Speciality or Everything – it’s always the same battle.
Will being a generalist at everything be what propels my career or will focussing on my niche give me the expertise I need to be “that guy” that everyone comes to for answers.
When you are a generalist, you need to get used to being spread thin, there is no ifs and/or buts about. You know a bit about everything, people from all over the place will start coming to you for a variety of things – sales questions, product management ideas, design problems, code reviews, platform integration, etc, etc.
When you are the niche, they come to you for what you specialize in – what you are good at – how do use this SDK, how to build services, how to make that pitch. On the surface that is what it is, but what they are really asking you for is – “Teach me”, “Help me out”, “Give me a spark” – not the technical.
Your niche isn’t about what you know, what you’ve learned or done – it’s about what you can do, what you can offer, what you do bring to the table and where you are going to go. Specializing in one thing isn’t a bad thing, look at doctors, police officers, lawyers, they are all specialized, they all own their niche, they are all experts in what they do. I would never expect to go to a doctor and have my will notarized at the same time.
When starting something new, being the generalist is a sure way to lose focus on where you are going and what your end goal is – and it is so easy to have happen in software. It’s very easy to start generalizing with little compromises here, there and everywhere until you look at what you have built years later to realize it’s not where you wanted to be.
That’s the worse feeling – that’s the feeling of having realized that what you wanted to accomplish is further away then it is today.
Want to be one of those girls that’s “that girl”, that own’s her niche? Own it.