Enterprise Software

Stupid job titles have to go

These days, corporate directories are filled with job titles that are so vague and ambiguous they no longer have any meaning. Here are a few of the worst offenders.

I haven't gone off on a rant lately but today I am feeling the need. For some reason, my inbox has been filling more and more with emails from HR folks. I want to clarify that my blog is not an HR blog. It is a blog about how to manage your career, and offers, more often than not, tips for getting around HR in the hiring process and appealing straight to the hiring manager.

But that's not what my rant is about. I'm much too shallow for that. I'm actually just annoyed by the job titles I'm seeing in the emails.

I've gritted my teeth through Manager of People (as opposed to what? Manager of Office Furniture?) and Chief Motivation Officer but my surly disposition refuses to let "Chief Word of Mouth Officer" slide by. What does that even mean? Is this someone who has shown a great affinity for gossip? And is there a Deputy Word of Mouth Officer running around somewhere? And officer? Is there a badge involved?

I have to give it to IT. Most IT job titles are uniform across the board. Network Administrators? You'll find one in almost every company. Database Manager? Perfectly clear.

Although Chief Information Officer is a little iffy to me. I just hate the pairing of a straightforward term like "chief" with "information," a term that encompasses everything under the sun. "Need to know where the break room is? I'm sorry, you'll have to ask the Chief Information Officer."

Of course, I have to pause here and recognize some of the IT titles with perceived hipness that were created back in the day by dot com leaders who wanted to "reward" employees in lieu of raises. Bill Detwiler, Head Technology Editor, and TR Dojo blogger, told me of two: IT Gunslinger and IT Dragonslayer. Just kill me now.

Combine some of these with the ever-popular ambiguity tool and you get the likes of Content Catalyst Coordinator and Online Engagement Editor (the latter being an actual title of a friend of mine, who was not, as the title implies, in the online dating service business.) What's with the wishy-washy, let's-all-hold-hands ambiguity of job titles?

I implore the people who create job titles to start creating ones that actually mean something. This push to find terms that insinuate importance or some obscure concept simply has to stop. As much as you would like the terms facilitator, liaison, producer, coordinator, planner, etc., to encompass, the fact is that no one knows what they mean.

I'd like to be able to look in the corporate directory and not be completely befuddled as to who can answer a question for me? Otherwise, how am I to know that the answer to my question about insurance deductibles has to be directed to the Internal Principal Human Functionality Administrator?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

177 comments
JoeyMorgan2012
JoeyMorgan2012

On my business cards for my one-man freelance development business I style myself "Chief Geek in Residence." Because "Oz the Great and Terrible" was taken. Now I am feeling a bit sheepish. Joey (whose day-job title of "Programmer/Analyst" exactly fits what I do...

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I run into American companies all the time that have a "Chief Procurement Officer"? Purchasing manager. Buyer. I get it. :D Whatever happened to wearing many hats, it seems these people do actually work in multiple roles, but they sure like the look of their business cards!

catfish182
catfish182

i prefer to be called "network mule" or "department whipping boy"

jlkotson
jlkotson

How else are you going to "value the contribution" of someone who was previously a "sandwich artiste" at a fast-food slop-shop??? You tell a lie long enough... and people start to believe it. Case in point: you've all obviously forgotten that managers were told in the 70s to "value the contribution" in employee reviews when they honestly couldn't come up with anything decent to say about the employee in question. That's why my generation says %* YOU to anyone trying to saddle us with that tripe.

john3347
john3347

I remember many years ago (mid 60's) I was visiting a friend in Peoria, IL and we were discussing jobs. He informed me that Caterpillar was hiring "sanitation engineers" at their Peoria plant at that time. I pictured someone designing drainage lines and calculating diameters, slope, etc. I told him that I did not know that stuff. His reply was, "floor sweepers Man, floor sweepers." This trend of trying to pacify an employee with a fancy title rather than a pay raise has just gone downhill from there.

