desire for Stars. We all just need to get work done. The LIMS industry is not innovative, it follows. Stars like to be seen as these great innovators. I honestly cannot point to any in our industry.

    As for the central database thing, I know what you are talking about there. Even if one exists, employers still do not use it and simply hire recruiters to do the recruiting for them. I really would like to see more independent consultants who can serve a larger array of LIMS vendors and clients than just the usual suspects. I was talking to another LIMS vendor in France the other day and we were talking about how to collaborate in finding staff. We need the same types of people, we compete with one another but the fact remains that we still need staff on-demand.

    In summary, a problem exists for all LIMS vendors and clients in finding good, qualified staff and contractors so some serious thought and experiments need to be applied to this never ending challenge. As a LIMS vendor, I am willing to collaborate with any competitor, contractor or client who wants to brainstorm on ideas and try some things.

    • Not only some good points but it’s good to illustrate that people can be in competition with each other but still help each other out. I know I have my cronies whom I depend on for information and vice versa.

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