General discussion

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  • #2184246

    IT Generalist


    by silvioandpauly ·

    Is it me or does Generalist seem to be the buzzword nowadays. Isn’t that a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none?

    In the ads and few interviews I’ve had, I hear more and more about these ‘generalists’. Is being really good at your game a past value? Now you have to run the data center, helpdesk, and be the programmer analyst.

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  • Author
    • #3190832

      Master of all?

      by gralfus ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      Today, companies are looking for as much bang for the buck as they can get. I’m way overqualified for the job I’m in and was hired because I stood out as someone willing to do the job, despite much greater training. It is better to be employed than to not be employed. So I’m back doing what I started doing over 10 years ago, but I keep teaching myself more as I go. I’m pursuing compuer security since that seems to have potential locally.

      Anyway, the more you know and are willing to do, the better chance you have of getting a job from a company (through normal channels). Others in the forum feel you are better off selling yourself to the higher-ups directly or working for yourself, but I think that takes a certain personality or level of confidence that many IT “geeks” may not possess (unfortunately).

      • #3051460


        by mcollins1 ·

        In reply to Master of all?

        I would agree, I feel that the more you have on your CV, the better it looks to an employer.
        I have found that they seem to value experience more than just qualifications. But if you have both then you are laughing.
        At the end of the day it’s about having enough for your needs. Being employed is much better than not, and it is no good pitching yourself too high if you are not capable of doing the job. The company will soon find out.
        I do feel however that communication skills are the key. I agree that a lot of IT “techies” don’t possess these skills, and I feel that perhaps a course focusing on these skills may be the most beneficial qualification you could get.
        Anyone is capable of selling themselves, it is just about finding their own, comfortable way of doing it.
        And one thing I would say to a lot of people is to find a balance between work and pleasure. Get out and socialise, preferably with other people outside of work.
        If you never leave work/work colleagues then you never properly relax, you are more likely to find yourself sitting for longer in front of the computer, and those social skills will just drift away gradually…
        At least that what I found for a while till I got myself sorted!

        • #3051437

          Humble Thy Self

          by tngamecockfan ·

          In reply to mcollins1@

          I have had to do just that for many years now in the Federal government. I am more qualified to be a systems analyst or programmer than desktop support. But things happen. I feel that I am over paid for what I do (and it true most of the time). But a wise person once told me “Your not getting paid for what you are doing, your getting paid for what YOU CAN DO AND WHAT YOU KNOW”.

          He’s right and it has let me accept where I am. Right now I am on a detail for 60 days that allows my abilities to shine. Just glad for this moment and the chance I might be able to move on to a more challenging career.

          Hint: I have alway found that I can find other things to do that can improve my department or the people I support. Sometimes the best thing you can do is take some initiative (be self-impowering) and make a difference. It makes it easier to go home every night. And people do notice.

        • #3050976

          it’s all work

          by joe.canuck ·

          In reply to Humble Thy Self

          I work ina small govt shop, and have to do pretty much everything from time to time. being a generalist and having broad knowledge and skills may not be very romantic or exciting, but it keeps me employed. I’ve known many people over the years who focussed narowly and deeply thinking this was the way to wealth and security, ironically it often leads to a dead end. I used to work for IBM, when they laid off 1/2 the workforce here and the old big iron was retired the few elite guys who supported them found themselves unemployable, I don’t know what they are doing now, but it’s unlikely they went to heldesks and 1/2 the pay. They weren’t even qualified for that. At the end of the day you HAVE to be a genralist these days. Like a journey man mechanic you can work on everything from lawn mowers to diesel trains, and if they are paying good money to fix the lawn mower why not?

        • #3051350

          28 years of jack of all trades

          by gatech51 ·

          In reply to mcollins1@

          I have always been a jack of all trades; machinist, computer repair, design tech. marketing events manager and after 5 months of unemployment back to computer repair. Multiple skills are very helpful in helping you survive today?s employment market.

        • #3051323

          Agreed! Jack of all Trades.

          by brentc76 ·

          In reply to 28 years of jack of all trades

          I know I may be one of the younger generation techies here, but I definately agree with Gatech51. I have been with the company I am with for the past 6 years, I started here in the Facility maintenance Department. I was an Electrician upon many other things. I have been working IT for the past 4 years, I think that working Facility Maintenance has made me understand how to troubleshoot Technical issues better. Also, Unlike the IT Manager, I understand how electricity works, and understand how to check out issues in the server room without having maintenance in there. I am now working toward my Security Degree to add onto my Electronics and Computer Networking Degrees.

        • #3051322

          more than one hat

          by baebaetech ·

          In reply to 28 years of jack of all trades

          I agree with gatech51, it’s best to have more than one skill or you could find yourself in the unemployment line. I do both Desktop support and PeopleSoft Security and trust me I don’t get paid for both but I have to pay my mortgage and eat.

