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Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Specialist vs. the Generalist

For some reason, I woke up this morning thinking about some of the advantages of getting to specialize in one aspect of technology. Specifically, being the "Exchange Admin" for a company, or the IIS guy, or anything along those lines, being able to learn a product or technology inside and out. You see, I am a Network Manager / Admin for a small company, about 60 employees. I have worked here since it was less than 20 employees, and basically whenever there is a problem, I am the one who gets called.

Don't get me wrong, there are some really neat things about working for a company of this size. Primarily, I get to do a little of everything, I run Server 2003, SQL, IIS, DNS, WINS, AD, SharePoint, and basically fix anything in the building that runs on electricity. Yesterday I was writing scripts to pull values from our "insert company name here" accounting system, and dump them into excel, today I was installing a demo copy of SharePoint portal server, and tomorrow I will be installing a couple of Windows machines, and loading Oracle on them.

I started thinking about specialization because the last few days have been a little rough. I basically was given more work than I can possibly do, and the method of delivery was a series of meeting which ate up half my already overbooked day. Of course, everything needs to be done ASAP, and I already have a “to do” list a mile long.

To me, this is the biggest disadvantage of working for a small company. There really isn’t anyone else to do all of the jobs. I was finally able to get the company to hire someone that I can dump most of the smaller stuff, like desktop support, etc. He is overloaded with work too, so it is a case of the amount of work expanding to consume all available manpower.

Generally I don’t sweat this too much, I mean, I am only human. I make sure that I spend plenty of time with my family, even if I have to get back on my machine after the kids go to bed. Thank goodness for remote desktop, and the power of scripting. I don’t have any idea how I would keep up, or at least as close to “up” as I am, without them.

Really, I just wanted a chance to vent a little bit, so if you are still with me, and can sympathize with my pain, post a comment and let me know. On the flip side of that, if you get to specialize, and want to list off all of the downfalls there, let me know.

One of my new favorite internet authors has this post about being a generalist. It is a good read, and may I suggest checking his blog daily, as well as his terrific project, DIY Planner.

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