AllenT_z
AllenT_z

I remember when all this started 40 or so years ago, with title inflation like "Administrative Assistant" instead of "Secretary". Many of the "AA"s in my organization thought they were too good to do the work they were doing before. Then came "Human Resources" instead of "Personnel", which conjured up images of warehouses with people stacked on shelves--at the same time that Robert Townsend in his wonderful book "Up the Organization!" was advocating getting rid of Personnel departments and giving each department a "people person". And then came the computer age, with almost unlimited chances to create meaningless, stupid job titles that masked the work the title-holders were doing. It's time to get sensible again. Allen

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

There are surely some stupid job titles out there. In my work I deal with a lot of other companies, institutions, government agencies, etc. The company for whom I work does contract work for others of many sorts. I certainly see a lot of ambiguous, and silly, job titles. Where I work, in the job I do, things can get really complicated as far as what title one should apply to this person or that one. Because there is a group of us who might at any particular moment be working as a Project Manager, Account Manager, Engineer, Technician, Installer, CAD System Specialist, Web Designer, Network Administrator, Programmer, Graphics Developer, etc. We actually have specific specialists in each of those areas, but I and a small group of peers, are supposed to be able to do any and all of those functions, plus another handful of misc skills. For us, by in-house company policy, it was decided that when we have the company print out our business cards, we are allowed to have our job titles say ALMOST anything we want them to say. I say "ALMOST" because the last time I needed my stock of business cards refreshed I went to the gal who is probably the most important person amongst our office staff ... our Lead Administrative Assistant. She's the only one around there who actually knows who is in charge of what, how things really get done and who does whatever, etc. One of her many duties is getting those cards printed. So she dutifully broke out her pencil and slapped a binder with various sample card styles on her desk. Asked me to pick one, and to then decide what I wanted on it as concerns name, job title, whichever phone and fax numbers and email addresses I might want on them. I told her I wanted a mixed batch. Same style and other data, the only difference being the listed job title. And I thought about it and gave her a list. Application Engineer Programmer/Developer Engineer Project Manager Web Site Developer etc. Thought about it a bit and asked her to also print up a batch saying "Company Wh*re". Its a standing joke around here. For years whenever asked by a new employee or visitor what I do around here I usually answer, "I'm the Company Wh*re. As long as they pay me adequately, I'll do virtually anything they want. I'm not proud or fussy." The gal just grinned and said she understood my point, but no ... I couldn't get a batch with that printed on it.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

if we got rid of stupid people stupid job titles would disappear with them. X-(

chrisdspot-developer
chrisdspot-developer

I am starting to see ninjas and samurai crop up lately. I always wanted to be "code-monkey" but they won't let me.

mackydb
mackydb

i love this blog. this job title thingy never occurred to me, well, at least looked at them this way. IT Gunslinger and IT Dragonslayer, now there's a thought.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

The Jargon Department Ministry of Stating the Bleeding Obvious UK Found in Whitehall, London.

SridharPandu
SridharPandu

For a few years I worked as a "Senior Executive - Client Services", My job was to oversee implementations of a computer software product and ensure client requests for customisations were included in the product roadmap. Did it reflect the kind of work I did? I am not sure, but I did learn a lot interacting with my clients. I have come across titles like - Managing Workers (its supposed to denote a empowered employee!), Associates (instead of employee). Funny, but true we tend to obfuscate our actual responsibilities with these meaningless titles.

dlovep
dlovep

I think it might be due to 80's or 90's when we're still in Computing or Computer department, terms start to grow like MIS, IS, ICT, IT,....whatever related to computer's stuffs are ITilised.... nowaday, if you put a PC title people would laugh at you... like the old days, PC operator or Computer Operator seems pretty normal mean PC Clerk. Some people in IT/IS Department cant do any programming/networking/server/repair/maintenance/install/ERP/CRM/... still like the IT rather than Clerk, Operator, or in mean term Staff.

KD78728
KD78728

Love it, sounds like Jack Lemmon's character in the movie Mister Roberts!!!

smankinson
smankinson

Wow, this hit a sore spot. My favorite along these lines - a positon was created to bring me into this previously engineering only consulting company. The principles spent an ENTIRE day without my input on what to call me. Unfortunately, I cannot even remember the title they came up with. I liked working there though. Very good experience.

melias
melias

I used to annoy my director by referring to myself as "Junior Flunky #2". When he got tired of that, I would say I got a promotoin to "Senior Flunky #1." Funny, it never showed up on the TO.

mjstelly
mjstelly

I had the misfortune of a short-lived tenure in the banking industry some twenty-odd years ago. Sorry, Toni, they have IT beat in the Dept of Obfuscation Dept. That industry isn't so clever as to create titles for everything. No, they REUSE titles for everything. So, check out a bank's corporate directory sometime and count how many "vice presidents" are on the roster. Everyone but the tellers are vice presidents.

