Specialist or Generalist

While reading a lot of stuff about freelancing, consulting and business in general, I stumble upon a lot of suggestions and advices to niche down, become a specialist in some weird and obscure skill, which will give you the recognition of being the go-to person for X. This thing surely works, and you shouldn’t throw the advice out the window, but there is also a different approach, what if someone is not satisfied with doing only one thing over and over again?
I had a pretty great and stable job before I joined the startup I’m working for now. I could have done that job (working primarily as an Oracle DB consultant, writing PL/SQL) for a long time. Maybe make that thing my career niche. But I chose something different, something more tangible, developing web applications. Although I did introduce Ruby on Rails at my previous company, and some of it stuck there, there was something else a startup gives you, something that everyone should experience in their career.
That thing is generalisation, because a startup doesn’t have 150 people working on a lot of things, but maybe 3-5 people, all working on the same system. That is the great opportunity to learn new things, and reuse some things you have learned before. Sure, you won’t be able to niche down and specialise in one particular subject, but you will learn a lot of new things just going along, and working with great people that have the same goal as you. You might start off as a senior developer, but over time you pick up DevOps, front-end skills, design skills, and even business and marketing skills. That is of course, if you choose to do that. You can always stick to doing your job if you see it as a job and never think about this again. But by the mere fact that YOU are reading this, you don’t qualify for the Dark Matter Developers group, and want to know and do more.
What I’m aiming at here is pretty simple, becoming a well rounded individual won’t make you a ninja X technology developer, it probably won’t give you much recognition in the community as being the go-to person for X, but it will make you a better person in the process. You will also realise that your development work isn’t the most crucial part of the product, but that there would be no product without all of the people, and their skills that go into creating it. Understanding how things are built, and what goes into them is a much better feeling than jamming down only on your main skill and monetising it, without a greater purpose in life.

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