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Generalist or Specialist? Depends on your perspective

If you work with IT, did you ever stop to think if you are a generalist or a specialist? Well, we're used to hear to our career follows the T shape, which means that we all in IT have a common base, but we are (or should be) specialist in one or two subjects. However, if you consider yourself a specialist in any subject, how much specialized are you?

If for example you are a senior developer that programs in Ruby, uses Ruby on Rails, knows Node.js and knows how to deploy your own application in Linux servers. Are you specialized in application development? Isn't the specialist the guy who wrote most of Ruby on Rails? Or are you a generalist in application development?

It's hard to distinguish, really depends on how you see it. Allow me to confuse you once more.

If you think about a penetration tester, which does security tests on web applications. He does it for a living but doesn't code. Is he really a specialist? I mean, for you to be good at penetration test at application layer for example, you need to have software development skills. More precisely skills on the technology which the test is targeting. So combining different skills in this case makes you a better specialist than focusing on one skill only.

You may be wondering, as I was: does it even matter? Well, if you want to know what you want to become, yes, it's a good reflection. So what is better to become: a generalist or a specialist?

Generalists tend to receive less because they're not extremely good in one subject, but have more chances to be employed, as they have more skills which could be useful to adapt in some crisis. Specialists on the other hand tend to receive more because they are more rare, but chances are that their jobs disappear more easily in comparison to a generalist for multiple reasons.

In conclusion, what I thought so far about it is that you should follow your own curiosity to learn what interest you most. As the IT market is demanding all kind of professionals, it should not be a problem. Following your curiosity makes you learn more and end up with better skills than forcing yourself to learn less interesting things. One way to put it is to find you own answer.

Follow what defines you better :)

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