        • #3051216

          Be well rounded

          by tsalagi ·

          In reply to more than one hat

          I recently interviewed for a position with a different company. The interviewer asked me what I do in my off hours. They are interested in people with other interests, hobbies and more importantly skills that they can make use of. They want people who are able to slip into different positions as their needs dictate. Being a ‘generalist’ is what employers are going to consider an asset. I don’t believe in ‘the master of none’ cliche. I believe that being a master of several is possible and is beneficial.

        • #3051099

          From Generalist to I.T. Manager

          by gorto ·

          In reply to Be well rounded

          I’ve been around for a few years and found that by specializing I limited my oportunities. I pickup a number of operating systems, applications, scripting languages, etc. Enough to get me through 3 years as a Microsoft Admin and another 4 years as a Unix/Linux SysAdmin. I’m in my 2nd year as I.T. Manager for a large distribution and logistics corporation. I find that my broad knowledge allows me to better understand and manage both hardware centric and software staff.

        • #3051217

          26 Years of Jane of All Trades!

          by deea1 ·

          In reply to 28 years of jack of all trades

          I have been in IT since 1979. Been all over the board from the local admin to IT Director. I too, after being laid off in 2002 for 5 months, went back to hands on Jane of All Trades, everything thing from changing toner to copier repair to Exchange server admininistration to support desk to voicemail to phones to hubs to routers to … well, you get my drift. I am certainly never bored. Either way, experience AND certifications got me my present job, beating out over 500 other applicants. I love what I do and I’m not sure if I’d have it any other way. And due to downsizing, I guess that’s a good thing. — Oh, and My title is “IT Specialist” – I like that name better.

        • #3051130

          Hooray for the “Janes”

          by debidaugherty ·

          In reply to 26 Years of Jane of All Trades!

          I’ve been a middle school teacher, computer skills teacher, and now “Computer Specialist” for a large Real Estate company where I do everything for 120 computers, 2 servers, an AS400 and probably an Exchange server next year…. but I like your “IT Specialist” title better… maybe I can convince them to print me new business cards… whoohhoooo!!!

          Some days this job drives me crazy… but usually it’s the people, not the machines!!

        • #3050717

          IT Specialist

          by kim luck ·

          In reply to 26 Years of Jane of All Trades!

          My title is also IT Specialist. I’ve only been in IT for five years, but working for a small company as a one man department has given me a breadth of skills: PC maintenance, network admin, phone system, Exchange Server, database design, application development, etc. Sometimes it’s a little stressful, but I love the variety. I go to forums like this one to bounce ideas of others that have a lot more experience.

        • #3051199

          generalist great for Small Business

          by dave.blair ·

          In reply to 28 years of jack of all trades

          I have been a generalist for 30 years. Almost all of my positions have been with Small Businesses (in the range of 50 employees). I have done 1 man IT depts. I now supervise 8. The generalist is really helpful in small shops, in management and in vendor relations. When I need a specialty that I cannot easily buy, I find that broad experience helps me acquire skills quickly. I’ve had 6 positions in 30 years, but have never been long without work. I attribute that to the dynamic nature of the Small Business world (new businesses always come and go)and the value they place on generalists.

        • #3050540

          All in Your Perspective

          by sleepless in wa ·

          In reply to generalist great for Small Business

          After 30 years in this business (Wards, Lockheed, and now a small retailer), I think your response to specialist or jack-of-all depends heavily on your perspective. If you tend to be an extrovert, happy contributing to whatever the company needs, salary is not your driving force kind of person, you tend to like being a jack-of-all. I hate to generalize, but my experience with many IT folks has been that the ‘specialists mindset’ folks tend not to have several of the above qualities. I’m not judging anyone here, just making an observation from my experience.
          Personally, if you want to give yourself room for advancement, prepare for any eventuality in the world of technology, and be an all around happier person; try whatever is presented to you, make as much contribution as you can, value others (both IT and users), and don’t make money your driving force. You definitely can’t take it with you, and I’d rather be happy than rich any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

      • #3051432


        by timothyrcullen ·

        In reply to Master of all?

        After spending three years in IT I never realized I’d be a “generalist” (nor do I intend on being one forever). My original intention was to be a DBA. A large number of companies out there are “in between sizes”-they think they’re too small for a battalion of IT guys (or may not be able to afford it at the moment), but big enough to require a myriad of services. As an example, in the time I’ve been at this company (eight months now with 120 users) we’ve added a second domain controller in our corporate office, an Exchange server, a fax server, a SQL server, Blackberry Enterprise Server, a general purpose server, and upgraded all of our routers…I won’t bore you with the other eight-hundred items on the list.

        The unfortunate part in all this is that we get the bulk of the squeeze. We got into IT because of one particular interest…databases, hardware, etc. and ,thus, spent more time practicing and learning that one area. I find myself neck deep in white papers and books trying to catch up on everything.

        Sure-some employers want to squeeze everything they can out of the company and their employees. Others, as in my case, simply grew too large too fast and still consider themselves a tiny business. It took a couple of nasty conversations and insistances to open eyes.

