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Ask HN: Is there demand for super wide generalists?
8 points by anm89 on March 28, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 2 comments
As a web developer I feel like I get paid probably unreasonably well for a specific skill while I have a whole bucket of skills off to the side which languish. It's starting to feel more and more unfulfilling to me as I go on yet its hard for me to imagine who would really be able to benefit from such a super wide skill set.

Quick history: I graduated with a degree in economics during the great recession but taught myself ruby and Javascript based web dev because I perceived it to be a more lucrative career and have been working as a developer for 10 years ever since . So I feel pretty in tune with a large range of tech after programming for 10 years but on the other hand, I've always stayed well versed in macro economics, especially international trade and monetary policy.

Off to the side of that I have a decent understanding of how financial markets work to the point where I can hold reasonably deep conversations with friends in finance and have some personal experience trading.

Off to the side of that, I started flipping houses in my spare time and learned not only about plumbing, electrical and carpentry but also about sales, accounting project management, architecture and interior design.

So to sum it up I've picked up a mix of

-programming and technical product development

- understanding of financial markets and many macro econ topics

- light but non trivial knowledge of several different trades

- the hard and soft skill picked up on the real estate transactions

- all sorts of other little skill all over the place

Im not trying to be cocky here, my skills in each of these areas are each drastically worse than the people who focus on them full time (hopefully with the exception of the tech stuff) but I was wondering if anyone has found ways to use super broad skill sets like these. The only thing that comes to mind is maybe niche areas of finance but I wouldn't even be sure where to look and I wouldnt be sure how to pitch my experience.

Any thoughts or similar experiences would be appreciated.




Have a look at "T shaped" skills and see where that takes you. I know Microsoft looks at this when team building so they have wide breadth in addition to specific depth.

Also, if you have time, there is a fantastic book on this subject "Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World", by David Epstein.

[1] https://www.amazon.com.au/Range-Generalists-Triumph-Speciali...


So what do you want to do with your life? If you want to be a contractor, or independent developer, then keep doing what you are doing. If you have dreams of management the keep up the generalist.




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