I have been working for an IT company for five years. Four of those years were I worked with the same technology but for reasons that changed and I was moved to another project but I moved out for not being an expert in a technology I had ever touched (I asked for it because the work environment was unbearable). So I have moved to another one again with new technology--the same story and so on. So again I was in a new project where I starting from nothing (by the way I got lied about in what I am gonna work so I had a month to study on my own about new think for nothing) and I got feeling that the same thing is gonna happen again.

The thing is here once you spend three or more years in the company you are expected to know absolutely everything. For that reason, in my opinion, people move out or just go higher into a manager position. There are not many who spend more than three years in the company and aren't in a manager position.

What is the best way to handle this situation?

  • I don't really understand the question. Do you mean "Asked to be an expert in a technology I never touched"? Also can you add an example about what you are expected to know that you think is unreasonable?
    – Erik
    Aug 18 '20 at 10:56
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    " For that reason in my opinion people move out or just go higher into a manager position." - there is your answer.
    – TomTom
    Aug 18 '20 at 11:01
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    "what is the best way to handle this situation ?" What is your goal?
    – sf02
    Aug 18 '20 at 11:11
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    So you're being moved into positions that require you to learn and grow and you don't like it? What can you do? Find a job where you can do the same exact thing, over and over, without change, for the rest of your working life.
    – joeqwerty
    Aug 18 '20 at 14:51
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    @joeqwerty OP's problem does not seem to be that they need to learn a new technology, but that they at least feel they are supposed to be expert level in an unrealistic amount of time. As a good experienced engineer you can certainly get a good grasp of the basics and say meaty core of a new technology relatively, but mastering it, becoming an actual expert that can take years, depending on technology, local expectations for being "an expert" personal background etc. Aug 18 '20 at 20:23

It's not impossible to be an expert in a technology you've never touched. Remember the old proverb: in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. When such a role is requested of you, make sure that your employer is fully aware that you are not currently an expert in the technology they're asking you to be 'responsible' for.

As long as they understand this, you should be fine. I imagine the practice to be something like this:

A user comes to you with a problem. You ask them questions to fully understand the problem (to the best of your ability) and once you feel you have a decent grasp, you start researching the problem and come up with a solution. You then present this solution to the user.

Obviously this takes you longer than it would take someone who is already experienced in using the technology, hence why it is so important that your employer is aware of what they are asking. Nobody reasonably expects you to suddenly become an expert at a new technology out of thin air. It's just simpler to have a single point of contact who is responsible for spending the time and effort to solve issues and become more familiar with a particular technology, even when it would be preferable if this position is filled by someone who already has some expertise with it.

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    This literally happened to me "You're our new expert, the book is on your desk" Aug 18 '20 at 13:24
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    This has just happened to me, given 4 weeks to get up to scratch by learning with current engineer. Day 2 this person has pneumonia and I'm now in the hot seat🤣. Turns out this person did a lot for others, but now that people have got the 'I'll get back to you in half an hour, hopefully I'll have a pathway to a solution by then' from me they've activated thier own minds and solved it for themselves. Learning opportunities all round! Aug 18 '20 at 23:31
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    Although OP phrased this as a question about a technology, it also happens in non-technical roles all the time. "Congrats. You are our new risk management expert. What should we do?". Aug 19 '20 at 0:14
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    During the first thirty years of my career so many new things were being invented that I quite often found myself the designated expert in a technology that nobody had any experience in because it was only two weeks old. Aug 19 '20 at 18:08

The situation you describe is quite extreme, but not necessary to be feared much - at least, if it remains within some boundaries.

I saw something similar happening to me and my colleagues, in more than one company - actually in all of the companies where I worked.

To nominate an expert, the following assertions / decisions are made:

  1. if more than one person knows about the subject, usually the most knowledgeable becomes the expert; alternatively, the most experienced in general might become the expert, even if the person is not really the most knowledgeable in that field;
  2. if only one person has to work in that field, and there is no one else around with the respective knowledge, then that person becomes the expert - eventually after "passing" a training period - which can even be a training-on-the-job.

Usually the managers support the "expert" from situation 2, and do not "kill him much" for a while, until he gets a chance to learn. However, officially that person is always presented as the "expert on topic X".

Good or bad?

Well, it depends. If the managers do not expect miracles, and the person really wants to learn, then the situation is a very good opportunity to learn a new skill.

If the managers expect that a simple nomination transforms an illiterate into a genius, then the person should probably find new managers, most likely in a new company.

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    So far it has been the second, the thing is I have new management but by experience (already worked with them) I know they are not the best by a long shoot.
    – kifli
    Aug 18 '20 at 11:21
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    Well, it is only you who can decide what to do. And please remember, nobody is perfect - which means that at the next company, things are not necessarily better.
    – virolino
    Aug 18 '20 at 12:23

As long as management is clear about your current level of expertise and it is something you are interested in, take the assignment as an opportunity to acquire skills on company time.

If you don't want to learn the skill and you still have the assignment, find another job.

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