Q: As a software engineer, it better to be a specialist or a generalist? Here’s what you should keep in mind.
Optimal strategy is to be both. I’ve heard it called being a “T-shaped” engineer. You have both breadth of knowledge across several areas as well as specific knowledge in one area.
Nice post and love the way you said here "Since there isn’t a clear winner, I’d pick based on the work you enjoy and what your strengths are." It's after all you as an individual developer need to decide what works for you and what doesn't in the long term.
Thanks Ryan - I would love to hear your thoughts on career advancement as an early-career generalist software engineer. Are there specific roles you think might fit better for a generalist, and do you think it is still important to pick one key area of focus for developing deep skills?
Great post exposing the tradeoffs of both strategies. I'd like to propose a third option: The Synergist Engineer. Develop deep expertise on a handful of skills that you combine to create value in an way.
I wrote more about it here: https://mokagio.substack.com/p/the-synergist-engineer
I also like your conclusion:
> I wouldn’t stress much about this. Specialist and generalist behaviors aren’t mutually exclusive. I’ve worked with strong engineers that exhibit both. Once you identify as one, you aren’t pigeonholed into it.
Flexibility is a crucial skill in a fast pace environment such as tech.
I remember people saying that you should focus on one skill rather than multiple skills because it's better to be great at something than be good at everything. They say it might be easier to be promoted within a company or finding a job would be easier. Don't know what to think of this and would like for your opinion.
Hi Ryan, great post! I am 100% sure i want to be a specialist although I am still early in my career journey.
What are the next best steps to achieve this please? Thanks