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Generalist Vs Specialist

Posted: Wed Jun 13, 2012 4:32 pm
by Live24x7
I have been self- learning web for the last 3 years.

Looking back at competencies developed so far - i have become a jack of many trades but i haven't mastered any :roll:
I may be called a "web assembler" rather than a developer.

I learnt Java, PHP, CSS, Javascript, MySQL and various libraries & frameworks for each of these -
but i am not very good at any one.

I don't know - regex rules but have been able to bend them when needed (with help from some 'experts' round here).
I don't know - javascript but have used prototype and jquery libraries in my projects for UIs
I don't know - CSS Designing - but have built reasonable looking CSS designs from scratch
I don't know - MySQL but have used it my projects

Same is the case with everything i have picked up.

Is being a generalist good ?

Can a generalist stay in the business in the long run ?

or should one think of specializing ?

Standing on a cross road :D

Re: Generalist Vs Specialist

Posted: Wed Jun 13, 2012 6:30 pm
by Christopher
You always need to keep learning, but usually you go where the money is. A generalist can certainly get plenty of clients with a combination of light custom work and customizing CMSs.

Re: Generalist Vs Specialist

Posted: Wed Jun 13, 2012 11:52 pm
by califdon
I would emphasize, however, that you will get nowhere if you are "not very good at any of them." People will hire you because you ARE very good at something. Being a generalist is not at all like not being good at what you do. Certainly you can't be expected to be good at everything at first, but you need to work at actually learning the skills, not just copy or juggle things to make them work. That won't work whether you're a specialist OR a generalist.

Re: Generalist Vs Specialist

Posted: Thu Jun 14, 2012 1:21 am
by social_experiment
Live24x7 wrote:Is being a generalist good ?
If your general skills are all-encompassing (development, design, security, etc) then it is probably a good thing. Problem with this (from experience) is two-fold:
1. You rarely get good enough at everything to do this, there is always someone better, longer in the business who on any given day who will get the job before you do.
2. Getting good in everything takes time. While i don't refute that you should learn more i'm saying that becoming good at something takes time, usually a lot more than you think. Learning a programming language takes time because it's ok if you know the syntax but learning how to use it (properly) takes time and practise.
Live24x7 wrote:or should one think of specializing ?
If you have mastered (i use this term loosely) something then by all means specialize in it. There are positions for specialist out there; very often (imo) "senior" developers in a language will fall into this category; your time spent getting to this degree of expertise will be recognized (by the amount of money you are offered in the position). Many companies are looking for specialists to focus on one aspect because they have other people with various specialities doing different work. With the financial situation today it might be different however but imo there will always be a need for a specialist.

califdon and christopher make valid points; don't stop learning. I add onto this: don't stop learning when you think you know enough because you can't ever know enough about your specific langauge; got the syntax down? look at design patterns. understand the patterns? Move onto security and see what's new there. Because the world changes everything else changes, your programming knowledge should be one of those changing things.

Re: Generalist Vs Specialist

Posted: Fri Jun 15, 2012 12:03 am
by Doug G
Be a specialist If you want to become a cog in a much larger machine. If you want to operate independently, be a generalist. As a one-person business for over 20 years now, I enjoy learning all all the different technical and business skills I need to know to remain in business, and being able to do them all sufficiently well to be able to stay in business.

If you work for someone else you should consider how you'll best fit with the organization you're in. If you were hired to be a wordpress theme developer it may not be a good idea to spend a lot of time learing php and mysql database programming, unless that is a skill that will help you advance in your company.

Re: Generalist Vs Specialist

Posted: Fri Jun 15, 2012 12:24 am
by Live24x7
Doug G wrote:Be a specialist If you want to become a cog in a much larger machine. If you want to operate independently, be a generalist.
That is a very apt advice (or advise ?)

have been a one man business for the last 2 years and would prefer to keep it that ways for as long as i can

Re: Generalist Vs Specialist

Posted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 10:15 pm
by Jonah Bron
You're correct, advice is the word you're looking for. "advice is a noun, "advise" is a verb.