What’s better – being a jack-of-all-trades or being an authority in a single domain? It’s a tough question. There is an obvious tradeoff between the two; it’s strongly correlated to where you are in your life and your career.
I have multiple interests, as pretty much all people do. But, that’s also where the mixed signals start. On one side, we’re inundated with messages telling us to be “well rounded” and to have a holistic view of things. On the other side, we’re met with the sentiment that to be a true authority in anything requires a zealous devotion to the topic. Where is the middle ground?
There are few people who live, breath and eat one discipline without dabbling in another. Aside from professional athletes or PHD candidates, most people embrace and develop various interests. So why doesn’t this apply to one’s professional identity, as well?
Does it stem from the associations tied to a given job title? I’m willing to bet it does, however unfortunate that might be. As you progress through your career path – however disjointed it might be – developing a deep understanding of more than one skill is inevitable. Hell, even Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory has been debunked.
As we age, it seems near inevitable to have so deep an understanding about something that we are labeled an “expert” in some capacity. And though I’m using that term in a very liberal sense, the concept holds true. We are exposed to so much information through our work and our hobbies that it’s VERY likely we are all considered an expert at some thing at some point by some one. Remember, it’s just a matter of perspective.
The real frustration comes from the realization that though I may be more knowledgeable in a given area than someone else, I’m still pretty lost. There will always be more to learn, more to research, more to develop. And maybe that’s the thing that draws me to tech – knowing that there is a lot of stuff out there that I still need to figure out.