Mailbag Monday How did you become an expert in your field

Mailbag Monday: How did you become an expert in your field?

Katie and Chris answer your marketing, data, and AI questions every Monday.


This week, Jeff asked, “How did you become an expert in your field? Was it experience through work, or specific qualifications, etc?”


Mailbag Monday: How did you become an expert in your field?

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AI-generated transcript:

Katie Robbert 0:00
Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode of mailbag Monday where Chris and I are answering all of your questions around marketing, artificial intelligence data. Today a little bit different. So this week, Jeff asked, How did you both become experts in your field? Was it experience through work or specific qualifications, etc? I mean, this is an excellent question that I’ve been thinking about, because I don’t know that I would even call myself an expert. So Chris, let’s talk, let’s start with you.

Christopher Penn 0:29
I am a self paced learner. Now that I am a need based learner. So I have no qualifications to do any of my jobs at all. It is ironic, like this past week, I was lecturing at Harvard, about AI and marketing. I have never taken a marketing class in my life. I taught for the University of San Francisco taught internet marketing back in the 2010s. No qualifications whatsoever. I have no statistical background, I took statistics in college. And if I’d technically failed, they graded on a curve. Thank heavens. I have no formal programming experience. Actually, that’s not true. I did take one class and see that community college when I was growing up, but I have no I have no qualifications in any of the stuff what I, the way I learn is, I find something that interests me, then I try to figure out how do I do that? Like, how do I make that happen? And what do I need to do to be able to do that? Do I need to learn to program is their tools and utilities, their scripts or their, you know, command line hacks? What’s the thing that you need to piece together to be able to do the thing, and then usually, later on, I end up layering in some of the formal academic knowledge on top of that, when I get stuck on something where it’s like, okay, it’s not quite right, but I don’t know why. And then I’ll go back and read the literature and go, Oh, it’s because this small principle here is enough, that’s going to throw things off like in, for example, with correlations, he using a Spearman correlation, Pearson correlation to Kendall, tau. They have different use cases. But that’s how I’ve always learned, I’ve always learned by doing it screwing up a lot. And then redoing until I until I get it more or less, right. And the the stuff that I’ve studied throughout my life has always been stuff where there haven’t been a lot of good resources to learn from. Right. So in the field of AI, for example, there’s a lot of academic papers to read. But it’s very difficult to transform an academic paper into something that is a production product, right? You can read the attention to as you need academic paper and read all the calculus and things on how that model works. But how do you turn that into ChatGPT? Because there’s a big gap between those two. So that’s, that’s kind of my answer. How about you, Katie? How did you become if you don’t like the term expert? How do you How did you become proficient in your field?

Katie Robbert 3:03
Very similar to you. A lot of practice a lot of trial and error. You know, there’s something that I know it’ll sound a little goofy, but one of my favorite peloton. instructor says is, practice doesn’t make perfect practice makes permanence. And so what that means in this context is, you know, I didn’t just pick up a business book one day go, Okay, I read the book. Okay, I’m an expert. Now, to similar to your journey, Chris, there’s been a lot of trial and error, I think that it speaks to having a college degree doesn’t necessarily equate to the readiness of someone in a particular skill set or a job. So I’ve always been a firm believer, for myself, for others as a hiring manager, as a job candidate, that doing the actual work, the seat that you sit in, the things that you fail, that the things that you’ve tried and mastered, that’s what makes you proficient. That’s what makes you an expert. So, you know, when I first became a people, manager, I was terrible at it, I did everything wrong. And going to school and reading about it wasn’t going to help me, I had to go through it. I actually have a master’s in marketing and technology. And to this day, it does not help me at all. Because in academia, it’s so far behind how quickly the technology is changing, that getting a degree isn’t going to help you certifications, those things. They’ll at least give you the rough idea of what the thing is, but you actually have to do it. So I guess to answer Jeff’s question, How did you become experts in your field? Just a lot of practice, a lot of doing it every day. finding out what’s not working, learning from those mistakes. Falling down a lot getting back up after every single time you fall. That’s how you become an expert. It’s not something you can read in the book. It’s not showing up at a seminar one day and turning around the next day and calling yourself an expert. It’s, there is no shortcut for doing the work.

Christopher Penn 5:18
Jay Baer has a great expression for this. He says having the recipe does not make you a chef. It is absolutely true. And one of the things that I define expertise as is an expert knows what’s going to go wrong. You can be proficient and know how to do the thing. But if you don’t know what’s going to go wrong, then when something goes wrong, you’re like, Oh, what do I do? And it blows up, when you’ve had enough things blow up in your face, like, Okay, I know what’s going to happen. If you’re baking a cake and it’s raining out, like okay, I know I need to add a little bit more baking powder, because otherwise cakes not gonna rise because it’s raining, who are the heirs extra dry extra dents and I’ve screwed up 15 Cakes this way. I know exactly what’s gonna go wrong. And so you can’t you you as an expert, mitigate what’s going to go wrong before it happens. So things when you’re a true expert, things just run smoother, because you’re silently knocking down those obstacles before they happen. And someone who has not had that experience have not gotten burned a whole bunch of times, they can’t do that.

Katie Robbert 6:22
Well, then in that case, I would definitely call myself an expert in management. Has Been there done that cried about it was cried on, then yelled at and screamed that. But then also, you see what works, you see what helps make other people successful. And so those are the recipes, the processes you go back to? So great question, Jeff. You know, not something Chris and I often think about but always good to sort of reflect on our own journeys.

Christopher Penn 6:52
Exactly. If you’ve got a question you want us to answer about data and AI, marketing management, anything drop us a line, go to trust Or, if you’d rather go to our free slack group go to trust for marketers, where you and over 3000 other marketers are asking and answering each other’s questions every single day. And if you want to catch up on past episodes of mailbag Monday, go to our newsletter, go to trust where you can catch up on all the content we’ve created over the past week. Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll talk to you next time.

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