Lately at work, I'm finding myself in a lot of unfamiliar territory. It's mostly around the new products my employer purchases and then expects those of us on my team to become instant experts as whatever this new (to us) product is.
Naturally some catch on quicker than others. In many cases, I do, but not all. And that seems to be the case with a certain product I'm struggling to get configured correctly. At one point it was working fine, but then another team blew it all away, requiring us to configure it again from scratch.
However, when trying to restore the system to its former glory, things just aren't working out as smoothly as when it was working at peak performance. Add to that, our director signed a financial agreement with a 90-day window in which to test this product and decide if it's worth the several thousands of dollars the product costs.
Of course he didn't check with the team first to see if we were in a position to start the testing right away, to which we didn't. Building up a testing environment in this organization takes weeks, not days, even in the best of conditions. And now we've got a 90-day timer that isn't stopping for anything or anyone.
This got me realizing that strengths and weaknesses are ever-shifting. For example, I've got over 30 years experience in the IT field. That should be a strength, right? Usually, yes.
But in this case, I don't have immediate detailed, expert knowledge of the product needing to be stood up for testing. That's a weakness. If this were something I've experienced before, I'd have no issues standing up the product. That would be a strength.
The fact that I have to ask my fellow team mates to help me stand this up puts me in a position of weakness. Not to where I'm personally weak, but that the fact I need help creates delay and more uncertainty, that's a weakness.
I've had conversations with my manager where I've made it very clear that I'm not an instant expert in anything, and that some reasonable expectation ought to come with having someone enter uncharted waters. Not that it won't get done, but it may not get done as fast as you would like.
And, what's the usual recourse when things aren't going fast enough? Apply pressure. And more pressure. To which, I assure my manager(s) that putting a gun to my head won't make this go any faster.
So, while on the whole, having a crap-ton of experience may be a definite strength, it's doesn't necessarily stand up to the needs of the moment. And, when time and knowledge are both against you, that definitely does create a weakness for the individual, regardless of all the other strengths he or she may posses.