Specialist or Generalist?

Apr 24, 2018

Back in the day when I was focused only on being a Front-End Developer I heard this term "Full-Stack Developer". I didn't know exactly what that meant but I started to question myself.

Should I be a specialist on something? Or should I be more generalist? Until today I see many people struggle with that question, regardless of what role they have.

Truth is, there's no right or wrong. Sometimes in your career you'll focus like crazy and go really deep in a certain topic, but other times you'll go wider and tackle problems you've never seen before.

The one thing I noticed is that leaders tend to be generalists. They can shift course more easily. They're more flexible.

A good example is Elon Musk who built four companies in four separate fields (software, energy, transportation, and aerospace).

That doesn't mean he didn't have to be a specialist on something first. It only means he was able to adapt that knowledge.

Today my mentality is: how can I better help my team?

If that means not coding at all, so be it. If that means learning something completely new, so be it. When the individual success is not a priority, you can go much farther with your team.