You Only Live Twice: Qualification vs Working Knowledge

Qualifications and working knowledge are like two ingredients of a cocktail. Take the Martini cocktail, James Bond’s favourite, “Shaken, not stirred”. Would you be able to separate the gin from the vermouth? No.

And so, qualifications and working knowledge come together to produce a taste that is a different thing: it has a little of one and a little of the other. We live in the real world, not in Ian Fleming’s fiction, and so our ingredients sometimes stir, when we got to plan our training to enable us to face professional challenges. Much more often, however, they mix vigorously, shaken, which is when we are forced to quickly learn how to succeed in an unexpected challenge.

But what is it that makes a mixture of liqueurs an iconic cocktail, and an expert and competent technician an appreciated professional? This is achieved by keeping the main ingredients under control and adding secondary ones. Let’s not forget that a good Martini cocktail also requires lemon zest, pitted olives, strictly green, ice. And taking care of the presentation. Would you ever dare to drink a Martini cocktail in a beer mug? Abomination!

If you have an extraordinary professionalism, then you could be a Vesper Martini, the first cocktail that James Bond ordered in Ian Fleming’s 1953 book, Casino Royale. It is named after the seductive double agent, Vesper Lynd, played by two beautiful women: Ursula Andress in the 1967 movie and Eva Green in the 2006 remake. A Vesper Martini is made up of gin, vodka, and Kina Lillet, a French liqueur made with wines from the Bordeaux region and macerated liqueurs. Unfortunately, it is no longer produced.

What do I mean by this bold alcoholic-cinematic metaphor? What do Ursula Andress and Eva Green have more than many other beautiful women? The word is: personality. Experience and skills are useless, if you are not able to rework them, to produce something new and yours. And how is this achieved? Testing yourself every day. Trying to improve. Finding your weaknesses to work on.

Do you think Eva Green (and Ursula Andress, in her day), leave home in the morning as they woke up? Maybe now yes. But they can afford it because they have worked on themselves for years. They worked on how to introduce themselves, how to walk, how to look, how to smile, how to talk, how to drink a glass of champagne, how to shake hands… They learned to put on make-up, to dress, to pose, to model, to act. They tested themselves because they wanted to improve themselves.

There it is. A good professional must certainly have qualification and working knowledge. But they are both things that you can buy, more or less cheaply. A good professional has a personality. He tackles work with the aim of doing a good service to his client, the people around him, and improving himself. He chooses professional challenges to become a better person. He can develop skills and experiences by producing something new.

Because, after all, you only live twice!

Author: Antonio Pedna

Independent QHSE Manager & Adviser | Master of Architecture and Construction Engineering | TechIOSH

I am a specialist in QHSE in large construction sites with over 20 years of experience in the building business.

Based between Izmir, Turkey and Milan, Italy, I work in the world of large infrastructure projects in Italy, Africa and Middle East, a highly competitive environment, where the attention to technical detail, organization, management and reporting is taken to extremes.

I’m chartered Architect, Master of Architecture and Construction Engineering, Technical Member IOSH (TechIOSH), I achieved the NEBOSH International General Certificate in Health and Safety (NEBOSH IGC) and I’m qualified Safety Manager and Safety Coordinator (RSPP, CSP/CSE according to the Italian regulations) and qualified lead/third part auditor for management systems.

If you have any questions for Antonio or anyone else on the HSE People Panel please let us know –