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This question already has an answer here:

I recently joined a new company. I am the only expert for a particular technology. They sell products based on this technology, but they have limited understanding of it. I have great potential on the "social" and "sales" side, and I already helped my colleagues handle requests from customers who inquired about this technology, and I am also helping sales & marketing promote our products which are based on this technology. So far, so good.

however, I also have other things to do, including 1) hands-on work on the infrastructure for this new technology, 2) collaborations with specific teams on projects which use this technology and 3) self-training covering this technology (to stay up to date), the problems behind each team's project and also sales & management.

My question is: how can I avoid losing this "superstar" status, while at the same time keeping enough oxygen to do my hands-on work and all the reading/learning I need?

One solution is to hire somebody to help me, but I am afraid that the company will put us in competition and eventually fire one of us. Another thing to consider is that, despite being in the spotlight, I am not paid more than other people with the same seniority, everybody needs me but my salary is not special. I don't want to lose my spotlight, but I also need to get things done...

Note: this is not a duplicate of a previous question about being the star player. This is not about SHOULD I? but about HOW CAN I?

marked as duplicate by IDrinkandIKnowThings, gnat, scaaahu, Jane S, Kate Gregory May 27 '15 at 15:43

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    Related question from yesterday? How to handle a star performer on a small team who feels no one else is good enough – user9158 May 27 '15 at 3:21
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    Hi LS, this is not really about quality but uniqueness. There's plenty of better experts out there, but now I am the only one around. – user32664 May 27 '15 at 8:29
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    @gnat: I guess by losing the superstar status he doesn't mean lose it to some one else or lose it because the others get the trick. For me it sounded like "losing it, because doing own work instead of be the 'superman for everyone'-star." – Zaibis May 27 '15 at 9:47
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I see two problems here: 1 organizational, 1 personal (you).

First, organizationally: If you're spending your time supporting other departments' efforts, you need to be cross-charging your time to those departments. You need to speak with your director or perhaps V.P. to understand how this process works in your company. At the very least, you need to be documenting and reporting to them how much time you are spending supporting those other departments.

Second, personally: You should never maintain the "Holder of Knowledge" status. That makes you a threat to the company's health. You should be the "Source of Knowledge." Push the knowledge out as aggressively as your company can handle it. If you are seen as a resource, rather than the bottleneck, your position will be as solid as it can be.

It sounds like you do need to hire help. Start documenting everything you're doing for everyone so that you can make the case for it.

Finally, if you feel your company would "play you off" against one another, then your company is not one where you have any realistic long-term outlook, and you should be courting other opportunities.

My opinion only - your mileage may vary.

  • Great answer, btw about the last paragraph, you can have responsibilities splits between the helper and yourself such that your work doesnt overlap that match and there's no competition ongoing. ie one helps cross-team sales marketing and other team's product etc and the other does the hands-on work, management and occasionally helping the other when the load is excessive. – Leon Dec 12 '18 at 12:27
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how can I avoid losing this "superstar" status, while at the same time keeping enough oxygen to do my hands-on work and all the reading/learning I need?

Work closely with your boss.

Make sure she/he wants you to fill the role of "superstar" you are imagining.

Determine how you together want to allocate your time, how your activities need to be reported to her/him (either before or after the fact), and how you will reassess going forward.

Then, follow through on the plan. Report your time weekly/periodically, and revise your allocations going forward as needed.

Don't expect the "sole superstar" role to last forever - it never does. Sooner or later all companies realize that critical roles need backups, and need to be spread around.

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    Ironically, I've been trying to get some redundancy for myself for quite some time as I'm planning to make myself scarce soon. I wish that call was listened to... – Seiyria May 26 '15 at 19:10
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    @StackTA42 if your boss is truly supposed to be the filter, then you need to (politely) deflect these direct requests for your time, and get your boss to step in to tell people that they can't be making those direct requests. Do you have a ticketing system where requests can be logged, assigned & prioritized? – alroc May 26 '15 at 19:55
  • FOr my role there was no ticketing system. I put one in place when I started, and it worked fine. But now projects keep piling up, and there is a lot going on. People now have an expert of this technology and keep coming out with new projects. – user32664 May 26 '15 at 21:31
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I agree with Wesley on not maintaining the "Holder of Knowledge" status. While it might seem like a blessing while you are in the spotlight, the problem becomes that you end up too important to move anywhere else because there's no one else who could take over your current role. Then you become stuck in a spot where you aren't learning anything new and it no longer gets attention from the higher ups. Then that blessing becomes a curse.

The way I look at it, the quicker I can get a project done and leave it in good enough shape for someone else to take over, the sooner I get to do something new, which usually means expanding my skill set.

Also, there's two variations on that "local expert" theme. You can be the expert because you are the only one with experience in a particular area. Which means, you have knowledge but not necessarily expertise. That's a thin line to walk, because if the company hires someone else with experience with the skill then you can easily be exposed for not being so smart after all.

The other variation is you have about the same technical knowledge as most others but you know how to wield that knowledge in much better ways than others. That's where you want to be. The holder of knowledge, will likely not ever achieve that because it usually requires utilizing a wide array of skills in order to achieve it. If you are pigeon holed into your one area of expertise, then you lose out on opportunities to widen your skill set and learn even better ways to utilize your knowledge.

Thus, don't be afraid to share knowledge. You can get your "knowledge" out there without losing your status. The student seldom becomes as good as a true master. Yet another bad analogy...I know how to nail, hammer and saw but I could never compete with a carpenter. If you teach others to nail, hammer and saw then you can pass your old projects on to them and move on to bigger and better projects with new skill sets to learn.

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I think you should do two things:

  1. Tell your manager that there should be at least two people familiar with the technology in question, both to handle the workload and because the company should not be dependent on any one person for a critical skill.
  2. Think about future skills your company is going to need, and plan to acquire some of those skills outside working hours.

Depending on any one technology for "superstar" status is a very short term strategy. If it is seen as bringing you benefits such as increased pay, other people will learn it. In any case, very few technologies remain non-trivial but important for more than a few years.

You can build a long term career on being seen as a flexible, generally knowledgeable person. It is very good to just happen to know what the company needs you to know next, rather than only knowing what they needed you to know last year.

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You definitely need to prioritize the tasks assigned to you. Helping with tasks that are not formally assigned to you is great unless you are not completing the tasks that are assigned to you.

People will over utilized resources they don't get charged for. You should get the OK from your boss to spend X number of hours on external work. You need to decline external work if it if going to cause you to miss a deadline or even put a deadline at risk.

If you are busy tell them you are on a deadline with another task and can it wait. You want to be the go to go but you also don't want to be the first person they go to.