In the context of work, having “years of experience” is often one of the main criteria in any job posting. The more senior the job, the more experience one needs in order to get said job. “Experience” serves as a catch all phrase that encompasses the general idea that “vetted” industry experience is vital to getting hired. But more often than not, YOE doesn’t equate to valuable experience. Obviously, the YOE qualifier is simply a heuristic that one can and often must use to filter through the volume of applicants. But perhaps given the fact that many blindly accept the heuristic as truth, it’s worth introspecting on the quality of experience.

One of the biggest signals that someone has high quality experience is to look for people who know what to do or what’s acceptable to do and conversely, know what’s “not acceptable to do”. This wisdom is not easy to come by, as these opinions only come about contextually.

In politics, there’s a concept called the “Overton Window”, which states that there are a number of topics and ideas that are “acceptable” to the main stream population at any given time. This framework is true in business as well, e.g. narratives around cloud, frameworks, etc.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you should only execute on ideas that exist within the Overton Window—and in fact there are probably better opportunities outside of the window—but moreso, that it’ll be difficult to have an informed opinion without understanding the current zeigest and how the industry got to where it is. You need to master the rules before you can break them, or so the saying goes.

There is no easy way to understand the meta without, yes, years of experience. But more than that, having years of thoughtful, intentional introspection on one’s craft and industry, and a desire to push ones self (if you don’t, I find it hard to believe that you can be at the frontier of anything).

Finding truly experienced people is also continuously getting more difficult because the burden of knowledge required to reach the frontier is continuously and forever expanding. Luckily, as Paul Graham has pointed out, learning compounds and has superlinear returns. But with anything that compounds, you need to be consistent and persistent in order to see the returns.

Footnote: This might all sound hypocritical to my post about how the era of qualification is over, but there’s a nuanced difference between having qualification and having experience.