        I may be coated with pixy-dust, but I believe that with a little time and patience things will slack up. I know personally I’m not where I ultimately want to be, but I do know that where I am is a good learning place for all of the skills. Keep up the faith!!!

        • #3051426

          Speak for yourself.

          by sjohnson175 ·

          In reply to JOAT…MON

          “We got into IT because of one particular interest…”

          Single focus didn’t draw me to the field.

          I do find that the Programmer/Analyst role seems to be the one I enjoy most but I can be happy wearing most any geek hat.

        • #3051242

          The more you know, the better off you are — and your company, too!

          by mitchlr ·

          In reply to JOAT…MON

          Too many specialists only know what’s in their own silo. I know dozens of programmers that don’t know squat about infrastructure, and program according to unrealistic assumptions, to wit:
          Available CPU cycles are assumed as infinite.
          Available RAM is assumed as infinite.
          Available bandwidth is assumed as infinite.
          Available disk space is assumed as infinite.
          Latency is assumed to be zero.

          If programmers who have these assumptions understood the real world infrastructure their brainchild has to work on, they would code better. The ones that do understand infrastructure write better code because of it. I don’t want to step on the toes of any coders here, but being a generalist is helpful.

          Similarly, as a Systems Administrator, not only understanding hardware and infrastructure but something about programming helps me automate lots of my functions.

          Finally, knowing the business side of things helps me anticipate the needs of my business users. Often business users decide they know the means as well as the end they want to achieve, but because I can speak their language as well as talk to the techies down in the basement, I can convince them to trust me to help them achieve their purposes in ways that might be more efficient than the means they had thought of.

          Being a generalist not only makes things more interesting — it benefits all the folks who work in the areas of expertise you have.

        • #3051190

          Being younger and a generalist can hurt…

          by rayjeff ·

          In reply to The more you know, the better off you are — and your company, too!

          As being a generalist, being younger and knowledgeable is just as bad being older and knowledgable. But when it comes to being younger, you are seen as a “know-it-all” or no one just plain listen to you. It’s bad when you are in that situation in a small environment like a small business or a small institiution of higher learning. Even when your intentions are the best and all you want to do is your job, you still have that stigma attached.

        • #3051188

          The more you know… so true!

          by lando56 ·

          In reply to The more you know, the better off you are — and your company, too!

          I couldn’t agree more with mitchir because todays IT is exactly that… there are no more singular departments. Every department, within reason of course, are intertwined together, and these days you have to have at least a basic understanding of, for example, how compliance to Fed Regs such as SOX, HIPAA, etc. affect the company. I’m keeping this very simplified and short but I’m sure everyone here can figure out what I mean.

          I can’t remember if what I read was in regards to ISO 17799, ITIL, or whatever, but no matter, the point driven home was that it’s the business that drives IT, not the other way around and one would be wise to have some background or at least understanding of more than just ones own singular specialty. May not be fun! But a fact of IT life now 🙁

        • #3050680

          It is fun

          by tony hopkinson ·

          In reply to The more you know… so true!

          The best deal in the world in when you are waiting on a specialist and they drag their heels to show how important they are and you do their job as well …. and tell everbody.
          There’s nothing a specialist in IT knows that I can’t and there’s a lot that I know, they don’t want to.
          Beside the best way to make a success out of a an IT project is for everybody involved to know the big picture and where they fit in it.

      • #3051371

        IT in Government

        by pabouvier ·

        In reply to Master of all?

        You should try IT in a State Government situation. No one even knows you exist until they have a problem. Short staffed inexperienced help except for a small nucleus of people who like you say are willing to do anything to keep the system running. Salary levels way below average and no sign of any adjustment. Not a great place for young talanted individuals looking to get ahead.

        Benefits are the only thing goin sor this job, so if you plan on retiring from it it’s worth staying on.

        • #3051328

          Try It in State and Academia

          by xitmanager ·

          In reply to IT in Government

          I work in a health center in a state university…for 24+ years I have had to be the “expert” in programming, PC’s, application software, operating systems, telephone systems, networks, etc. As the only real tech person, I have always been between a rock and a hard place…a jack of all possible tech trades. It finally was my downfall since an outside consultant came in and pronounced me unfit since I had no advanced degree. (I have a B.S. in CompSci). They moved me to a DBA-type position, and brought in an interim with the correct paperwork who was let go after 2 months because he couldn’t do the job supporting the PC’s, networks, servers, telephones, etc. Go figure! And me…I’m working on my Java skills.

        • #3051273

          Right Paperwork

          by ndemox ·

          In reply to Try It in State and Academia

          Much as we play Jack of All trade it will be a very great idea to tyr by all means to obtain necessary paperwork to avoid being sidelined on the basis of documentation.

        • #3051230

          Advanced Degree?

          by ·

          In reply to Try It in State and Academia

          You were not set aside due to a lack of a degree. You were set aside because you are older. Age discrimination is rampant in the tech industries. Little reward for building the very industry these young turdz now want to dominate alone.

