52

For the past 7 years or so, wherever I work, I end up becoming "the guy everyone goes to ask technical and programming questions". Because of that, I'm always "promoted" (sometimes formally, sometimes informally) to technical lead.

How would you describe that trait in a resume? How would you describe this succinctly, and without sounding pretentious or snob? Is that even something you should put in your resume? BTW, here are the terms I though of:

  • Internal Technical Consultant
  • Internal Tech Guru (that's kind of snob, actually)
  • Main point of contact for technical questions (does that even achieve what I'm trying to tell the reader?)
  • 7
    In my last application, i used he term "original gangsta" to describe this role. I wrote that CV in a bit of a rush late at night, i have to confess. I got the job. – Tom Anderson Apr 18 '12 at 22:11
  • Excuse me, Mr. Officer. – EleventhDoctor Mar 11 '15 at 14:16

10 Answers 10

49

I've used "resident expert" for this very purpose, along with some responsibility language along the lines of "consulted with colleagues on an as-needed basis." To make this really sing, include an accomplishment line that points to results that came from the company having you in this role, e.g. "Avoided hundreds of bugs in the design phase by providing guidance to colleagues who were working on [...]".

  • 3
    I'm actually going to add this phrase to my CV right now... – John N Apr 11 '12 at 7:16
  • 6
    "Avoided hundreds of bugs" invites a question asking how you came about that number - be prepared to justify yourself. – Jon Story Mar 11 '15 at 16:06
  • @JonStory, naturally, every factual claim in your resume should be something you can back up. Making up numbers just to have numbers is a bad idea. – Isaac Moses Mar 11 '15 at 16:32
  • "hundreds of bugs" undoes the great image set by "resident expert" imho. I'm not saying it isn't true but it sounds like hyperbole, how about "Avoided considerable issues in the design phase..." or "considerable issue reports" if you want to keep to the concept of bugs or even "a considerable volume of bugs" if you don't mind the word bugs. – RyanfaeScotland Jun 19 '15 at 15:53
  • @RyanfaeScotland If you know how many misunderstandings and incorrect assumptions you cleared up, you can directly correlate this to bugs. Bugs aren't always programming errors, if someone isn't implemented correctly that's also a bug. For a long-time "resident expert" I don't think hundreds of bugs is that wild of a number. In my experience, the amount of bugs you can prevent simply by asking the right questions at the right time is staggering. – Cronax Mar 14 '17 at 12:35
23

Across two companies in two sectors of the marketplace (defense/finance) we've used the term Subject Matter Expert for this. It gets used so much (in the US, or at least the NorthEast part of the US) we even call it "SME" (pronounced 'smee"), although for clarity I'd skip the acronym on a resume.

I've put that on my own resume, and seen it on others. It distingushes from "Technical Lead" for me in the following ways:

  • Technical Lead - may or may not be the expert on all aspects of the project or the work of the team that reports to him. More likely, he knows some depth about some things and less about others, but has outstanding leadership skills so he can rally the team, and match work and people to the best effect.

  • Subject Matter Expert - high level individual contributor, who is the go-to guy on certain key technical areas. Can be either in the solution domain or the problem domain. Has strong teaching/mentoring capabilities, but may not be doing managerial/leadership stuff. In fact, the purest of SMEs may be people you do not WANT to task with team leadership, because then they don't have as much time as they should have to keep abreast of the state of the art and mentor people through the really hard questions.

When I hear lead, I suspect the person has to skim the surface of at least a few technical areas. When I hear SME, I feel sure the person has made a deep dive.

In particular, annotate it with areas. For example, I call myself a Subject Matter Expert on Java Web Security and PKI. I would be relunctant to believe a resume that didn't put some reasonable qualifications down - for example, all fo JEE is pretty broad, more likely a SME is well-versed in particular APIs.

