Quick Learning Generalists

“Small teams need people who can wear different hats. You need designers who can write. You need programmers who understand design. Everyone should have an idea about how to architect information (whatever that may mean). Everyone needs to have an organized mind. Everyone needs to be able to communicate with customers.”

Getting Real, 37 Signals

This quote perfectly describes why I’d love to find work in a startup company in town or at least a small establish company which has the culture of a startup. More importantly in these type of environments, everyone has the chance to contribute because everyone is usually involved in a project in one form or another (due to the many different hats worn).

I was fortunate enough to experience such an environment when I worked for a small web firm in town at it’s initial stages. Due to the environment, I was able to help with whatever I was capable of helping with instead of just only being able to help with what I was paid to do (i.e. my “official” job title). Therefore, even though I was initially hired as just a web developer, I was still able to help with client proposals, computer support, business advice, and more.

Yet in a larger corporate environment, usually the opposite is expected. Stay in your cubicle and don’t bother the other departments. In other words, just do your job (that being the speciality that you were hired to do) and nothing else. The end result is that instead of having a close knit team of people who fully understand the needs of each others work, you instead end up with a fractured team of people who are often in conflict with one another because they often don’t understand each others needs.

I guess that’s why I would describe myself as an explorer instead of a specialist though. Explorers explore new terrains and usually need a diverse set of skills (with the additional ability to quick adapt and learn new ones) to be able to survive within them. Specialists on the other hand, come onto the scene after the explorers have fully mapped the territory and it’s been settled. Their focus is not so much on sustainability but on growth instead.

The thing is, as many people are aware of, we are moving into rapidly changing times where the horizon has yet to be fully explored (as the Web is still in it’s infancy). Therefore I believe the future will bring a larger demand for these “quick learning generalist” explorers, since we’re undergoing a massive paradigm shift right now which is rethinking the way we do business and the way we interact with one another. Only time will tell, if I’m right or not though.