So far I've made a career out of being a generalist. In my experience, companies of any size love having people like that. Specialists are valuable of course, but most of the time managers end up with a broad spectrum of problems and if they can throw problems to you without wondering if you can handle it, and feel confident it's going to get done, they probably don't care that you're only 70% as efficient as the specialist.
Does that make sense? I think for a 10 person team, generalists are very useful, and for a 1000 person team, generalists can be tolerated and be very versatile members who can quickly switch between roles. But I think there is an intermediate point where the company goals are still very narrow but the team is big enough that generalists are only useful in a high level management role.
If we're talking about a startup of <100 people that is healthy, they're usually in "expand" mode. You don't get rid of useful people when you're in your expand mode unless they're a problem.
Problem is, if you are a generalist (say) with <5 yes experience in total and 8 months at this firm? I'm not sure that works for anyone...in that situation.
Although, I don't doubt there is more to the story. Just would be hesitant to jump to character over other consideratiosn without knowing (any, real) details.
(1) ie, You still can be a very effective "early employee" without being C-level material in your current compan. That doesn't imply lack fo competence in the work you did do; and frankly thats a reason many do change jobs.
The two most notable points I left out of the post are that the company needed to cut costs (read between the lines there), and that there was meaningful blowback from the rest of the team when the CEO announced that I was being let go.
I've seen generalists with a culture and personality fit be transitioned into highly valued specialists with accessory skill sets that greatly benefited the organization.
Either somebody up top didn't think this transition could happen by ignorance or by potential difficulty or there was a culture or personality mismatch.
I was perfectly happy to specialize - in fact, I had spent the last few months digging deep in landing page optimization and email marketing specifically. I know there's more to the story. I just haven't figured out what it is yet.
The worst case would be to have a chat with him and ask him to chose an area of specialization and work to improve his skills there.
In other words, maybe he didn't get fired for being a generalist, but instead was fired in favour of a hiring a specialist.
However, lots of good people get fired all the time so you can't assume one of the other reasons he got fired-- besides being generalist-- was something very bad.
Lately I've noticed I'm getting better at taking on non-coding responsibilities, and I'm not seeing that hurting my hireability at all.
I'm not discussing any particular company here, but be aware that this has been known to happen before, and it will probably happen again. I hate to make age a factor [+], but in particular, if one is in one's mid-twenties, one identifies with this guy, one works for a company with enterprise software ambitions, and one's company has recently taken investment and hired the requisite team of industry veteran executives/VPs... well, I hope you're a founder. If you're not, consolation prizes are a) you're in the best hiring market for your skillset in the history of ever and b) you've probably got what it takes to me a founder next time.
[+] i.e. This is a description of the world, not the world I would like to be living in.
Also, I'm a little skeptical. It's very rare that people get fired while doing a really great job and being well liked. It's not impossible, but it definite smells a little unusual to my bs detector.
I still haven't figured it out yet. I haven't spoken with the CEO since it happened. I do know that there was meaningful blowback within the team, but that's about it.
A 'one year cliff' creates incentive for a sacking just inside a year. Employees should consider whether it's in their best interest.
Best wishes for the future.
Money. That's the reason. Had it happen to me a couple of times in the Web 1.0 days. Greed ruined some great products, a few companies and not a few friendships.
You are surprisingly restrained for someone who got cliffed.
Did you get a severance, at least? An Agreement of Introduction? (That is, the CEO agrees to a positive reference and to introduce you to investors on favorable terms, preferably in a legally binding document.) If not, you should have burned the company down. AoI is the absolute minimum you should take after getting cliffed like that.
If you have savings, it can sometimes be wise to let them go on severance (they're cash-strapped) and take the AoI, because a good reference (+ intros) from a CEO can do a lot for your career. On the other hand, if you got no equity, no severance, and no AoI and you didn't blow the company up, then you're a pussy (no offense).
I disagree. I theory this might be true, but in practice, it's not. I'm often not the best X for a particular job/role/etc, but I'm the best they're going to find.
Perhaps especially in software, THE BEST in their field are already turning down work and forging their own paths. THE BEST developer in tech XYZ is not going to close down their startup or leave MS or Google or Amazon to come work for your company's 'agile' team.
I feel pretty strong that generalists have the edge in most cases, because they generally have a broader background and can see bigger picture stuff, often can see patterns of how different areas connect (code areas, business areas, etc). You certainly need specialists at some point, but rarely are those specialists the best in their field.
