What makes you a subject matter expert?

Do you call your self an expert? Does experience come with time? What makes you a subject matter expert? This post includes some thoughts on what are the main characteristics of an expert.

Do you call your self an expert? Does experience come with time?
There are different definitions for an expert or for when to consider someone an expert. Google, Oxford, and Cambridge all define an expert as someone who has the knowledge or skill in a particular domain. So basically, it is either knowledge or skill that someone must have to be called an expert.


It comes from reading, studying, training, or some kind of educational system that provides knowledge for that domain. But is it a must for an expert to be a university Graduate? In schools, or formal educational systems, students of different fields usually study the findings of their predecessors, rarely encouraged to challenge them, or come up with their own results. In training, how many times have you encountered an instructor who can’t answer your or your peer’s questions? They have preset topics to cover during the course of this training, and that’s it.
Knowledge essentially is building upon the previous studies, ideas, and researches and then producing your own ideas. That’s why a Ph.D. candidate must submit his own work of research for a specific topic and defend it for the university board to approve it and credited it with an academic level. For example, Albert Einstein, as an instructor, used to come unprepared for the lecture, he used to develop his thoughts as he goes. This is knowledge.


Practice, Practice, and Practice. These are the three rules of being skillful. What is the definition of skill? Do you consider a young boy who has a Guinness world record in solving a Rubik’s cube under 6 seconds an expert?

“Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.”

Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit

According to Charles Duhigg, in his book “The Power of Habit,” thinking takes time, but a habit does not. Because the brain does not control it, it is our subconscious, which drives our behaviors, habits, and addiction. To be skillful, you should convert your knowledge to a pattern (a habit).

In the video below, Lars Andersen was able to reach a new level of archery with knowledge, practice, and time.

Lars Andersen: A new level of archery


How much time of practice is enough? Does it depend on your domain of expertise? Can you master a musical instrument faster than the basics of physics? Research by Harvard Business Review shows that it takes ten years or 10,000 hours of daily practice to become an expert.
In many cases, people mistakenly consider time as the only pillar of an expert.

“I’ve been working in this company for 10/20/30 years now. Believe me, I’m the expert here,”

A common statement you might hear at work.

 Is that really true?

There are more success factors for an expert, and you don’t have to be like Einstein, but the combination of three, knowledge, skill, and time eventually makes you an expert. Can you contribute more to this topic? What makes you a subject matter expert?