Competence & Consciousness

Before the holiday break, I had the pleasure to speak with Terry Kramer. An operator himself in a past life, Terry is now the Director of the Easton Technology Management Center at UCLA. Terry also teaches two MBA courses on technology management and on the principles of the sharing economy.

With the ambition to one day become a teacher myself, I had to ask him about his transition from the workforce to a professor – specifically looking for advice on how I can one day do the same.

Enter Terry:

To be a great professor you need competence in the field you’re teaching in and consciousness to share those lessons in the right manner to your students.

It’s assumed that someone with 15+ years of experience in their field would be competent, and can do something well (sales, finance, marketing, etc.). Where many former operators struggle is in their level of consciousness, which is the state of being aware of oneself and having awareness of those who surround them. In this case, having awareness of their students and their needs as a learner.

Competence: the ability to do something successfully or efficiently.

Consciousness: the fact of awareness by the mind of itself and the world.

A successful operator may have the best war stories to share about their own experiences, but if she cannot take a step back, understand where her students are coming from, and then tailor her content for them, then she will not succeed as a professor.

I’ve been finding in the past few years, that concepts related to one specific area (like how to transition from an operator to an educator), can be extrapolated to impact other areas of your life.

After this conversation with Terry, I imagined areas of my own life that I have competence in, but may not have consciousness of how I built those skills or how it could impact those around me.

For example, in my current role at LinkedIn, I’ve developed the competence to achieve the results set out by our team. I have received the necessary promotions and perform well. One can say I am competent now in my role. Yet am I conscious about how I became competent? Do I understand how that is impacting me professionally, or even how I can help others to do the same?

A framework or mental model that Terry provided me is a kind of internal symbol or representation of external reality, which plays a major role in cognition, reasoning, and decision-making. Collecting these models of how the world works are valuable and allows us to approach complicated experiences in our lives with clarity in our thinking.

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