I was doing that with the assistance of several of our standards experts. The best of them are kickass engineers – ones I had some hard time catching up with.
So what makes “a standards expert” an expert?
When I dealt intensively with standardization, I worked a lot on reviewing contributions to various standardization organizations, writing my own contributions and going to meetings around the world – It was fun. Everything I know about this process I’ve been taught by others, who held my hand during that time and opened the window into this world for me.
So what are the things to look for when you shop for a standards expert? Here’s my list:
- Details person. Someone who can look at the small details, immerse himself in specification documents and while seeing the whole picture can take care of the details. Being able to understand the implications of a new addition to ASN.1 definitions allows one to know how to tweak those definitions to fit the code that will need to be written as well as the ease of use and flexibility of the standards.
- Broad perspective. It’s one of the things we ask of everyone these days. Be open minded, know the grand plan. For standardization it plays an additional role – the person needs to be able to see the big picture of the companies in the organization, the rules of engagement of the organization, as well as the standard in question and the contributions that are on the table.
- Large lungs. Standards are handled for the long haul. To pass a contribution usually takes multiple meetings and requires the contributor to be known to the group – to be part of the people who attend the meetings. The longer the person will be in the group, the more he will be accepted, along with his contributions.
- Best of your debate class. Standardization requires good debating skills. Trying to promote your contribution or deflect a competitor’s proposal requires debating. The better the person is in the task the more success he will have.
- Creative. This is something that isn’t easily seen. When you go to these standardization meetings, you’re bound to face some opposition when trying to promote your contributions. If you are creative enough, it will allow you to come up with something good.
- Polite. This one was hard for me – I’m a Sabra… dealing with standards means dealing with people coming from different countries, cultures and companies. Standardization is a long process which requires knowing the people you work with and being able to communicate with them. I usually had that nagging problem (and I still do) of being unable to ask permission to speak and simply burst out with whatever I had to say – it didn’t earn me any points in the group.
- Politician. Standards get defined by competitors – companies who develop similar products that need to interoperate with each other. As a result, the standardization process involves a lot of politics – it requires mapping the room for the different opponents and allies and playing the field. Someone once told me that when a useful contribution is made by a company that has already invested time in the implementation of it in its own products then the game starts. The contributing company tries to pass the contribution with as little changes as possible, while its competitors will try to change the contribution before it gets approved in ways that will insure additional work for the contributor and reduce its head start in the market. I’ve seen it happen more than once.
- Engineer. If you’re working on something – you need to understand what the investment in developing it will be. Without it, you might easily hurt your company instead of assisting it…
That’s it for my list. If I missed anything – please tell me.