According to Harvard Business Review author Vikram Mansharamani, the need for specialization is waning and generalist skills are in demand.
He explains the difference with bark.
There are many who have deeply studied its nooks, grooves, coloration, and texture. Few have developed the understanding that the bark is merely the outermost layer of a tree. Fewer still understand the tree is embedded in a forest.
And yet, both specialists and generalists are each needed. A company will need engineers who are experts in certain programming languages and databases but engineers are also needed to work in larger teams that intersect multiple languages and datasets.
In my search for an organization to hire me as a tech policy analyst, I want to study the forest without caring about the individual nature of bark. But I don’t want to study the air, grass, or water either. I want the forest. I want technology in all its glory.
Vikram says this:
Employees skilled in numerous functions are more valuable as management can dynamically adjust their roles. Many forward-looking companies are specifically mandating multi-functional experience as a requirement for career progress… Professionals armed with the analytical capabilities developed via these experiences will fare particularly well when competing against others more focused on domain-specific skill development.
I don’t know if it is preferable to market myself as a specialist or a generalist.
I don’t think anyone agrees — but I’m going to go the generalist route. Time will tell who hires me, what I get paid to do, and what I learn in the process.