The Dunning – Kruger effect

If you don’t know what this means pay attention!! I recently posted a blog about the characteristics of a senior DBA. One of the points mentioned there was how Senior DBA are often left with a feeling that they have only scratched the surface. At the time I didn’t know this was a scientifically proven fact. The Dunning – Kruger effect is essentially a study conducted to understand the effects of skill on confidence.

The findings are

    Unskilled people are often over estimating their competence because they are so unskilled they don’t realize they are unskilled

    Highly skilled people are often under estimating their competence because they feel that what is easy for them should be easy for others too.

I have encountered this bias many times before without knowing the correct term for it. I have seen it in interviews where the interviewee overpowers the first interviewer with sheer confidence only to fail miserably in the next round when things get really technical. Also I have seen this happen in review meetings where solutions are being thrown around that make absolutely no sense.

Occasionally during my trainings I encounter a person who feels they know the technology a lot better than they actually do. In these cases I normally take the below approach

Me:- Ok, so why do you think that is?

Followed by

Me:- Ok, so for a moment let’s assume you’re right, then how would you explain this ………?

The answer to the above lets me know who I am dealing with. I have been using the same approach for many years now when it comes to interviews as well. The good thing is most often they understand things were not as they thought and appreciate the clarification but not always. When it comes to senior folks I have seen they tend to over analyze a simple question often resulting in a feeling that they are themselves not sure if their answers are correct, this has to do with the 4 stages of competence. These are the guys who fall into the green part of the triangle.

Then there are the guys in the Blue part of the triangle, the guys who immediately start taking action based on their previous experience. They don’t just know what the different reasons for an issue are they also know the likelihood of these issues happening in the real world and have a tried and tested approach to fix them. I would like to think I am in the green part of the triangle. The reason for this post is for the longest time I underestimated my skills as a DBA. Now that I am running my own company, I have realized I could have started sooner. I felt I should share this with everyone because it’s very important that we evaluate our skills honestly rather than wait for someone else to do it for us during an annual appraisal cycle.

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