Monday, November 23, 2009

Do we need Generalist or Specialist ?

Today when ever we come across a prof. or great people , some people say they are expert in Networks , some say they are expert robotics, some say they are expert in Software Architecture. But there are people who can not say that they are expert in a particular field. In simple English term Jack of all but master in none.

Let me tell about my friends, One who is highly talented and great mathematician , who always says that he wants to work in Digital Signal Processing and Communication kind of jobs eventhough he can do anything , he restricts himself to certain technologies and other friend who is not as highly talented as the former but he never restricts himself to certain domain or technology. He does whatever job given to him excellently. Who is better compare to these two ??? Both are best ofcourse, but relatively as an employer or third person i would prefer the later.If i am employer of high profile jobs in DSP or Communication i would prefer the former (This is rare case).

There are some universities which expect students to learn breadth of the engineering and technology.There are some universities which expect students to learn depth of the engineering and technology.

Breadth Knowledge :- Here it is defined as mediocre knowledge in all subjects. The main advantage to this is people can shift their profiles then and there whether it is good or not , i do not know. People can mix and compare the technologies of various subjects and produce some good results. The only problem is they can not be expert in any one of the subjects it may affect their growth in future.

Depth knowledge :- Here it is defined as a excellent about only one subject and its related. The main advantage is competition is very less and they can grow well. Sometime they are demanded for high profile jobs. The main disadvantage is if teh technology / domain goes down or not in well shape , it is difficult for these people to survive.

Over all Breadth knowledge can be reffered as Distributed Computing , Depth knowledge can be reffered as Centralized computing. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. Rest, can be filled by the readers ...


Karthik.R said...

IMO, areas like DSP, Robotics etc are just names given at abstract level. When looked at each with more insight, we will understand that all are one and the same.

So a specialist in something can shift to anything else with little efforts.

Those who are jack of everything will get stuck at some stage. They can't achieve excellence. They can just lead some prosperous life.

I prefer a specialist though I belong to second category :)

Muralidhar said...

Hi Jithu,

Occassionaly I go through your blogs, though I am not always of the same opinion as you are ;).

This one especially provoked me to write a few here it is..

"Do we need a Generalist or Specialist?" - is definitely an argument.

Typically a difference between India and abroad (No offence intended) -

A person who lays a road, an electrician, a plumber, a crane operator are all specialists abroad. It doesnt have to be DSP or robotics to be a specialist. A work done by a specialist will speak for itself.

In india, you dont need a plumber to fix your pipeline, the watchman will do. Any problem with an electrical circuit, the milkman will do. We take pride that our milkman is a multi-talented personality. Ultimately what happens? Work done is mediocre, sub-standard, and lacks quality.

So IMO, we definitely need specialists for everything and how that can be achieved should be another blog ;)

jithendrian said...

Karthick and Murali,
Good response , yes i do agree , specialists are much needed than a generalist . But in customers perspective some time prefer generalist than a specialist.As rightly put by Murali ,in India we prefer generalists.We go to general doctor first and then based on his recommendation we try for specialist Thats why i mentioned if the job is complicated or high profile job it is a good decision to go for specialist instead of taking risk with generalist otherwise we can approach generalists (relatively cost effective).

nikhil said...

I agree with Karthik, a person who is good at math can become a specialist in many areas, there are so many great physicists who have contributed immense to the field of molecular biology. Take for example, recent nobel prize winner Venkataraman Ramakrishnan, he holds PhD in physics but won nobel prize for chemistry in the field of RNA(molecular biology)!!!

Hence i think its not the question of generalist or a specialist, its the area that matters, if a top level research is the area, only a researcher can fit in, where as at lower layer say Engg, generalist would do the same work as a specialist.

Senthil said...

I would say, a specialist is definitely needed for a group of generalist. I have seen lots of designs in my field (mainframe) done by generalist are nothing but a piece of crap when compared to the design given by the specialist.
A specialist should be there for guidance.

ANKUSH said...

Jithu, my opinion wud be like a person shoudnt be stuck to a particular field or his domain. Ya, i agree it increases the efficiency f both mployer nd mlpoyee.. But d way technolgies r changing evry day,technology today wud b oudated nxt year. As i feel fr my studies in iiitb inspite of havin domain in dsp and web programmin, i got into entirely diffrnt domains of data mining and testing..
As i still remember dinesha sir told us, in industry nobody listens u knw a particular domain or not but u have to do it. so one has to do it("As Nobody Wants To Be a Part Of Failed Project"). So if a person has gud vision nd logical ability to think, 1 can survive nywhr we may not need to b a specialist..

Sundar said...

We need both. You will see the great managers are generalist and great workers are specialist. To succeed in big projects, we need both!