halversondm
halversondm

How about the differences in IT? Programmer/Analyst versus Software Developer? I just took the Computerworld Salary Survery and they are still carrying this distinction. Are we still that different as programmers? Does a mainframer not consider themself a "Software Developer"? Does a C# programmer not consider themself a "Programmer/Analyst"? Same, same in my mind. Maybe we'd have better surveys if we could agree on this. And don't tell me that a Software Developer doesn't do some sort of analysis.

wlportwashington
wlportwashington

Chief Administrative Officer...what's that the head secretary? It turns out that is a position for a catch-all for work others do not want to do. This person generally gets involved in affairs that they have no business in and go out of their way to make life miserable for others thinking that they are in charge of the company. It is a position and title that should go the way of Windows ME...into the trash. BTW feel free to toss in that person as well.

yattwood
yattwood

We are in the process of moving to our THIRD data center with a NEW outsource company....as part of this move, the focus is upon "More Closely Aligning The Business Units With IT" - so now there are references to: BAIT Teams (no, these are not people that dig up nightcrawlers) - Business And IT - "cross-functional" groups that work with the outsource company's management to determine hardware/software requirements SME - Subject Matter Expert (translation: the person (UNIX/Windows SysAdmin, Network Admin, DBA, Programmer) that has to TRAIN the outsource company's personnel)

Texvette
Texvette

Interestingly, most Job Titles (labels) are not th esame as the official HR Job designation. The source for most large companies is Hewitt and Assoc and Hay... for market based pay comparison. My title is Service Operations Manager, my HR title is Director, Application Management and Operations... more indicative of what I am actually accountable for.

michael.brodock
michael.brodock

no kidding, there is a guy where I work with that title and it aptly fits.

Sonja Thompson
Sonja Thompson

about four years ago at TechRepublic. They switched me from newsletters (where I was a "newsletter editor") to premium products, where I helped copy edit the books we produced and burn the CDs we assembled for sale through our online book store. I'm not sure where "Content Catalyst Coordinator" came from, but it was always really awkward when someone asked me what I did for a living. You can't just say, "I'm a Content Catalyst Coordinator." Well, you COULD, but without an explanation, people had absolutely NO idea what I was talking about. Fortunately, my title changed back to "editor" the following year. Whew!

Niall Baird
Niall Baird

Unfortunately I'm old enough to remember the distinction between these two. Secretary was someone who had been to Secretarial school and had learnt shorthand, touch typing, correct format for letters etc, whereas Administrative Assistant was an unqualified person, usually used for unqualified jobs (filing, photocopying, binding, getting coffee) and usually worked for the secretaries.

rarsa
rarsa

Consultant is generic enough for all the tasks you do. Maybe even Technical specialist although it is a bit narrower. But in summary, I am guessing that if I'm dealing with your company, I'd think of it as an unprofessional organization if you are X one day and then Y the next one. Or if I cannot figure out the escalation points based on the titles.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Six Sigma certifications (business process improvement/re-engineering)are like Karate, they have different colored belts, black being the top. I've seen ads where the job title is Black Belt.

gcaza
gcaza

When I first saw a "ninja" job, I thought it was a one-off from an eccentric company. During a job search a couple of years ago, however, I saw more an more job titles like that. I think it's ludicrous and have passed over companies that otherwise sounded interesting because of stupid titles like those.

yattwood
yattwood

so if you are a Java Samurai or Java Ninja, is your manager a 'Java Daimyo', and is his/her boss a 'Java Shogun'?

50-50
50-50

BTDT. Yes, banks have ridiculous numbers of Vice Presidents (VPs). But there's a reason. In the US, every loan officer at a bank has to be "an officer of the corporation" in order to legally bind the corporation to a contract (i.e., to make a loan to a customer). The usual progression is to go from Teller or Customer Service Rep (employee positions) to Assistant Vice President (AVP = the lowest ranking Officer) to VP to various prefixed VP positions such as Group VP, Regional VP, Senior VP, Executive VP, etc. ad nauseum. Only the highest tier of whatever-VP is equivalent to what would be considered a real VP outside the financial services industry. There is a potential downside for the all those individual VP officers because... every officer of a corporation is legally exposed as an individual to shareholder lawsuits whereas mere employees are not. Blame the lawyers and the lawmakers for that one, not the banks. When they make so many employees VPs, they're just doing what the regulators tell them they have to do in order to legally conduct business.

yattwood
yattwood

My ex-husband once worked at Security Pacific Bank (which was assimilated by Some Other Larger Bank) - it was true - EVERYONE except the tellers was some sort of Vice President! He later worked for Sterling Software (which was assimilated by Computer Associates); his boss's title was "Product Group Carrier" - I could never hear that without thinking of an aircraft carrier surrounded by smaller warships!

