A short while ago I met with the director to discuss my contributions to a product launch. He was there to acknowledge my contributions and I was a little nervous since I've also recently applied for a promotion. We had a friendly conversation and at one point he was discussing an algorithm he worked on for solving the traveling salesman problem (simulated annealing). I have some experience with this. I let the director speak about it for a while and saw an opening in the conversation to mention my own experience with this and elaborated with more details of the algorithm.

My concern is that I don't want to come off as trying to one up someone. I wanted to inspire confidence and demonstrate knowledge of various domains. The conversation was mostly about my director because I often get carried away with questions about other people and I was a bit worried that I didn't share enough about myself. In the moment I was also aware that the director was enjoying himself explaining the subject matter so I'm not sure if it was important for me to remark that I was familiar with the content.

Is it inappropriate to interrupt an explanation the way I did? What is an effective way to demonstrate competency while a superior is explaining something that I'm familiar with?

Note: This is similar to (How to deal with a person who constantly explains things you already know well?) but different because the relationship is different and my objective was to demonstrate competency to my superior.


I would let him speak. Occasionally, I would him questions about his experience, but very to-the-point / technical. Eventually making subtle hints about my experience.

So you encountered situation Y? Which solution do you prefer, C or T? I usually chose T because.... I would choose C only if...

Possible continuation:

Wow! It never occurred to me to try solution M, I will look into it more carefully. Thank you.

Or another variant:

Unfortunately, in project X we had to use technology G simply because the available RAM left was insufficient for technology P. However, the resulting outcome was good beyond expectations, in spite of...

I see the approaches above not as interrupting the other party, but building on their discussion. They are especially suitable if you want to show that you recognize the achievements of the other person.


In formal meetings you simply don't interrupt who's speaking, no matter their position. If you really have to, it's because you have something very important to say and, in my opinion, sharing an experience does not qualify.

In meetings you don't try to show competencies, you propose solutions. Competencies are the tools that allow you to find solutions. For instance, why you didn't think to apply that algorithm if you knew it? What's the point to show that you know something but you don't know when to apply it? It's just to save a couple of minutes of an explaination?

This is how it should have gone:

D - Hey, I was thinking to use SA which is (long talk) to solve X

(you let him talk)

You - Great idea! I'm gonna soon to implement it! Now that you let me think about, I applied SA in the past when I was facing problem Y. Now, for this situation, we could use the risult/make this variation/apply this improvement to get a better result!

Of course the above applies if you come up with an idea that actually expands and improves what the director said. If you don't have any further contribution, you stop at the implement part.

  • 1
    I think I may have given you the wrong idea about the meeting. The meeting was an informal meeting for me to be introduced to the director. The algorithm he spoke about has nothing to do with our projects, it was purely anecdotal so he could share his experiences with me and we could get to know each other better. The point of the meeting (as I understand it) was to recognize my contributions to the department and get to know each other a bit more. – Klik Oct 15 '20 at 6:11

First answer the question: is it necessary to demonstrate my skill in X?

Generally speaking, unless someone is asking about or requesting some expertise, it gains you nothing to bring it up and can make some people lose respect for you.

If you do decide it's necessary to indicate your level of skill, it is enough to say 'I am familiar with X, here's what I can tell you about your problem'

  • That's a great point and this often crosses my mind. I suppose I'm eager to demonstrate competency in front of the director... perhaps unnecessarily so. – Klik Oct 18 '20 at 2:04

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