Specialists vs Generalists

Published August 26, 2020, 1 min read, tagged as: careerstrategyleadership

At different points of your teams evolutions you're going to need different skillsets. Sometimes you'll need generalists that can do a bit of everything and other times you'll need those surgical specialists that are really good with a subset of your tech stack.


  • Focus on big picture
  • Often end up taking leadership roles
  • More flexible in career direction

The Jack of all trades. Generalists possess a broad range of knowledge and expertise. The advantage of a generalist is in the fact that they can provide a complete solution to your problem. However, they also have some drawbacks — if your project requires a higher level of expertise in some area, generalists will find themselves at a loss as they may lack the knowledge and skills.


  • High detailed knowledge & experience in one field
  • "The expert"
  • Often favor long term career stability

Unlike generalists, this individual is highly skilled in one specific field. The advantage with this is they have the knowledge and expertise to handle that domain more efficiently. On the other hand, this can turn out to be more expensive because expertise comes at a higher cost and you're unlikely to be able to utilize that individual for problems outside of the scope of their expertise.


  • Best of both worlds
  • Most bang for your buck, although it's likely a big price to pay

The Jack of all trade and master of one. This individual has spent time learning a broad range of skills and is likely great at communicating and collaborating with others, but has also found an area of expertise to gain a depth of knowledge in and is able to focus on functional output. The biggest constraint when looking for these types of individuals is they're like unicorns. They take a large time investment to find unless you get lucky, and will likely cost a lot because of their experience.

I tweet about this type of thing a lot. If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy following me.

August 05, 2020, 3 min read

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World Class Teams Create World Class Products

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