rarsa
rarsa

Some people misuse "Analyst" to label programmers. I say misuse as the most important development methodologies clearly identify "Requirements and Specifications" as Analysis, and "Design, Coding and Unit testing" as implementation. These are separate tasks that require different skillsets. Some people may have cross functional skilsets (Quite desirable) but if they also know how to cook should we include it in the title? A programmer/Analyst is an title used in smaller or disorganized development shops where there is either not enough people, the apps are very small or people want jacks of all trades (usually with not very good results). "Software Developer" is a quite wider title with no clear meaning. Some companies use it as anyone that participates in development. Some other only refer to Designers/coders. As for "Mainframe" or "COBOL" or "C#" or "web" programmer: For me programming is the practice. The environment or language are just the tools and expertise. If you cannot learn a different language or environment, I'd say you are a hack, not a programmer.

Englebert
Englebert

Software developer is mostly Technical programming ( about 90%+ ) developing software that is not business functional. (Visio, Vista, Access etc) Programmer/Analyst interacts with the user community (analysis) and develops software pertaining to the business such as insurance, banking, payroll etc. One of the requirements of the P/A is to know the business.

JimWillette
JimWillette

In my universe, and SME is truely an expert on some subject matter (business process). It is not a job title, but more of a role; something he or she must be in addition to keeping the lighst on (regular job responsibilities). And the education goes the other way, explaining to programmers (usually indirectly to reduce frustration on both sides) what the business actually needs from IT systems. The person in the middle is often called a Business Analyst, perhaps because of the need to actually understand the business in ways that can be made clear to programmers. This is a real job title, but seems to have so many meanings that when searching for a job with that title, it is important to read the job description very carefully, or you might end up in the Finance department.

BoundingAway
BoundingAway

What was 'unrealised', the project, or the title holder's PM skills (a trainee perhaps) ?

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

I once worked at a company where HR refused to let us be called Project Managers because IS didn't do projects ... (Reason given was that only one part of the organization did projects according to HR. Funny thing is this was a project driven organization -- even HR reported by program/project). Is Unrealized Projects Manager anything like that?

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

Converting data into re-distributable formats either print or electronic...

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

You mean like, 'Hi I am the Chief Procurement Officer, here is my card" when the card says John Doe-CPO ? Not once, many times. It seems that when corporations get big in the US, they like to make up some cool sounding titles.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

"But in summary, I am guessing that if I'm dealing with your company, I'd think of it as an unprofessional organization if you are X one day and then Y the next one." Well, we might be unprofessional. In your eyes or the eyes of others. Who the heck knows? I don't. Everyone has a right to his or her own opinion, or thoughts on the subject. But the fact is that the company for whom I work, and the customers who hire us, seem to feel that there is some valid need for multi-discipline types. The glue which can bind all the parts together. The "generalist" who can hold his or her own in a debate or disagreement with a "specialist". Someone who can understand and comprehend the "big picture". Including the minutia and details. Then make the "whole system" work, despite the opinions and sometimes disparate goals and focus of the individual specialists. Call me "unprofessional" all you might want. Won't hurt my feelings one little bit. It's something I face virtually every day I work. The very reason I carry the multiple cards with varying titles. I hear, listen to, comments from so-called "experts" all the time. Expert A claims a superior knowledge about how XYZ should be done if it is to be done the "right way". Expert B comes up with a different solution. But is just as adamant that he or she is correct. Expert C jumps in an claims expert A and expert B are full of it and their math/data is wrong. Yadda, yadda, etc and so forth. My job? Come in and make it work. Give a rip about everyone's favorite theory or method ... make it work! End of subject. Thus the variety of cards. Networking Engineer A pulls out HIS or HER credentials, claims superior knowledge and intellectual power ... but things aren't working as they should ... I break out a card that will trump his or hers, tell em to sit quietly and just answer questions I'll ask, then I make up my mind, tell em I'm taking all the responsibility (and blame in the case of failure), and that THIS is how we're gonna solve the problem. End of subject. Anyone not agreeing, go sit in a corner with dunce cap on head. In truth, I am not one single bit smarter than any of those other folks. Probably not even as smart. But name 20 subjects. The likelihood is that I know more on average about ALL the subjects, than any single person who is a specialist in any one of them. And I'm not selling any particular product or book. I have no vested interest in one method or technique as versus any other. I DO NO CARE. My only interest is in producing a final, working system. If I gotta step on toes ... I'll stomp on em without hesitation. Don't much care whose they are. And, I have no particular fear or hesitation about taking responsibility or chances. So, often enough, it isn't a matter of my being more brilliant about any particular subject or method than others. Its a matter that I understand the "big picture" better, and enough of the details, etc about whatever specialty areas are involved to make an informed decision that ... for instance ... Specialist Z has a better solution than all the others. Or that we should adopt 70% of Z's ideas, and 30% of G's ideas, and that's how we'll proceed. In my end of the business, I see an endless line of folks with all sorts of and an endless variety of "credentials" on their business cards. Sometimes those "credentials" are worth something. Too often they're inflated beyond their real worth.

