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Good at Many or Expert at One?

August 10, 2008

I often ask myself that question. I’ve been playing/working with computers for maybe 25 years. That’s “computers” generally, not Windows or Linux, programming or system administration, open source or closed, etc. There isn’t enough time in the day (or night) to focus on one particular product and at the same time expect to excel at others. Yet sometimes I want to. I’m not the type that hates one product because I love another. I truly prefer the best tool for the job; maybe Exchange Server for a collaboration system, or LAMP for a website. I’m fairly competent in a wide range of systems, yet I still get disappointed in myself when I come across someone that knows more than me at, say, SQL database administration, even though that same person may have no idea how to change their own password in Linux. Sure, I’ve focused on certain products more than others and with them I might consider myself somewhat of an expert, but there’s always someone who knows more. It would be nice for once to be the guy writing the book instead of reading it. But any time spent writing would be lost time learning something else! I wonder if the experts feel they’re missing out on the things they don’t know. Probably; but if not, please let me know. It might be nice to walk down a single path and finally be satisfied.

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  1. stinger August 13, 2008 @ 8:28 am

    Feels like you are talking about me, but in fact i wouldn’t like being a “product specialist” or whatever they are called these days. 😉

    I think there will always be the need for people with a more generalistic approach – people who are able to “fill the gaps” between the specialists’ areas of expertise and although they will probabely never write one of those books i believe we have read quite an uncommon collection of books.

    so why not specialise in learning 😉


  2. Luis August 16, 2008 @ 9:13 am


    This is funny. It’s just like looking at the mirror when I read this post.
    I, as You (both) come across very often about what would be better: to be generally good with computers / IT and able to accomplish and surpass tasks for which I was not prepared, or be a “master” in a specific technology/product.
    Anyway, this is a subject that will give very to write, but hey!, here (.pt) the day (and night) only have 24H too…

    I think “specialize in learning” would continue to be my best choice. 😉