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I come across various people within my field (software developer) and people who are related to my field (the marketing/business people). Many a time when I want to opine or express my question/answer, I find that I need to tell them what my current position in the field is.

Am I an expert? Am I complete novice("n00b")? But most, if not all the time, I feel that I am at an intermediary position between the two. A person who is familiar with the technical terms and has sufficient knowledge to talk about it, but not with deep understanding of each and every aspect of it. (To put it other way : I know what I am talking about, and I am sure the person in front of me has no expertise in the field, but I want to sound modest and keep a loophole by saying I am not an expert).

I find my self at loss to express this fact and I am afraid that without expressing this fact, the other person will not get the context and complete meaning of what I am trying to say/explain. (And might get back to me when things dont go as expected :P)

Kindly suggest a word or a phrase for this. It would be really cool if you can allow expressing different shades/colors to it (close to expert or close to novice)

Edit : I know the term 'intermediary' or 'intermediate' level, but I am looking for more expressive word than that (read the brackets, basically I want to sound modest by saying i am not an expert yet I want them to feel that I am an expert)

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At my work we have junior developers. That's close to novice. –  z7sg Ѫ Aug 7 '11 at 13:25
I don't understand the context. OP says in a comment below that he's just graduated with a masters in chemistry, but above he says his field is "software developer". Whatever - personally, I can't imaging anyone hiring a person at graduate level just because they use some particular word to describe their skill level. I'd want to know what areas they think they know and like best, and consider how that fitted my organisation's needs. Nobody knows everything, but the right attitude is a big help. –  FumbleFingers Aug 7 '11 at 15:52
"I'm not an expert, but I'm very familiar with/knowledgeable about this area." Or if they're questioning your competence, "Look, I have expertise in this, because []" –  mkennedy Aug 7 '11 at 16:56
@FumbleFingers : I may be a MSc in Chemistry, but I have had the opportunity to build a High Performance Computing Facility for my alma mater (I spent my extra year as SysAd and Research Assistant in the institute). However, my problem stems from the fact that I did not get any formal education in the field. Of course, there are many (and might I add expert) software developer who have no degree in CS. It is this emotion/feeling that I want to express. And I think I may very well settle down on "competent". –  Sudhi Aug 7 '11 at 20:12
@Sudhi: oic. Well the world needs chemists at least as much as IT workers, and to be honest I assume most chemists have pretty fair software skills nowadays (like most managers can do word processing now). If I were in your position (assuming you're just talking to people, not looking for a job), I'd just say I get by if anyone asked how good I was at writing software. Keep 'em guessing! :) –  FumbleFingers Aug 8 '11 at 1:07

5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I would use the adjective "competent", which means "efficient or capable" without implying a high degree of expertise. Therefore saying "I am a competent developer" would imply that you're pretty good and that you know what you're doing, without sounding immodest or unrealistic. I believe all native English speakers (at least in the UK) would understand exactly what you meant by the this

You can't use this as a noun though - so you need to say "I am competent" rather than "I'm a competent"

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I second this answer. I am in the US, and all native American English speakers, in addition to the British, would also understand exactly what is meant by "competent developer." –  narx Aug 7 '11 at 16:44
Thanks @narx - I figured you would, but didn't want to make an assumption I couldn't substantiate :-) –  SteveM Aug 7 '11 at 17:54
Thanks @SteveM : A friend of mine suggested "expert in training" which I liked. However, competent seems succinct and to the point. I hope this question helps many more like me (see my reply to comment by FumbleFingers on the question) –  Sudhi Aug 7 '11 at 21:29
You're welcome - glad I could help. For what it's worth, some of the best developers I've ever worked with had no (or little) formal education having dropped out of college - while we were learning academic theory, they were writing code! –  SteveM Aug 7 '11 at 22:25
I'll add that Australians will understand a 'competent developer' too. Good answer. –  Richard A Aug 17 '11 at 11:55

Some software development books have adopted the term 'journeyman', but to my ear it's a bit pretentious. You could also call yourself an 'experienced developer' or whatever your speciality is.

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I can't use the term 'experience', I just graduated from a grad school with a masters in chemistry. They will,.. ahem,.. lets just say they wont believe me. –  Sudhi Aug 7 '11 at 13:41
I'd never use the term "journeyman" developer. It sounds like terminology from a whole different field/world being shoehorned into the developer world. –  narx Aug 7 '11 at 16:46

You've indicated that you don't want to use either journeyman or yeoman. What I'd do in your situation, then, is more of a language tactic. Simply say "I'm a ———," and assume that whomever you're talking with realizes that no one knows everything there is to know about anything, even the field they specialize in. If they question you further, sidestep the issue, take charge of the conversation, and refer to relevant things you do know.

If you want to, or think it's necessary, mention the length of time you've been in the field (don't forget that years studying it count). But from what you've said it sounds more like a social situation, not a job interview, so hold your head high and keep on equal footing with them.

If they're still putting you on the spot, or if you don't want to do the above, you could go directly to something like "I've always wondered how to answer that question. There are so many factors involved. How do you deal with it as a ———?"

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Thanks for your advice on using a language tactic. I particularly liked the last two lines. It will certainly help in the situation where the conversation is not in English or the other person is an expert in the field. However, I think "competent" shall convey the meaning. –  Sudhi Aug 7 '11 at 21:34

Yeoman, as in "I'm a yeoman developer." It's the status between apprentice and master.

Skilled or seasoned user, or power user (I think that last term was in vogue in the 90s and has faded from popular use).

Oops. update: I see Richard mentioned journeyman, which is the status between apprentice and master; a yeoman was a freeholder or middle-level servant in feudal time. The modern adjective "yeomanly" (as in "a yeomanly effort") means efficient and useful.

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I think a lot of people won't understand this meaning. I only know the meaning "freeholder" so applying it to a developer seems...odd to me. –  mkennedy Aug 7 '11 at 16:52

I actually favour "journeyman" for accuracy but agree that it sounds pretentious - you could perhaps use it with an explanation. I honestly wouldn't recommend "competent", because to many people it carries an implicit opposition to "incompetent", and could therefore sound a bit snotty. "Fully competent" would be better. How about "accomplished", or would that be overdoing it?

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accomplished implies proven mastery in the field (correct me if I am wrong) which is clearly not what I want to convey. Though I do agree to a certain extent about your skepticism of "competent". But as for now I have three choices 1. Competent 2. Expert in the learning (as suggested by my friend over email) 3. Last two lines of Nancy J.'s answer. One more thing I want to clarify is that I am not restricted to a single word, I can clearly use phrases/sentences/expressions to convey what I want to say. –  Sudhi Aug 8 '11 at 4:54

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