Monday, May 11, 2009

Specialization is for insects

There is this age old debate - should you specialize on a skill, or generalize and become a jack of all trades?

Heres a quote that answers the question :

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
– Robert A. Heinlein — from The Notebooks of Lazarus Long

There are exceptions - but as a generalization - the above quote is spot on. In any career you will have your main stream ( BA, Developer, QA, Architect etc. ) - but to become really kickass in your stream - you have to develop other surrounding skills.

Where I am coming at is - as an entrepreneur you will be forced to don many hats. I have met a few entrepreneurs who will dig through their card holder to give me their appropriate business card. They actually have multiple business cards with various designations like VP, Architect, CTO, Business development manager etc. Perhaps they might not be the best in all the roles - but overall they trump the specialists.

So go ahead. If you are a developer talk to your QA, BA, PM, HR, RM, BDM, MD - on what they do, how they do, problems they face, how they tackle - whenever you get a chance - these chats will help you in your career and will help you some day when you run a startup - where you have to be a little of everything.

So become the jack of all trades and a master of one or two.

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