I am a computer power user.
I am a car stupid user.

As good as I am with computers, I am clueless when it comes to cars. I can rebuild your dead computer, retrieve your deleted data, rid you of that annoying error message and cleanse your machine of malware.

I open the hood of a car and I don’t know the engine from the alternator. I see plugs and wires. There’s belts and more belts. I am as clueless as a newborn baby piloting a fighter jet. I got to thinking about this because of a post over at Jonathan Rentzsch’s blog quoted below:

@cieslak People seem to think that making stuff easy to use is only for the benefit of stupid users. Expertise comes in different flavors.
@bradlarson The same “stupid users” who fix your car, or perform surgery on you, or teach your kid a foreign language. Drives me nuts.

It got me to thinking how we all have our talents in different areas. My life has been technology. I’ve worked with journalists with a startlingly powerful command of the written word and research scientists hunting through the intricacies of Cancer seeking a cure. I’ve spent time in manufacturing plants and call centers.

Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve repaired computers, answered questions and explained technology to those whose interests and skills lay elsewhere.

I don’t understand how to manufacture plastics.
I don’t even pretend to know how Wal-Mart and Lowe’s get their light bulbs in the correct quantities on time.
I don’t know how to run a major city government.
I’m not a journalist or opinion leader.
I don’t understand DNA, cells or the dazzling array of equipment in scientific laboratories.

Everyday I work with people who have completely different areas of expertise. It’s easy for me to marvel at how they don’t understand why their computer is acting up.

I see computer problems everyday. I spend hours wading through forums, support pages and whitepages to understand how things work. I love unlocking the secrets of technology and how it does what it does. This is my area of expertise.

My job is reactive to the needs of the rest of the company I am working for at the time. I do not have a set job function. In that, I do not make widgets or recruit people. I don’t plan strategy nor do I deal with finances. My job changes with the whims of the day and can vary wildly hour to hour.

My career is its own unique area of expertise and is completely alien from those I work with everyday. Just as their job functions are totally alien from my work. The intersection is the use of computers and technology to accomplish tasks. Computers are what bring us together. They’re using the computer to complete a task. I’m making sure the computer can complete the task.

A task I’ve done countless times is second nature to me and an easy fix but will confuse my customer. A task performed by my customer countless times is totally foreign to me.
Everyone has an area of expertise.
Everyone’s area of expertise is different and we’d all do well to remember those differences.