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Job Specialization - Boon or Bane?


Job Specialization - Boon or Bane?

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Ted Manasa
Ted Manasa
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Comments posted to this topic are about the item Job Specialization - Boon or Bane?

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Ian Massi
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Great editorial. When I applied to the position where I am working now, they had a HUGE list of "requirements". It turns out, they weren't looking for someone with all of them, it was ANY of them. Had it been a query, the bullet points would have said OR instead of AND.

In order to specialize, you need some foundation of general knowledge to specialize on. If we're talking SQL Server, how many SSIS gurus can't write basic stored procedures? If you're looking for an equivalent position, yes it is rare that your unique combination of experience and specialization is what a particular company is looking for. I've noticed that as well. If you're willing to take something less specialized, then there are usually positions available albeit at lower pay. It's always worthwhile to be flexible.
Michael Valentine Jones
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Companies have to to be very selective in the technologies they adopt and anticipate the available labor pool that will be able to support it.

If you decide to adopt a little known programming language or RDMS, you can expect that you will either have to train people to use it or have very limited talent available. You have to make sure that the benefits of non-mainstream technology are enough to overcome the drawbacks of limited labor supply. Unfortunately, many decision makers fall in love with technology and adopt it without giving serious thought to this issue.
Jack Corbett
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I have only been in one position where I was able to specialize other than specializing in MS development (Windows, SQL Server, VB, .NET). The one position where I "specialized" was a short-term contract doing report development in Reporting Services, but even there the data source was DB2 on the iSeries so I was also learning IBM's implementation of SQL as I wrote the data access code as well as the display.

In my current position I am responsible for SQL Server Administration, Database Development, .NET development, and some Visual Foxpro. The diversity makes life interesting, but I also cannot become an expert in any one area, and SQL Server and its subsystems are hard enough to try to keep up with.



Jack Corbett

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Don't let the good be the enemy of the best. -- Paul Fleming
At best you can say that one job may be more secure than another, but total job security is an illusion. -- Rod at work

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Steve Jones
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Specialization tends to happen over time, and it's not just technology; it could be industry or type of company. It's probably more common for development areas than administrators.

I haven't really specialized in one area of SQL Server, but I have gotten more skilled, becoming a senior person. Which also limits the jobs out there. Lots of people would rather pay a junior/intermediate to run things if they can, and avoid the costs of a senior person.

I also have a friend who's a talented CCIE, but there are few jobs for someone of his caliber and most involve moving somewhere else. That's somewhat the price of success.

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Loner
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I agreed these days employers want to hire someone that knows everything under the sun or they just want to hire one person to do 5 persons work. In most jobs I applied, they required knowledge of SQL Server 2000 and 2005, DBA experiences (backup and restore, replication, data mirroring...), performance tuning, writing stored procedures, SQL scripts and reporting service or crystal report. In addition it is a plus if the candidate knows BI/data warehouse, analysis service, ETL process, data architect, data modeling, on top of it the candidate would be idea if having the knowledge of Oracle or DB2, .Net, ASP.NET, C#..... the list goes on and on.
The matter of the fact is the company may not even need people with those skills, one of the recruiter told me the company sometimes likes to put down things they don't need and just to see what kind of candidate they get. Tongue

Companies keep saying they can't find the right person, do they know what they are looking for in the first place?
Ted Manasa
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Loner (5/29/2008)

Companies keep saying they can't find the right person, do they know what they are looking for in the first place?


That is a really good point. The shotgun approach makes me want to employ the counter strategy of applying even if I only match 40% of the requirements... but that breaks one of those "golden" rules of job hunting: don't waste HR's time if you don't meet the requirements. I think the desire to have people who are good, and good at truly everything under the sun at once, is unreasonable and doesn't really benefit anyone in the long run.

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Matt Miller (4)
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Ted Pin (5/30/2008)
Loner (5/29/2008)

Companies keep saying they can't find the right person, do they know what they are looking for in the first place?


That is a really good point. The shotgun approach makes me want to employ the counter strategy of applying even if I only match 40% of the requirements... but that breaks one of those "golden" rules of job hunting: don't waste HR's time if you don't meet the requirements. I think the desire to have people who are good, and good at truly everything under the sun at once, is unreasonable and doesn't really benefit anyone in the long run.


As someone who stubbornly has managed to stay relatively generalized, it's interesting to see how disconcerting senior "non-specialists" truly are to them. I mean - for better of worse - I've been a "utility guy" getting stuck dealing with the odds and ends for better than a decade now, requiring me to jump from one thing to another, and yet - it's very confusing to tell them "Sure I have 5 years in that technology but I haven't touched it in 9 months". Being great at everything just isn't plausible from where I sit.

I guess "Senior adaptable Wrench engineer" doesn't quite come across in an immediately useful sense to them: put me somewhere, I get myself back up to speed in whatever it is and we go from there.

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Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part...unless you're my manager...or a director and above...or a really loud-spoken end-user..All right - what was my emergency again?
Ted Manasa
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@Matt: To further your point, my experience has been that many employers focus on "years of XXXX" instead of realizing that many of us will get pulled off, say, a VB.NET project to do database design for 6 months. How long does it take to remember syntax? A few days? I have a difficult time understanding when hiring managers are scared off by the fact that you might need a couple days to get up to speed. It's simply human.

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Brian-538429
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Ted Pin (5/30/2008)but that breaks one of those "golden" rules of job hunting: don't waste HR's time if you don't meet the requirements.

This definitely wouldn't be one of my "golden rules". Most HR departments/recruiters have a 6 second rule when it comes to looking at applicants; if you haven't caught their eye within the first six seconds, you're tossed in the trash. I certainly wouldn't be concerned about upsetting someone by perhaps wasting their time maybe with them thinking I'm not best suited to a particular role. Someone in a HR department isn't going to remember you either way from your CV so just go for it. I wouldn't advise someone who doesn't know the difference between a router and a firewall to apply for jobs that state "must be CCIE" but that would be more for their moral rather than it being a career limiting move. You can't expect a prospective employer to have confidence in your abilities if you don't have confidence yourself.
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