        • #3051083

          Which young turdz are those?

          by jenkaal ·

          In reply to Advanced Degree?

          G BIG, as one of the young-ish (early 30’s)IT people you may be referring to, I’d like to point out that in my experience, it’s the management and not the incoming techies who are making these decisions. I’ve just lost my closest co-worker to retirement (her choice). As much as I love my job, I consider it a personal and professional loss and would love to have her back – at any age. I have no desire to dominate alone, nor do I want to be considered a turd.

        • #3047302

          Gift of Youth

          by christineeve ·

          In reply to Advanced Degree?

          I wish I had found my IT niche before my 30s. But, I do it because I love it. I’d work in the IT field for free (and do now), because I enjoy the work.

          But, Mr. G Big, may I respectfully suggest that although it is true that many older IT workers are subject to age discrimination, in your case, might it be “attitude” discrimination?

          I’ve know of a lot of downsizing in my career, the first people that were dumped were people who had bad attitudes no matter what their age.

          Most young people bring to the job everything a manager wants, education, some experience, but most of all a willingness to get into the job and learn.

          I’ve found most older IT people just want jobs handed to them based on past performance and are often unwilling to learn something new.

          Be a new generation of older IT worker, and show the youngin’s that you have the education/certification, experience, wisdom, and a willingness to risk it by learning new things.

        • #3051214

          Re: Try It in State and Academia

          by rayjeff ·

          In reply to Try It in State and Academia

          I’m going into my sixth year working IT in the academia; two state schools that (one I graduated from and one I currently attended) and one private college. At the college I’m currently at (the private college) I am the “jack of all…” here. The division I work in has no IS department. And the college as a whole has a very small IS department.

          I bring a wealth of knowledge and experience, moreso than everyone combined, even though I’m younger and haven’t been in IT as long. But am I fully utilized….NOPE!!

        • #3051153

          Be careful what you ask for…

          by astromusicman ·

          In reply to Re: Try It in State and Academia

          Being fully utilized might have its problems also (depending on your definition of utilized).

          Until this year, I’ve been the school district IT, webmaster, postmaster, repairman, network admin as well as support staff and classroom teacher (I’m losing the classroom teacher part this year). When you have 1200 users (150 of them faculty), 370 computers, 10 servers and a slew of printers spread out over 3 buildings, I feel more than utilized.

          Am I being used as my job description states, probably not. I’m really meant to be a coordinator and educator for the faculty and staff, not a repairman. What do you do? The best you can, which is sadly never enough. There are many 14 or 16 hour days, unfortunately there is always someone upset the next day because you didn’t get their work done.

          I just keep plugging along doing everything possible. The JOAT label fits me well.

          I do have to say that having both experience and advanced degrees sometimes isn’t even enough. Being a wizard who can magically create more time to do the work, now that would be something!


        • #3050968

          For me, being utilized means…

          by rayjeff ·

          In reply to Be careful what you ask for…

          working in a place where the IS dept is made up of three persons; the IS director; the network admin who is also the JOAT and the computer operator who really does nothing.

          Being utilized for me is with my knowledge and experience being used to augument the IS dept. There are five computer labs in the college, manned by four other persons besides me. If there is any work to be done, the network admin has to do all of the work. Why not make the job more efficient if you have the persons in these places. be able to augument the network admin, because the labs are strategically position in all of the major areas of the college.

          Out of the five persons, I’m the only one with the most experience and knowledge to be able to assist the network admin fully. Not to say the other four cannot do anything, but with the proper trainign from the network admin, they can. But what’s the hold up or why can’t we assist the IS dept…it’s the IS director.

          The simplest of problems takes weeks, even months to be settled. If there is someone already there, then the problem can be solved.

        • #3051200

          Sounds familiar

          by blueknight ·

          In reply to Try It in State and Academia

          I worked in the education arena for 16 years doing the same stuff… everything from mainframe systems programming to LAN Admin and network construction. The administration, in their attempt to slow or stop the hemmorage of funds (due to their inept management), decided to outsource the last 2 mainframe apps and layoff 4.5 staff to save $310K over 4 years. I showed them how to save $420K over the same period without layoffs or outsourcing. They ended up eliminating my position… and the hemmorage of money continues (now 8 years later). Fortunately I’ve not had any problem with my education… I only have a dual AA degree, so obviously it’s the experience that does the job.

        • #3051186

          That SUCKS!!!!

          by rayjeff ·

          In reply to Sounds familiar

          You brought up an idea to save them the same amount of money and the thanks they show is eliminating your position.

          My current position is a temporary “upgrade”. What they did was change my original job description to make a brand new description to include all of the “extras” I was doing. I believe the reason they did that because the division I work in is going for this national accrediation and the visit is this November. Ironically my contract with the “new” position reverts back to my original position that I was hired under at the end of the year. I was orginally hired as tech support. Now, I do a little programming, database analysis and admin (I designed a database for the division), systems implementation and project management. Now, when the visit is over, I’ll still have to do these same tasks, but it won;t be under the current position.

