Jack, Queen, Polymath, Shaman

What do you call people who are great at blending technologies and making all the work connect up?

This question was posed by Kendra Little via Steph Locke’s excellent blog Not an Expert. I thought I’d try and provide an answer.

First, I generalised:

If an Expert is someone with deep knowledge of a narrow field, what word defines the converse?

Starting with the basics I Googled “converse of an expert” and got sneakers.  Google delights me in one way (I want all the pairs) but fails me at root..

Betrayed by Google, what next? My actual brain.

The first word I thought of was “Shaman!” At length I landed on this definition. Shaman: a person who acts as intermediary between the natural and supernatural worlds…

This definitely captures the way non-technical world sees the Data Scientist. Alas, I don’t know a single data practitioner who sees themselves as a mystic.

First thought was not best thought.

Dispensing of spirituality, the next word I thought of was “Polymath,” a person of wide knowledge or learning.

This covers the “narrow field” part of our question beautifully but what about “deep knowledge”.

The opposite of deep is shallow. Applying this we get the “Qualified Polymath,” a shallow person of wide knowledge or learning. Which is a great definition – of something else. It turns out that the Qualified Polymath is the old fashioned jack of all trades master of none; a designation that misses the original point entirely.

Not an Expert, as I read it, means someone attaining a rarefied level of knowledge by servicing a wide diaspora of other’s needs. A person who acts as intermediary between the natural and supernatural [technical] worlds to attain a wide knowledge.

Handily, this is a hybrid of Shaman and Polymath.

A portmanteau of the two gives us one of Polyman or Shamath.

The former sounds a little bit 50’s and bowler hat so I reject it. The latter however contains the word “math” (a good thing!).

Thereby I give you:

Shamath: a person who is great at blending technologies and making all the work connect up.

Postscript: portmanteau is a very posh word but pride dictates full disclosure, I got there via Jedward.

 

(sneakers image from: http://www.mensjournal.com/style/collection/after-98-years-converse-finally-reinvents-the-chuck-taylor-20150724)

 

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