As a contract Technical Writer, I have had experiences lately that are most certainly different than what I have been used to. I have worked for a number of people who do not have 4-year college degrees. As a person who has a Master’s Degree, this, at first, has been a little unsettling. But the reason, of course, is very straight forward — Technology.
Technology is rapidly advancing the hackers into the mainstream, because currently there are few other ways to learn these skills. Some of these non 4-year degree holders that I have had contact with have had associates degrees, some have come directly from the military where they had regularly worked with high tech devices, but a surprisingly large number of them simply worked their way up from the bottom — say from customer service where they learned the intricacies of a company’s software program to the level where they could advance into management.
When doing my job as a technical writer, I must obtain information or direction from these hackers, and the experience has been challenging. College educated people, like myself, have been brought to believe that there is a right and wrong way to do everything. We have been exposed through books and lectures to the experts of a field, and to the theories, laws and principles that these experts hold. We carry this knowledge throughout our work, and when we come across a program or process that we don’t understand, we expect to learn the correct way to do it — from an expert.
Hacker types most definitely think differently. To these people there is no right or wrong answer. They seek to play until a solution becomes apparent, and they rely very little on conventional knowledge. This novel way of approaching work duties can lead to an oil and water situation between those of us who are heavily educated and those who have learned solely through experience. But it will increasingly be the wave of the future. As technology skill needs continue to grow, and no clear way to teach those ever evolving skills, hackers will take on a bigger role in management and beyond.
So what is an educated person to do? It is simply to adapt. I have learned to bite my tongue when my hacker associate expresses an idea long out of the mainstream. And I have learned to specifically show them, not tell them, about my work process. When they see something work, then they believe it. But hackers have taught me about the power of play. That sometimes a far fetched idea can turn out to be a great one. But the knowledge that I possess, that which comes from reading and hearing directly from the experts, has a place as well. Together it is a good system of checks and balances.