        • #3059275

          Tell me about it…

          by aschmidt ·

          In reply to Sounds familiar

          In developing an international intranet portal for our companies, I came up with a solution that effectively saved the company 125k annually for the life of the portal…the thanks I was due was given to the contracts coordinator (who failed miserably) in the form of a new title and salary increase and my annual little stipened increase was “canceled” because of a “Pay Freeze”.

          Funny how the almighty dollar is supposedly what drives the “business” end of things, but when an IT generalist like myself makes a business decision, it’s seldomly revered as it would be were it not made on the IT side.

        • #3050746

          In academia

          by jbergman ·

          In reply to Try It in State and Academia

          I also have the broader side of net admin, pc support and repair in academia. This positions saving grace for me is I also have a small arpentry, plastics and machine shop to manage. The hardest thing for me right now is finding another JOAT within this skill range to hire. The qualified advanced degree for a JOAT has not been invented that I know of.

        • #3051251

          Enjoying is everything

          by loh ·

          In reply to IT in Government

          Having been in IT for many more years than I want to admit, I feel blessed. Although the pay may not always be so great, and the lack of appreciation for hard work and long hours is frustrating, it is the people I have had the pleasure to work with that make it all worthwhile. Under paid and under valued, they still show dedication and their tallents still shine, regardless of what they get in return for it. Self preservation is not an issue. The true value in any job comes from having the confidence to enjoy the job you do and doing it to your fullest capabilities, that value has no price tag. The days are never the same and the job is ever evolving, this is what keeps me in IT year after year.

        • #3051208

          Enjoying is everything—So true!!

          by rayjeff ·

          In reply to Enjoying is everything

          In my almost six years of being in in IT, feeling “under valued” and “under appreciated” are marquee titles that I’ve come to live with everyday. I’m feeling it more at the current job I’m at. But, I’m trying to regain what I first had when I got to this job…the love of what I do…the love of helping the users. I guess as IT/IS worker want to feel that all of the anguish we put with, all of the namecalling and bad remarks about us are worth it in the end when we do that one thing that solves an user’s problem. Makes the job worthwhile.

        • #3051209

          It’s not that bad — at least at our County

          by blueknight ·

          In reply to IT in Government

          The State level is pretty bad, but here at the County level – at least in our county – the pay is quite good (high end on national salary surveys) and we do have our specialists. The shop runs lean, but is not understaffed.

          If you want to rise to the top quickly, this isn’t the place, but if you want a good job with very good benefits and a great mix of coworkers, this is the place.

        • #3051160

          Should try a MN county

          by billmlod ·

          In reply to It’s not that bad — at least at our County

          In Northern Minnesota the county I work for I am the most experienced worker in IT yet since I started last I am still in the entry level position (after 6 years). Yet when someone has a question or problem who do they call, ME.
          BTW, No formal college degree, almost completely self taught with a bunch of tech classes I attended. Windows & Novell networks + Groupwise & Exchange + MS Access + normal PC support & almost 20 years computer experience. What a bargain this county is getting. But wouldn’t trade the benefits for anythng.


      • #3051127

        Generalist with Focus

        by gdoc ·

        In reply to Master of all?

        As complex as the IT/IS environment has become it is impossible to be master at all of the diverse possibilities. Having a good grounding in all possible areas gives you the capability to think globally, as well as quickly pick up the specifics necessary to accomplish the job at hand.

    • #3190810

      Low Value

      by firstpeter ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      My experience tells me that most of the mid/large companies that are doing that (“you get to do everything”) don’t see IT as a true business partner but as a cost center. A necessary evil, if you will.

      Obviously in some situations it’s an issue of being able to afford only one or two people, but in larger enterprises the issue may very well be that folks don’t see the value IT can bring to the table (“can”, not “does”, because it’s not a given) if given the resources. They see $$$ going out, timelines that take longer than they expect they should (“what do you mean 15% of the time is for testing? You shouldn’t need more than 5%!”) and little return for the dollar they spend, and as such look to keep IT expenditures down, forcing a “jack of all trade” situation.

      • #3190791


        by amcol ·

        In reply to Low Value

        Technology IS a cost center, a discretionary one at that. That doesn’t mean IT can be totally eliminated, but it does mean that when times are bad and budgets need to be cut the deepest slices can come out of IT. It’s hard to sell product without Sales, it’s hard to count the beans without Accounting, it’s hard to make the widgets without Production, but it’s real easy to survive with a few less computers. That’s a fact of life.

        You’re right, companies do NOT see technology as a true business partner. Why? Not because we’re a necessary evil, and not because (as some in these threads would love to believe) all management is incompetent by definition. How good are we at justifying our existence? (Lousy.) How many times do we propose projects with credible ROI analyses, or any at all? (Infrequently.) How often do we make our deadlines, stick to our budgets, produce to spec and expectations? (Rarely.)

