PhillyETE Screencast #29 – The 11th Thing: Generalists, specialists, and how life imitates the decathlon – David A. Black

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From the abstract: “Change is a constant in the tech field, at many levels — from the introduction of major new tools and systems to the release of tiny updates for existing ones. Ironically, constant change results in a striking consistency over time. The view of our field from outer space, so to speak, remains remarkably stable. Meanwhile we have to decide what newness to master, what to quasi-master, and what not to bother with. Somewhere in that process we’re deciding how much, and in what, to specialize, and at what cost. We can’t all be experts in everything; and expertise is elusive, due to a kind of fractal quality to the field whereby whatever techniques one masters can be broken out into component or descendant techniques that have to be mastered on their own terms.

Is specialization even a meaningful concept in our field? And can we even be good generalists, like decathletes, or do our simultaneous specializations fail to add up because of their often transient presence?”