Senior Level Failure – Engineer Zero to Engineer One.


Field engineering has this habit of humbling senior engineers (or those who claim to be one) and showing them that they don’t know everything.  The engineer scale starts at 1 and goes up to 6.  Most engineers fall between 3 and 4.  When it comes to field engineering, all past experience goes out the window.  If you cannot perform a field task, you’re an engineer zero until you’re trained.  Once you’re able to perform the task without help, you become an engineer one.   When you are the subject matter expert on the task, you’re an engineer hero.

I’ve run into plenty of engineer IVs who claim to have designed the product in the field.  However, when you ask them to perform a simple task, they cannot.  Failure.  They like to remind you how important they are by showing you that they’re an engineer IV or whatever.  They dislike it when you remind them that they’re an engineer zero until they’re capable.  The butt hurt is real.  Tasks competency is binary, either you can do it or you cannot.  Telling people they are zeros until they’re ones, tells them that they must learn the task and past understanding means nothing.  It might contribute to your ability to learn.

Good training guides can explain this up front.  Training people from 0s to 1s is straight forward.

Managers need to be reminded that zeros exist on the team.  It’s also nice to remind a manager that if they cannot perform the tasks that you’re doing, then they’re an engineer zero.  It usually tells people that you’re able to do their job before they can do yours.  It keeps micromanagers in check.

My favorite way to put people in their place is to ask technical questions that are obvious.  Oh? You’re a network engineer?  What’s the port for SSH? 32? WTF!? No.  GTFO!  Humiliation sometimes humbles a person.  When they are over-confident and need to come down to earth, ask a simple technical question.  Watch them squirm.



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