        And what’s the solution? I’ve heard people scream “More resources!” so many times I could vomit. The number of resources isn’t the issue, it’s what you do with what you’ve got that’s truly important. Inspired IT management and leadership can make sure only those projects that have true business value are proposed and/or accepted, and that those projects come to fruition as promised. How many inspired IT managers and leaders do we have out there? (See my previous answers.)

        • #3190782


          by gralfus ·

          In reply to Nah

          There is a distinct limit to how discretionary IT is. You say it is easy to survive with less computers, but if your job is overseeing supply-chain in multiple countries, and your computer isn’t working, and you can’t get a replacement due to “IT” restrictions, then it affects the bottom dollar because you can’t do your job. This isn’t some fancy project, it is simply keeping alive the tools of doing business in a global economy. Sales, Accounting, and Production often all rely on computers and networking, which rely an IT staff to keep them working. Therefore, there is a limit on how much hardware and IT staff can be cut without affecting the core viability of the company.

        • #3195141

          sounds more like moving to a true corporate stragegy..

          by simplyshaman ·

          In reply to Kinda

          by IT generalist it sounds to me like the same thing that happened to department stores with the coming of the limited inc. if anyone remembers.. once upon a time there used to be a such thing as a person who only did window displays at a department store… one person who fronted the racks.. one person who did inventory.. and this was all these people did all day 5 days a week… my personal opinion of the term “IT Generalist” is someone moving into a broad spectrum job… multiple certs A+, N+ MOUS, MSCE… and spreading out what they can do to downsize the staff’s needs because one person can do the jobs that 3 do now.. instead of specializing in networks or repairs.. or programming.. they can do all of it… the key is in having several of these generalists but nowhere near what IT departments currently have.. the only problem with that strategy is when too many hands get into the pot… things get messed up… because people go behind eachother and change settings here that someone just fixed… the only advantage of this straegy is an increase in productivity due to more hands in the pot..

        • #3051458


          by teksmart2003 ·

          In reply to sounds more like moving to a true corporate stragegy..

          As stated, too many hands in the pot. three people doing the job of nine. This strategy is nice in moderation. However, the problem begins with all chiefs(generalists) no indians(specialist).

        • #3186034

          For The Most Part, But You’re Over Simplifying

          by firstpeter ·

          In reply to Nah

          You’re right – Technology IS a cost center. So is Sales, so is Accounting, so is Housekeeping, so is Operations…

          I’d argue that you can make the argument you make in the first paragraph about where cuts can come from about any of the places you mentioned, IF you see IT as a true business partner. If you don’t then you’re correct – you can cut IT without feeling any pain (or you can BELIEVE that you won’t feel any pain because of it, anyway). But I’ve been in organizations that would have seen more benefit by cutting their Sales staff (or comp) and reallocating it to IT for some development projects. Absolutely, without a doubt they could have either saved some $$$ that way (efficiency) or grown revenue (by widening the bandwidth or opening new channels). New computers can be considered “not vital” (for some period of time), but not IT in it’s true sense.

          Your second paragraph is right on and exactly my point – we’re not seen as a business partner and it’s OUR problem. Most of the time it is our fault because we don’t communicate clearly, we don’t meet deadlines, we don’t hit budgets, we routinely believe that a +/- 300% LOE is okay to sign a contract on…sheer madness. To be fair there are times when management simply turns a deaf ear to us because they’re ignorant, but it’s safe to say that’s not the preponderance of times.

          I’d argue that the issue of “resources” isn’t the issue. At some point it absolutely is – saying “it’s what you’ve got that’s truly important” has to assume that you have a bare minimum of resources allocated to it in the first place.

          I have a friend of mine that was responsible for all IT for a 300-user base. ALL IT. This included help desk, IT procurement/negotiation, server administration (about 20 servers of various types), SQL admin, infrastructure, machine configurations/rollouts, new development, etc. ALL IT. Absolutely the issue there was resources. As it turned out, 80% of his time was spent on the help desk. If he had a resource that could handle the help desk calls (even half of them) then he’d be free to clean up the messes that he inherited and that CAUSED the help desk calls in the first place.

          Does that mean resources is always the issue? No. Certainly I’ve seen IT groups that have resources doing things they had no business doing – the answer there is reallocation or reduction, not adding more. I’ve also seen groups that couldn’t prioritize and felt as though they had to do everything. The answer there isn’t more resources, it’s getting a priority put on all the projects and working them. Cull the low value projects and be done with it. And of course there’s the folks that are resource-laden with sub-par people – when it takes two people to do the job of one reasonable person there’s a different issue at play.

        • #3185987

          Your interpretation is too literal

          by amcol ·

          In reply to For The Most Part, But You’re Over Simplifying

          I didn’t say IT is a cost center, I said it’s a DISCRETIONARY cost center. That means business has a lot of discretion when it comes to IT budgets, more so than in other departments. Cuts can be made anywhere, no one’s immune. My point was IT is typically where the deepest cuts can be made.