I've had a few phone calls with potential clients (and earlier, job negotiations) where people pulled this "we only look for the best XYZ people". At one point during a conversation I told someone (politely, I think) that I happened to know some of 'the best' people in the field they were looking for, and there was no way they were going to move across the country, take an 80% pay cut, and uproot their entire family to come work in some mid-level corporate dev team. On the other hand, I happened to be pretty good and would be interested in stopping by the next day in person to see if I could help solve their problem.
Actually, I've used that 'line' (not always the same words, but the same gist) on a few occasions, and in one case got me a foot in the door. It's more about delivery with a bit of humor, catches people off guard I think.
I will propose two theories.
The board required a more experienced hire, the directors bent over.
They are growing and got greedy,this is an equity grab.
The attitude displayed by Alex is healthy for his own psyche however this is not in anyway a good thing. Effectively he was cheated out of his startup investment.
You joined before money was raised, and possibly got an oversized equity stake that is being clawed back. If you were supposed to have more than 1%, I'd consider it possible. If you were supposed to have 5%, I'd consider it a certainty.
If my guess is correct, you should talk to a lawyer. You may have options.
Lawyer would have been nice, but I already signed an Employer Termination Contract, so what's done is done.
You signed it without a lawyer? Dear God...
What was in the contract? Did you get anything? Given that they clawed back a bunch of equity, you better have gotten 3 months' severance or a legally binding agreement to positive reference and introductions (at your demand) to present and future investors. An AoI (Agreement of Introduction) can make it worth it to go gently into the good night because those intros can make you a founder in your next gig.
If you got two weeks severance and no AoI, then you're an idiot and you should stop blogging about this before you embarrass yourself more. (I'm being blunt because people like you get screwed over every day and the only way to stop it is to fight harder when it happens.)
On the other hand, from a human perspective maybe having such conflict of interests is actually good. It gives a chance for CEO to show his true colors earlier and consequently for employees to take note and re-estimate the risk of having the same experience at some later time or even during the exit.
I agree with the commenter that it'd make me more likely to hire him, not less, but other people might disagree.
Still, I don't think that was the reason (it's an October post). The vesting cliff is a more likely trigger.
I have to commend you on the brutal honesty. I thought you weren't going to revisit what they said, but you did.
You also mentioned you were fired from another job but didn't provide details... just make sure you examine what happened in each case and there's not a pattern. All I mean is I've seen people have to leave a job for certain behavior, exhibit the same behavior in the next job, and remain in denial about it when confronted.
The important thing is not that what was said, or the firing, the important thing is that he's turning down offers.
Offers are what matter and give you leverage through every employment related negotiation.
I can't say why the plans wouldn't involve him in some way. I don't speculate based on the content of a blog post, and it proves prudent not to believe rationalizations so close relatively to the event. If he didn't see it coming, something was wrong, right?
Which brings me to the point that you're telling you've built a successful new website, which boosted revenue.
Now that the website is built and launched 2 days before, they are letting you go 14 days before Christmas.
I for one would be pretty upset and demand an explanation other than "a generalist". It seems like a rather rude and insensible act.
To do that probably means they did not see anything in your skill set that you would be able to add more value to the company, and so they replaced you with a marketeer...
I must therefor conclude that your website was a one-page infograph with a sign-up button.
Sorry but the missing bits of information are frustrating, and given that I don't see why you shouldn't be pissed off.
I would most likely lawyer up.
There are some important bits of information missing to be able to make sense of your blog.
I also agree that the generalist/specialist saying from the CEO was in poor form and should not be taken too literally.
Bullshit. Maybe this is true for like, an insanely competitive NFL team with limited slots and deep pockets, but for a growing startup, this is simply illogical. I hardly believe there's any expectation for all employees to be the best in their field. Sure, everyone wants the best.. but at the end of the day, they'll settle for pretty good. Especially if they're already hired, on-boarded, well-liked and an integral part of the company (which it sounds like OP was).
Although you may not be able to find a position in a large company, small companies really need this kind of people. Maybe the salary isn't high, but it's relatively easier for a generalist to find a job. This can be important especially in the technology world where everything changes very fast. Imagine if you were a specialist in Blackberry making the best mobile hardware keyboard in the world ten years ago, you would not expect everyone uses touchscreen now, it would be difficult for you to find another similar job. Even if you are willing to give up on the aspect you are good at, and learn something new to chase the trend, it takes time as well.
Being a generalist is never an issue, as long as that role contributes value to the team. Taking oneself too seriously, however, will be.
Being a generalist can be a specialty. In a lot of respects, that's what a PM is, too.
Its not like a senior marketing person is going to be in the trenches and detailed knowledge of all the marketing disciplines.
Sounds a bit fishy to me maybe the incoming marketing guy was best mates with some one eh?
Am I missing something?