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I like this blog - because it pretty much sums up a career dilemma that I suffered with for about 20 years - before I finally discovered IT Security as a specialism that requires an extremely broad general knowledge plus some deep knowledge in certain areas. I don't know if there are any other disciplines like mine, but there probably are. For example if you are deep in IT Service Management and Software Configuration Management you can be both a generalist and a specialist. Just a thought!
Well this hasnt been commented on in a while but since I'm new here I figured I'd comment. I too am a generalist - lots of desktop support, scripting, packaging which had employers looking at my resume like wtf? - i was spread thin in all the areas. I would always be the "best" candidate for helpdesk jobs or low-end support. I found myself in a vicious cycle of jobs. I then decided to switch to telecom which now I'm trying to specialize primarily in MPLS/VPN R+S and basic transporting (T1, T3, OC-N) (I'm currently in a voip role though) I like this side of the gate and looking at it from where I've come from I cant suggest generalizing to anyone. Being a jack of all trades, master of none just puts you in a mediocre stage which is hard to break out of.
just my 2 cents.
Having worked as a IT Manger for many years, my role has predominantly been one of generalist, as I employ technicians with the specialist skills to deliver the solutions. My issue is that as a generalist, I am less employable without the certs, but still have experience in many areas that should benefit any employer. However, I have since specilaised within the networking arena, (as well as Database and Service Support) as that is where my interests lie.
It is this specialisation I hope will see me employed beyond where I am now - which unfortunatley has me unemployed and still looking for work. (That is not a plea by the way) ;-)
It is all of course my viewpoint and you have to choose what is right for you. My feelings are that if you take on too much you will be average (at best) at them all but of course a router guy could easily do Cisco and Juniper. If you start crossing into VMWare, Linux and Microsoft then I really think you are cert chasing.
If you want to contract I'm telling you 100% that you will be specialising in as far as either desktop/server side or network.
Great comments though.
Great article Paul.
There are so many different opportunities. Lot depends where you want to live.
Big Cities have more opportunity to specialise, while smaller cities and towns you need to be an alrounder. Hopefully that will change as business accept the work anywhere methodology.
Alrounders probably have more people interaction, so if you are more a people person, that might be the way to go.
Great Article...It can e debated for infinity and there's no right answer. It would be great to master/specialize in one area but in today's environment if your only god in one area you can find yourself without a job. With mergers being common and your new company has enough Cisco or MCSE engineers, where does that leave you? I think you need to step outside your current specialized area and expand your knowledge.
In the networking world today you can't lock yourself into a silo. Look around at the partnerships Cisco alone maintains - NetApp, VMWare, Citrix, Apple, etc. You can't throw a rock at a networkers conference without hitting a VMWare person. You have to be able to understand and work with the other products you are going to encounter or you will find yourself the switch-config monkey or the guy staring at CiscoWorks all day waiting for SNMP traps to give you something to do.
Even then you have to know how your devices are going to interoperate with other vendor's gear. What's the proper switch configuration for the new SAN we just got? How does VMWare handle VLANs? Nexus 1000V anyone?
Cisco certainly doesn't keep themselves locked into routers and switches. Neither should you.
Paul posts some great thought provoking info but I don't always agree 100% with him and that's my perogative.
In the case of multi-vendor stuff then absolutely yes go for them - however what you can't do is do it in a half-arsed way as that will guarantee a lower level role. Most of teh guys I work with that are working at a higher level are all able to cover multiple topics / vendors / areas.
And it isn't always true that the more specialised you are in one area the more interesting the work becomes. In fact I'd go so far as to say if you specialise solely on one area / aspect / vendor then you will likely become bored with it very quickly and wonder why you ever got in to networking.
I frequently have to point out to my server colleagues that their conclusions are wrong or not well founded but I can do that because of my background with servers.
As to *nix and scripting then these will always be useful especially if you do end up in a level 2, 2/3 or 3 role as the likelihood is that YOU WILL be dealing with multiple vendors and only knowing one will hinder not help you. How many firewalls use a backend that is *nix based? How many load balancers are command line driven only?
But - as Paul says, YOU need to decide what you want and how you will get that. I say, just be sure you'll be happy in your choice.
Great flipping artical
This put a final nail in the coffin for my thoughts "I must learn about linux , I must learn to script , I need to look into VMware"
This kind of mentality has kept me imprisoned in an "ok ish" job with an absolute **** of a manager who wants you to know everything and pay you a receptionits wage
Great article to address the frequently asked question. Which is Best?
- There is no actual best.
So everyone has to decide for yourself, and the article provides some food for thoughts on the subject.