          I do see IT as a true business partner, as obviously do you. So what? Our perspective is important because it’s up to you and me to sell that vision to our business partners. However, it is the perspective of those same business partners that’s far more relevant. If for whatever reason THEY don’t see us as business partners, then no matter how good a job we and our staffs do we’ll never be anything more than order takers, the geeks in the back room who have to be tolerated so the e-mail system can keep working. The good news is that although there’s still far too many organizations that don’t get the true business and strategic value of IT, I really do believe the pendulum is swinging the other way. As more and more tech savvy people rise in the ranks, people who understand how to unlock the value added synergies in a truly effective business/IT collaborative relationship, we’ll be taken more seriously as business partners and will in fact be welcome at any table in the whole company.

          The issue of resources is also not cut and dried. The problem, once again, is that the first thing most IT managers do when their backs are to the wall is to scream they need more resources. Project teams are forever screaming they don’t have enough resources. OK, fine, it’s a soldier’s right to complain. But we managers are kidding ourselves. Until we can demonstrably and objectively show, with absolute veracity, that more resources will solve our problems it’s our responsibility to do the best we can with what we have. That’s what organizations demand of all business units…why should IT be exempt?

        • #3185940


          by firstpeter ·

          In reply to Your interpretation is too literal

          It’s not too literal – my point is that IT should not be any more susceptible to cuts than another organization – it’s as discretionary as everything else is. If the premise is that cuts are made on the basis of the perceived value they bring to the organization then IT should not be “more discretionary” than any other group.

          Now, to be fair, in many organizations it’s NOT that way – cuts are made based on other factors, so saying that “IT is a discretionary cost center” is relevant there. But by no means is saying IT is a discretionary cost center a valid general statement (which is my point).

          Again I’ll agree with your second paragraph – we’re saying the same thing. IT has to prove themselves (through words or action – it all depends on who they’re trying to prove themselves to) just like Sales does, Marketing does, Finance does, Accounting does, etc. The problem is that IT (from my experience, anyway) generally does a poor job of that communication. Finance, oddly enough, seems to have a better go of it, despite the fact that everyone hates the Finance people (because they say “no” all the time…*grin*). But you’re absolutely right on – it’s not whether or not IT brings value, but whether or not IT is PERCEIVED to bring value to the organization (“value” being defined as perceived benefits over perceived costs).

          And I don’t disagree with your statement on the resources – again if people don’t see PERCEIVED value in IT it’s going to be difficult to get anything at all. But the issue still remains – lack of resources IS a valid problem. My point isn’t that throwing more resources at it always solves the problem, only that it’s not valid to say that “resources are not the answer”. Absolutely that’s the right answer. Management’s inability to communicate it well doesn’t change the fact that the answer is more resources.

          I think your last comment is dead-on. “why should IT be exempt?” The answer is, unequivocally, they shouldn’t (probably self evident since that was a rhetorical question…:)). But the same thing holds true for the first part of the conversation – IT should not be looked at as “more discretionary” than Sales, than Marketing, than Accounting, than Finance, than . Assuming you have rational leadership that’s not a problem…if IT can adequately communicate the value they bring to the table.

        • #3194939

          Pure economics

          by tjonas ·

          In reply to Nah

          It’s a pure economics guys. There are lot more small IT organizations out there than large ones and IT manager with much smaller budget these days wants to get the more bangs with the smaller possible bucks. So what he does he gets the “jack of all trades” that can manage his programming, operations, network and everything else in between. I am one of those people, I use to program but programming jobs disappear so I got into system administration than networking and with few security classes I became systems and nework admin. And of course I got new job much easier. Now I am 58 years old and still ticking.

        • #3051407

          More with less

          by set me free ·

          In reply to Pure economics

          My what greedy little bastards we have become. More with less…I feel it all the time. Hey, I’m a big person but not some super being. Screw the mentality. What happened to customer service and satisfaction. Big corporate types will try to make you believe customer satisfaction is what the company is all about…a big lie. The company is about $$$ and satisfaction of stock holders.
          Ultimately the customer suffers with resulting delayed response to critical situations and poor service. Screw the bean counters and the social butterflies within the ranks.

        • #3194839

          Justify my love, oops, I mean money

          by cmb from omaha ·

          In reply to Nah

          Experienced a similar “challenge” as a weather officer working for an F-16 pilot at an air base in Korea. He was no dummy, not a bad guy at all–but he didn’t know weather operations (why would he?) If I needed something, I had to show him–in ways a non-expert could clearly understand–what I needed and why it would help the mission. Once that involved trotting out a $50K-plus piece of equipment, setting it up as best as we could, explaining IN ENGLISH what it was supposed to be used for, and then mentioning that no one in my flight could figure out how to use the damned thing. But, if the good colonel would authorize a few hundred lousy bucks, the in-theater expert on this equipment had volunteered to come and teach us everything we needed to know, hands on, and he’d bring copies of all the manuals that someone had apparently tossed or stolen along the way. The boss went from “you want WHAT?” to “so where do I sign?” in about five minutes. Bosses don’t have time to try to figure out a lot of technical gobbledygook. If one takes the time and effort to ‘splain it in a way that is meaningful…then the boss can make an intelligent decision. And if the boss still DOESN’T make the intelligent decision, your conscience will be clear when all hell breaks loose as a result.

