Are You An Amateur?

The word amateur is French for ‘lover of’ or as BBC Radio Four recently put it ‘as someone who does something for the love of‘.

So, if you are a highly paid professional who is passionate and focussed on your job, would you be happy that someone called you an amateur?

Maybe we’ve allowed the original meaning to get lost along the way courtesy of some previous negative experience.

Would we want our network infrastructure managed by amateurs? The carers and teachers who support our children to be labelled as amateurs? What about those brain surgeons employed to save lives?

They’re definitely not someone who delivers sub-standard work without the appropriate training – something we are used to classifying as amateurism. That’s what most typically perceive amateurs to be.

Maybe we need to think more carefully about the words we do or don’t use, cherish their original meanings and, if necessary, provoke a reaction to start interesting conversations.

Are you an amateur?

Susanne Dansey is the Managing Director of Purple Cow Ideas Management – an organisation that facilitates a paradigm shift in the collaborative nature of the ICT Industry. You can follow her on Twitter and join the conversation on Facebook.


4 thoughts on “Are You An Amateur?

  1. very topical post. For many people who were professionals in the IT game, the cloud paradigm ( not matter what your persuasion ) is resetting the skills for many of us. Does this mean it is turning professionals into amateurs I dont know but what I do know is that a lot of the skill we used to have are redundant, and there is a whole new bunch of skills we have to learn. That is life right? I blogged on something similar to this a while back. Happy to share here if thats ok.

    Love this blog BTW.

  2. As I have said elsewhere (Facebook), amateurs are great if they can also deliver results in a professional way. I love what I do, but I strive for quality and other attributes. I don’t want to just be an amateur, but give me an amateur with proven references and results and I may just buy from them. I’m even happy to reward them for their work.


  3. I guess I struggle with the concept of taking a word’s original meaning (especially if its from another language) and applying it to our current use.

    Some examples – entrepreneur (which we all either aspire to be or view ourselves as already) is French for Undertaker (which I guess most of us don’t aspire to be or view ourselves as!); Sick, ill, wicked – all used by the younger generation to mean good, great, cool etc., whereas we all know what they *really* mean (if we are of a certain age).

    Language is a living, evolving thing (unless its French, with the Acadamie Francaise seemingly determined to apply an al-qaidic stranglehold on their mother tongue –

    I remember watching Opportunity Knocks years ago (I was very young)- Hughie Green asked each contestant if they were “amateur, semi-professional or professional” and I thought “how dare he ask if they are bad, mediocre or good”.

    That’s how I interpreted those words then – wrongly as I discovered when I looked them up in my trusty dictionary.

    It was a light bulb moment, a near-Damascan revelation – Amateur means you don’t get paid, Professional means you do it for your main source of income, and Semi-Pro meant you dabbled in both camps.

    Fast forward to now – and the generally accepted use seems to echo my Opportunity Knocks days – amateur is often used to mean bad, shoddy etc and professional the opposite.

    The issue for me is who applies those labels to whom? Describing ourselves as professional is meaningless – after all are we really going to say “Buy from us, we’re hopeless and we’ll let you down”?.

    We all – especially business owners – almost by definition view *ourselves* as profesisonal. What the industry needs is an independent way of verifying our claim of expertise, reliability and all round excellence.

    That’s where an independent standard that certifies our pedigree is essential.

  4. I see your point, but I see amateur and enthusiast as being synonymous — meaning they are more reflective of hobbyists and novices. I believe it’s possible for professionals to be “capable” of performing certain services and technology delivery. That’s better than amateurs, but not necessarily mature. It just makes them generalists. A more mature organization has “competency,” meaning it has amassed a certain level of expertise in specific domains and build business practices around that expertise. The end result is all the same, though, in that IT professionals must pick their expertise, focus on what they do best and drive innovation and growth. Otherwise, they are amateurs.

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