I flew back to Iowa on Saturday. Seated next to me was a gentleman from Korea and he asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was an Executive Director for a local Chamber of Commerce. Dr. Jeong asked me what was a Chamber of Commerce. I explained I had the pleasure of leading a membership-based organization comprised of small businesses. A good chamber works together to support each other, members, board, and staff, to advocate on behalf of the business community. How we do that takes many forms; some are education, promotion, networking, connections, attention to legislative matters, marketing, strategic planning, and training.
He then asked if I could help him with a problem he was having. Of course I said yes. Dr. Jeong writes a lot of grants for the area of study he is involved in. He explained that he collaborates with other scientists and shares their opinions in the grant requests. One of the grant reviewers said he must not be very smart because he’s always giving other people opinions and not his own.
I asked him if he knew his subject very well. He replied that yes indeed he did. I suggested that then he should give his own expert opinion in the grant request. After all, he’s done the extensive research, has been in the field a long time, has the expertise and years of hands on experience to back up his work. It is now time to say “Yes, I am the expert.” In Dr. Jeong’s case, it’s a cultural thing. It’s appropriate to give credit to your peers and considered respectful. I’m not sure the grant reviewer knew that.
Many of us do this in our own lives. We look to others to step forward and say what we know to be true. Or we reference others and lay no claim to our own area of experience. Sometimes it makes us look as if we don’t know what we should know. Or it makes us look less confident. I know that going forward I’ll be more confident in the areas I know well, and start relying on my training, education and expertise more! After all, I am not only a small town enthusiast – but an expert too.
btw- Dr Jeong is Principle Researcher and studies genomes and works in the studies of soybeans. We had a wonderful conversation about 5 leafs on soybeans, mutants, and the future of the plant. Fascinating!
It is funny that this was your topic today. Chris and I were just talking about “experts” last night and discussing how that term has kind of changed over the years. I totally think Dr. Jeong is an expert in his field and the encouragement you gave him was wonderful. 🙂
So good to note the cultural norms may be different. There’s also a gendered component within the US with respect to question asking and how you are perceived as being competent or not, or who gets to ask the questions. And a gendered aspect to being able to take credit for what you do and know in the US. It helps to be aware of it so we can overcome the norms and take credit for what we have achieved by way of expertise! What fun!
Beth and Jean,
It is interesting isn’t it? We receive our expertise in many ways – I believe Dr. Jeong has received his over years in research, study and in the field. Some of us have received it via many years over many careers and in the field. There are some that claim expertise – but have no history out in the field, only book learning. Definitely a topic worth discussing!