007: Pretending to Understand
What do you sometimes pretend to understand that you truly don’t?
I’m in something of a bind at work.
You see, the dayjobbery is in Information Technology, but I’m on the “administrative and quality” side of that technology. It’s not like I spend my days debugging or writing code, or figuring out which language works best, or comparing one program or tool to another.
The dayjobbery is also at a company famous for engineering knowledge, which means I’m already surrounded by very technically competent people who would be perfectly happy without people like me cluttering up the corridors and taking up bonus paychecks.
Now I am known to be the “most technical” member of my immediate team. Which may or may not be accurate, but is similar to saying I am the “most empathetic” public executioner or the “most honest” politician.
This sometimes combines in a situation where I am asked to own a technical application, the scope of which is often beyond me. And as previously discussed, I have trouble:
- Saying no,
- Admitting failure, and
- Looking foolish or ignorant.
This is a potent cocktail for utter disaster.
It’s never come to disaster, of course. Historically, I have always been able to use a combination of Google-fu, a vast network of friends who are skilled at vastly different things, enough charm to delay the requestors and a certain low cunning to – in general – come up with an answer that satisfies people and fixes the immediate issue.
I have learned, too, to keep notes on how I fixed the thing that time, to ensure the next time it raises its head I have an answer, even if I don’t fully understand WHY this is the answer.
I have tried to make myself more interested in these technical components, but it’s a hopeless case. I don’t much care why a program or function works the way it does. I’m far more curious about why someone would lay it out in a certain way, or the history behind how this program was selected, or any of those other, more human factors that wrap themselves around the tool.
That curiosity makes me very, very good at the “administrative and quality” side in which I actually work. Just not at the technical sides of administering quality tools.