twaynesdomain-22354355019875063839220739305988
twaynesdomain-22354355019875063839220739305988

That's all well and good, plus a little interesting to boot, but ... it's the exception to the business rule. May I humbly suggest we bring this back to on-topic discussion re the OP?

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

It might not have hurt them too badly to conduct a little less business...

Sonja Thompson
Sonja Thompson

the looks I would get when I told people that I was a Catalytic Converter? LOL!

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

I'm a self confessed generalist. But while I do know quite a bit about a rather broad range of subjects, I've never thought I knew something about everything. Generally speaking, in the case of many of the specialists I need to deal with. I find them to be similar to those folks who pursue and hold PhD's. That is, they know more and more about less and less. Their depth of knowledge about a particular specialty area tends to be vast. But also tends to be limited in scope. The major problem I run into with many of them is that at some point in their past they did achieve a broader, more general education and experience in a number of areas. However, often that knowledge was incomplete and brief. And they've not even kept up with new events, developments, methods, and so forth. And have forgotten or have a faulty memory about what they did know of those areas at one time in the past. I understand how this happens, and its to be expected. If one spends the majority of one's times delving even deeper, and more narrowly, into one's specialty it's hard to keep up with other things. Or to refresh one's memory about what one did know of them. No problem. Perfectly understandable. However, more than a few specialists (and PhD's) become so convinced of their superior abilities and knowledge as a result of their successes and achievements in their specialties, that they allow themselves to believe that this also means their opinions and thoughts about OTHER subjects are equally weighty. And probably superior to those who are not of their peer group. (i.e. those possessed of lofty certs and credentials, and impressive job titles) Kinda like they figure, "I'm so great in my specialty that it MUST be true I'm as bright, and knowledgeable, and able in anything else I do." Chuckle. Well, believe it or not, quite often that isn't true. Or even nearly true. I'm not knocking all specialists, by any means. For the most part, most of them I deal with do actually understand the limits of their knowledge and abilities. And understand that their knowledge of other subjects learned long ago, just might be more than a little rusty and dated. But from time to time I run into the other sorts. The kind who won't even consider what you're saying, unless you're a member of what they consider their "peer group". Chuckle, some get downright stubborn and head strong. Like, "How DARE you suggest I might be in error or have overlooked something ! Who the heck ARE YOU?" So, I have an assortment of cards with various titles. Its not as if I have to resort to that subterfuge very often. I say "subterfuge" as versus lie. As none of them have any title on them I could not back up with demonstrable knowledge or other means. I have in fact done work in all those fields, successful work for which I was paid. And carry around a wallet with several licenses and certs. And have an "I love me" wall full of framed degrees, certs, diplomas, and so forth. I am, BTW, not really impressed with all those pieces of paper. For instance, in the case of more than one of them, if truth be told, I could have taught the folks who asked me to prove my knowledge via testing, and/or who required me to sit in classes they taught. Many of those pieces of paper meant nothing TO ME. I obtained them for the sole purpose of being able to flash them at others who might require them to be convinced I know at least something about the subject. Anyway, with most folks I deal with, of the type I've been speaking about, I don't usually have to play the card trick. Most times it suffices for me that during the course of conversation I simply drop hints to indicate that I might be knowledgeable enough in whichever area for them to give me some credence and actually listen to what I'm saying. i.e. A not long past job. We'd installed some new equipment, custom programs, a dedicated web server with special purpose web pages, etc at a site. At one point I needed to interface with customer's head of IT, and had some very specific requirements he needed to implement and heed. I'd briefly been introduced to him earlier, and talked to him, briefly, a couple times. But when it came time and another member of my team went to him with our specific requirements, etc in order to get him to implement them, he balked. Questioned everything, disagreed with a number of items and flat stated he wouldn't do it, not that way anyway. Team member came back to me and gave me the story. Said I'd better talk to the guy. I made an appointment, told him we needed to discuss the matter point by point to see if we could find some common ground. I've nothing against the guy. He's got his kingdom set up. And it works well. He's proud of it and should be. I started off by apologizing for sending the other guy, and hinted that the fellow wasn't just all that knowledgeable and was simply following instructions. A couple times his phone rang with "emergencies" such that he needed a break to talk to someone and resolve whatever issue. He apologized for that, I told him it was nothing. I understood perfectly. BTDT. And related some of the stories of what I'd had to deal with when setting up and subsequently managing a largish network back at a previous employer. We swapped horror stories. He relaxed with me. In his mind, I'd placed myself into his peer group. I remarked that much of my knowledge was a bit rusty and dated, certainly not on par with HIS I was sure. But here is what I had, what we needed and were trying to accomplish. I was open to criticism and changes ... but this was the bottom line. Chuckle, end result he did what I wanted exactly the way I wanted. But I sort of let him think it was his idea and final decision. The truth, I could have made a phone call to a level much higher than his and just had him ordered to do it. But I prefer to not work that way. I wanted him on my side. Makes for easier relations and more cooperation later. I have a few specialties, and stay up to date and current in those. But the fact is I prefer the kind of work that requires a generalist. I find it far more interesting.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

