It’s not how smart you are.
Technical folks are impressed by smart. How fast someone can code. How quickly they can learn a new skill. How many obscure features they’ve mastered of any given system.
I think it’s better to ask – how right? As in how right someone is for a given situation?
I’ve been working for myself, with a team of varying size, for over 20 years. I’ve had dozens of successful clients. That said, I’ve also failed. I worked for Ernst & Young for 6 weeks and left. And I’ve never had the desire for 80-hour weeks so startups were never something that peaked my interest. And while I’ve successfully worked for large companies, it was always for a department. My directness isn’t the best match for any place where direct speech isn’t a value.
Point is, I’m good at what I do. But I can’t work just anywhere.
I’ve worked with hundreds of folks in my career. Some have chosen the wrong career. But, more commonly they’re in the wrong place.
They’re a great jack of all trades. Which is fantastic at a small and growing company. But doesn’t scale.
Or, the opposite. They are a master programmer but can’t succeed if they have to also really understand the business.
You can be really, really smart and not succeed if you’re in the wrong place.