  • 2
    Just don't claim to be an SME unless you can back it up inthe interview. If you claim to be the expert, you had better be able to deal with in-depth technical questions. Nothing looks worse than claiming to be an expert and then flunking the questions on the basics. – HLGEM Apr 11 '12 at 5:35
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    I'm not going to downvote, but the acronym SME is generally used in the UK for "Small / Medium Enterprises" - its use could be confusing. – user145 Apr 11 '12 at 8:55
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    Thanks for comments - updated the SME with a qualifiation for locale. Agreed on expertise, but presumably if one is the "go to guy", it's not because you are the leader of the B ship (Douglas Adams) - but that a generally smart team comes with hard problems that require an actual expert. – bethlakshmi Apr 18 '12 at 15:08
7

Part of the answer depends on who the audience of question-askers is:

  • People who are junior to you or subordinates? "Mentor"
  • People who are your peers? "Team Lead" or "Technical Lead."
  • People who are running your group, division or company? "Senior leader," "Advisor," or "Architect."

And by all means, fortify your reputation as the "go-to guy" by pointing to a significant StackOverflow rep (but explain what SO is).

  • +1 for mentioning the Stack Overflow point. I've been adding it for over a year because your questions and answers speak for themselves. :) – TR3B Apr 16 '15 at 17:26
4

If you're taking a humorous or generally entertaining tone in your resume, then something like "Guru" or "Genius" can work to convey your point. However, in a serious context, these terms come across poorly. Further, a failed attempt at humor comes across even worse. I'd also be cautious of a phrase like "resident expert" as someone may believe that you're overvaluing your position/contribution and may consider yourself irreplaceable.

I would advise against attempting to come up with a short phrase to encapsulate all that you do and provide in this spectrum and would rather add a bullet point as a part of your duties with supplemental bullet points for reinforcement:

Position X at Widget Corp, Technical Person, 2001 - Present

  • Responsible for managing the X process
  • Lead team of people to do Y
  • Serve as a resource for advice and guidance on technical issues to management and other technical teams.

etc, etc...

3

From your description I would say this person is a Leader or Expert in your area. You're a Problem Solver and a Consultant. You'll have to pick a term that meshes well with your area of expertise and your manner of selling yourself. Pick something that sounds authoritative, but not self-inflated.

Guru sounds like you're trying too hard, as do many of the "fun" titles like "Ninja" I've been hearing fly around. I also immediately suspect Neckbeardism when I hear Guru.

2

The first thing that came to my mind was Technical Consultant. Adding Guru to a resume in my opinion would make me toss out a resume pretty quick. Makes me think the person may be full of himself and a "i know everything" kind of person

  • some companies (including one I worked for) call many of their employees "Technical Consultants" (including folks in support, proserve, engineering, etc). Which is a shame, because it doesn't as clearly delineate their roles – warren Apr 23 '12 at 12:59
2

Usually I just bullet point with something like:

  • Provided technical advice and assistance to other teams and junior developers.

I prefer my resume to concentrate on the things I personally accomplished.

Where you really want to stress this is in the interview. Prepare a few examples of times when you were the go-to person and helped someone out of a bad place. Usually you can find at least one question where you can bring these examples up. If nothing comes up though, when they ask you at the end why you should be hired, then bring up how much you help others and the depth of your technical knowledge. When you create your list of references include some people who will bring this up when they are called. Ask them to do so in fact. It means more to the hiring offical if someone else calls you the go-to person than if you do.

  • +1. I'm that kind of person too, and I use phrases like "provide(d) internal consulting (resulting in blah blah blah)"; I don't try to capture it as a role. – Monica Cellio Apr 18 '12 at 21:28
1

Why not just use Technical Lead? If it's not a real promotion, just put it in quotes. Specify that you've acted as the technical resource for the team in your job duties description section.

  • i wouldn't put anything in scare quotes in your cv - looks like you're being ironic in your CV. ProTip: do not be ironic in your CV. – bharal Mar 13 '17 at 16:26
1

I would suggest using:

[intro blurb about your love of technology, etc] then a paragraph that has "At recent jobs, for different employers, I usually end up becoming "the guy everyone goes to ask technical and programming questions" and that has lad to me being promoted to technical lead.

I know I am paraphrasing your words but that is actually the point. If you wrote some overly formal stuff like 'Assisted and mentored junior developers" that is good but very general and quite likely to get lost in the shuffle of many resumes saying similar things. However a carefully worded, but chatty statement can catch the eyes of someone who may be reviewing hundreds of formal resumes.

0

I like the term "consultant", and you can embellish it how you like.

"Guy who is the only one who actually knows what they are doing" will always sound crass, sadly.

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