We've all known those kinds of people who know a little, and mistake that for knowing a lot. Often they're not even "faking knowledge". They sincerely believe they know more than they do out of shear ignorance. Haven't delved into the subject deep enough to even comprehend how shallow their knowledge is. The most frequent issues I have with specialists isn't really with those who know only one thing. As long as they realize that. Rather, it's with the specialist so wrapped up in his or her belief that his or her knowledge and skill is so superior to that of anyone NOT of the same peer group, that they don't even consider any suggestion from anyone else that they might be in error, have overlooked something, etc. Oh, and there is the other sort of PIA specialist. That person who has been highly successful and applauded within that person's specialty, often appropriately so. But who then lets one's self become convinced, as a result, that his or her opinion about ANYTHING else must likewise be superior.

rarsa
rarsa

Very close to the "definitions"; my experience is that a good generalist can do deep dives as he is likely adept to learning quickly. A good specialist can have the big picture and has specialized in a single area, by choice or by chance. Many come from a generalist background. A bad generalist is someone that is good at faking knowledge. A bad specialist is someone that only knows one thing, and only knows what it knows... for ever.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

A generalist knows something about everything. A specialist knows everything about nothing.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

And I'll refrain from getting too long winded this time ... There is definitely a place and need for generalists in many areas of our business. Just as there is a need for the "General Practitioner" amongst doctors. If you don't know, studies indicate that while the general public assumes that they'll likely get better overall medical care by always going to specialists for whatever happens to ail them. (Assuming, perhaps, that the specialist is better educated and more knowledgeable, and was probably the better student back in medical school ... thus maybe brighter than those who had to settle for becoming GP's.) The truth is that those who use a GP as their primary care provider tend to live longer and healthier. And the end costs of the medical expenses tend to be lower. There is thought to be several reasons for this. First and foremost, the general practitioner tends to have a much better overall knowledge about you and your body, as a whole. The GP also tends to have a much more broad experience across the board with a wider range of ailments, disease, injury, etc. (Specialists tend to only see certain types of problems, thus often overlook or just not recognize other issues) So GP's often spot an issue and identify its general nature before a specialist would, if its something not in the specialists area of specialty. Additionally, the GP serves as the main coordinator of a patient's care and treatment. Typically a patient who has a GP, but is currently seeing a specialist will have the specialist inform the GP about all the specialist has found out, what he's doing, his plan of action, and so forth. As a result the GP, upon being informed, can look over those facts and often spots issues. i.e. Specialist is prescribing a drug which is inappropriate considering some other medication the patient is taking, or due to some other condition the patient has which the specialist does not know about, or if he knows about it ... maybe he's just not all that familiar or knowledgeable about it. After all, he IS a specialist. And so forth. In the IT world, as a whole, a generalist can also serve the same useful function. For instance, in my job part of my role to to review and coordinate the efforts of various specialists. For instance to catch that thing the Specialist A is doing which might clash with what Specialist B is doing. And I also serve the function of handling stuff that doesn't actually NEED a specialist, who would often cost more, plus you've got to wait under he can fit you into his schedule, etc. Another way our past customers use me, after they've become familiar with me is to help resolve conflicts. I routinely and regularly get calls from past customers asking me to drop by and take a look at something for them. Where they have a problem, but just aren't sure of that exact cause. And where they've, often enough, asked this and that specialist for their opinions. And each has insisted its not because of THEIR part of the system. Nope, uh-uh, can't be. ROFLMAO... I see this sort of thing all the time. So customer will pay for my time to drop by and take a look and do some troubleshooting and tell em what I think. Chuckle, this is not the way to win friends. I've had untold numbers of "specialists", in-house or hired contractor, get more than a little peeved with me. AND get more than a little embarrassed when I've shown that they were mistaken, it was THEIR problem. Anyway, putting "Generalist" on one's business card is usually counter productive, in my experience. Generally most folks tend to think the generalist is that person who wasn't quite bright enough to earn the right to put "Specialist" (of whatever) on their card. Especially other specialists.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

