Is being a Tech Generalist bad for your career?

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The simplest way of understanding the difference between a Generalist and a Specialist is, a Generalist is often referred to as a Jack-of-all-trades, while a Specialist is known as The master of one.

Most people push for specialism over generalism early in their career for many good reasons. Yet, people should not disregard generalists. The reason I advocate for this is that, before finding out I was going to be a Software Engineer, the journey looked like this.

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And before finding out I was going to be building for the web the journey looked something like this

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I could do more illustrations of how my interest has changed. Or how the job market has influenced my career choices, but by now you might get the point I am trying to make.

No one's journey is straightforward. You should allow yourself to explore many paths before deciding what you would like to do.

The value that you gain from exploring different fields is rewarding. David Epstein, in his book Range: Why Generalist Triumph in a Specialist World explains the need for generalization. He suggests that cultivating a large range of skills will make you successful. I agree! Because, what are the chances that everyone can be a Tiger Wood in their chosen specialized field? My guess is not a lot of chances. You don't have to specialize to be excellent. There is a reference to a study in the book, that reported; kids who specialized early in playing a musical instrument were average compared to kids that tried a few other instruments before picking one they liked.

Not convinced yet? Here are my three takeaways from this book & how I am applying it to tech

  • Generalization allows us to think outside of the box. Innovative ideas can come from people who didn't specialize early in this field. Imagine what sorts of ideas would come from people with diverse backgrounds?

  • Being a generalist changes our attitude towards learning, failing, and success. Experimenting with different technologies may not bring instant expertise. But it can be a good route to being great at what you finally choose to do.

  • Generalization requires patience, open-mindedness, and curiosity. So does learning.

I suggested the same thing to a community of developers on Instagram, check the comment section for what they had to say.

What are your thoughts? I would like to hear from you in the comment section below!

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