I understand your point. To clarify things from my side. Part of the use of those cards with the varying titles is just a bit of humor on my part. It amuses me. And it amuses some of my customers. Its like an incident yesterday. I made a short visit to look into a problem at one customer's site. As is my usual custom I stopped by the office of the manager of the department for whom we'd done the work, the project. To let him know I was on site, and specifically what I'd be doing. By this time he and I know each other pretty well, so he simply quipped, "Which hat are you wearing today? What will you be doing?" The project we'd done for them had taken months. Not counting the year of pre-planning, project definition and specification writing, initial design, etc, etc. During which he'd never seen or met me. He'd met with and talked with our salesman, project manager, and assorted specialists during numerous meetings and conferences. Most times it really isn't necessary for me to get personally involved in the early stages. As I have plenty to do already, I don't go to all those meetings and planning events. I do however, have access to absolutely every every bit of paperwork, note, email, drawing, schematic, materials list, program source code, etc associated with the project. It is our way of doing things that every person involved files away everything (including recordings of voice calls) associated with the project to a project folder. Which has suitable sub-folders. On a network drive so that anyone with a need to access it, refer to it, can do so. Me, for instance. I do get informed early on that I'll be involved in the project. But that's just a head's up notification. So that from time to time I familiarize myself with it, prepping myself for the time when I'm actually needed. Sometimes fairly early in the project I'll actually get involved if I see a pressing need. But my involvement is in-house, among our own personnel. While reviewing things I might see an error or omission, or what I think might be one. Or some deviation from the "normal" way of doing things we use. And I might quiz a programmer, or engineer, or whomever about it. So that whatever can get corrected or I can become informed as to precisely why something is being done a certain way. Whichever and whatever, all I'm seeking is clarity on my part. And I do typically make a few early visits during the install phase if the project involves installing new hardware, to see how the installers are doing. Kinda look over their shoulders a bit to assure myself they're doing it right (they're used to it, know I'm trying to help, not nitpick em to death). And to give em a chance to ask questions, bend my ear about any problems, and so forth. They actually like my visits. It helps em sometimes. Maybe they think a drawing/schematic is ambiguous or just plain wrong. Wonderful, one of the reasons I'm there. They could go through regular channels to request further information, clarification, correction, or whatever. And maybe get an answer in a few days. Or maybe not for a week or two. Depends. But I don't need to jump through the same hoops they do. 90% of the time, or better, I'll just make the "command decision", scratch in the change, and sign it. Assuming the blame if I'm wrong. If I'm unsure, don't know, or whatever, I call the engineer directly and we hash it out. The installers aren't supposed to make such a direct approach. Different departments, etc. Etc, etc. Heck, I've had times when it was as simple as the installers complaining that one of the incidental materials provided (misc hardware) just sucks, is difficult to work with and use, more subject to failure, or whatever. Generally speaking the project manager selects and buys those. Sometimes they don't know the difference, sometimes they do but go with which item is cheaper. Only one of em is an ex-field guy who used to do installs himself. He listens to and understands what they installers say. The others ... not so much. In one such case, I simply called our office, got a purchase order issued, and an hour later the new stuff arrived. Later on I got a nasty call from the project manager concerned. But it wasn't the first time, undoubtedly won't be the last. They can complain and raise a stink if they want. But the truth of the matter is I don't actually work for them, nor they for me. I'm answerable directly only to a level higher than they or myself. In-house, my primary job and assignment is to what we call testing, commissioning, and certification. (Although, if that part of my work is slow, I put on one of my other hats and become a temporary engineer, programmer, or whatever.) But for the most part I don't get involved directly in new projects until parts of the new "system" get to the point that they're going online, getting fired up, or whatever. And that's when I go to work for real. Time to do what they are really paying me to do. To test and certify that the hardware, programs, network, web server and web pages, database, or any and all the above work, and work properly according to spec and good practice. And if something doesn't work or perform as well as it should to correct the problem. Oh, and I go through every detail of the documentation, owner's manuals, instruction guides, drawings and schematics, and so forth ... edit and change as necessary to ensure they're accurate and complete. (The part I hate worst, but the job isn't done until all the "paperwork" is done.) Once I go in under my "official" capacity with the company for whom I work, I have pretty much a free hand to do whatever I think I need to do. My job is to make it work as expected and required, period. To certify in the end that it does. To PROVE this to the customer and any technical consultants they've hired. And to place the company for whom I work in the position of demanding customer sign that final payment check. In that capacity, while project manager, engineering, programming, or whomever may take exception with my decisions, I'm really only answerable to a level above theirs. Now sometimes someone, a project manager for instance, might get real stubborn and decide that he's really opposed to one of my decisions. In such cases we end up in a "conference" with the Big Boss. Each make our case, Big Boss makes the final decision. Sometimes I lose such debates. But it isn't very often. Seldom enough so that those who disagree with me (or one of my peers) usually just try to get me to change my mind but if I don't they just drop the issue. Don't get me wrong, I'm no super whiz or guru who knows more about everything than any of the specialists. For instance, take a program I find to be faulty or lacking. Most times I can simply edit and change to make the fixes myself. But there are times when I darn well know I'd be getting in over my head and skill level, where I simply kick the issue back to the programmer specialist. Give him a precise list of my issues, and have him fix it and send me a copy to retest. Likewise I can troubleshoot and fix most networking issues. But there are times when I call out our REAL networking guru and sic him onto the problem. He's very, very good. Usually busy, but IAW the way we operate, if a testing, commissioning and certification type calls him, that issue jumps to the top of his priority pile. Anyway, in the case of the fellow I was originally talking about. Earlier in the project he was used to meetings and conferences attended by several specialists and experts in particular areas. And project managers and salesmen/account managers. Etc. Then one day I showed up. And started doing my thing. He saw me, asked what I was doing and I told him. Okay, fine, I'm sure he just figured I was yet another worker bee, somewhere low on the totem pole. Pretty much ignored me thereafter. Until the time came for the next project progress meeting. This fellow and other representatives from that organization showed up. On our part, this time it was just me, the salesman and the project manager. The engineers, programming specialists, etc no longer attended. The guy looked surprised, asked if the others were going to show up and was told no, they weren't really needed any longer at these meetings. Meeting progressed as such usually do. The routine stuff. This fellow raised a couple issues of new business. Was pretty sure he didn't like A, as it was, wanted some things changed. Could we add feature B over there? Was it difficult? Costly? Etc. And each time the salesman and project manager looked at me in question, and I'd give the answer. Not when it came to exact price. That's the salesman's ball park. I simply indicated if it could be done, whether or not significant time or effort would be involved, approx manhours, named any materials required if such were needed. His job to put a price to it, or just give it away as a freebie. After that meeting, this fellow called me aside and looked at me. And asked me again, just exactly who the heck was I. What was my title? What position in the grand scheme of things did I hold? And so forth. Mentioned, for instance, that in the case of one of the issues he'd brought up, didn't that need to get kicked back to our engineering department? So A REAL engineer could give it his chop? I just laughed and purposely pulled out a stack of cards, rifled through them, reading titles as I did, then handed him one that declared me to be an Engineer. (I actually am one of those) He paused, then mentioned that just before the meeting he'd seen me working on and debugging a program. I replied "Yep", and handed him a card with "Programmer" on it. Etc. In the end he just laughed. We discussed a bit more in depth what I did for a living. And he got the idea that he know longer had to worry about just who within our company he needed to talk to in order to get any concerns addressed and action taken. It was simple. He just called me. If I couldn't personally handle it, I knew precisely who could and would and would handle getting them onto the problem right away. He's come to like our little "system". But does complain, with a smile, that he never knows what to call me. So asks every time I show up what "hat" I'm wearing this time.

rarsa
rarsa

"But the fact is that the company for whom I work, and the customers who hire us, seem to feel that there is some valid need for multi-discipline types." I want to clarify that I referred to changing titles at will. I favour generalists for all the reasons you listed (and some more).

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

I would have thought you meant "Catholic Missionary"