        • #3051434

          And you are right.

          by tuomo1 ·

          In reply to Nah

          If you are a generalist one of the skills must be justification of what ever you do. I started 35 years ago in an insurance company and found out very fast that any / all tasks/projects had %99 better success rate when based on language ( ROI, etc ) the upper management would understand. As a systems programmer one of my (many) tasks was the installation capacity planning, space, systems, personel, utilities, etc.. predictions for one year, 2 years, 5 years. Even the best plans are a lost uphill battle without very detailed business justifications – try to get $5mil ( a lot in 70’s ) for a new system you know will be needed in next 12 months just based on technical facts – no way! With good business justifications it is a normal business routine, you may get it or not but it ( and you ) will be remembered. I’m old school, first learn the business and then the technology, in that order. Unfortunately (IMHO) this is not teached enough any more – used to be that way a long time ago, kind of sad. Also, it is much more fun to work on something when you understand why, not just how.

        • #3051264

          I disagree

          by wdewey ·

          In reply to Nah

          IT decreases costs in other departments. The number of bean counters that are required is decreased by technology and inventory reports used to take months before everything was computerized. How about online tracking of packages? Would that even be possible without IT? And what is the cost if you have bean counter and sales sitting around because your server died and your budget was cut so spare parts went out the window? IT is not a necessary evil. It is a smart business decision that pays off every day or no company would use it.

          Bill Dewey

        • #3050660

          Tee Hee

          by tony hopkinson ·

          In reply to I disagree

          I started my career as a production recording clerk.
          Ring me up and I’d tell you exactly where the paperwork said the stock should be. Four years later , you could log on and see the paperwork said on the computer. The only change was the phone rang less.

        • #3048477

          Excellent points!

          by librarygeek ·

          In reply to Nah

          I came from the library world, who also do a bad job of selling themselves. I’m a crossover special librarian/portal design.
          You said:
          >You’re right, companies do NOT see technology as a true business partner. Why? Not because we’re a necessary evil, and not because (as some in these threads would love to believe) all management is incompetent by definition. How good are we at justifying our existence? (Lousy.) < Anyway, from my experience in both worlds; selling ourselves is vital to obtain recognition! If you feel you are not noticed -- you probably aren't. But, what are you doing about this? Our projects utilize training sessions, newsletter articles and portions of monthly director's meetings to let the org. know what we are doing. There are still problems here; some managers "get" the value of IT easier than others. You said: >How many times do we propose projects with credible ROI analyses, or any at all? (Infrequently.) < The other issue is learning how to communicate qualitive values to the execs. Many times IT systems and improvements do not provide a direct income -- but enable other endeavors to perform better, increasing the org's bottom line. This is the part of the equation that can be difficult to communicate to management. I don't want to disparage, but in my experience -- those managers that worked their way up from within w/o pursuing degrees are the ones that seem to have the hardest time adjusting perspectives. Education provides a broadening of perspectives that may not occur in the workplace--especially if the person has been with one org for many years. Our org really seems to pride itself in "home grown" leaders. The problem is that their lack of education shows in some of their analysis and logical thinking. Education may not be the solution but it would help! At any rate, it is tricky to express qualitative value. It is a trick we need to learn to do, and do well. You said: >How often do we make our deadlines, stick to our budgets, produce to spec and expectations? (Rarely.)< An issue I have often observed is an inability to set clear and realistic expectations. Management may nod their heads and say they understand what they are getting with a project; but when the project is finished you discover you have not met some expectations. It is important to draw business managers into an open conversation about what will be accomplished with *this* project. In my org, we are big on "NO project scope." Business partners sometimes need to be assured that you hear them and that the request they have is something that would make an excellent *follow-on* project . It is all too easy to fall into the trap of hyping up a project in order to pump up project excitement and employee buy-in, but I’ve learned the hard way it can be a dangerous tact if employees percieve this as an invite to unrealistic expectations.

          Performing to budget and schedule is a project management weakness that I have observed. However it is also a problem for many because of project scope. When business partners are permitted to include “just one more thing” that tends to snowball. Project expansions mean more money. Poor communcation between business and IT also leads to wasted time and time = money.

          The key to a lot of these problems is improvement in the business — IT *communications*. This is where business analysts are finding themselves a hot commodity. Sometimes they seem to be a good solution; other times…more is needed.

          People have suggested classes, while that may help if you have no clue how to communicate it doesn’t help if you know but can’t translate it into action. I have a difficult time asserting myself well in meeting situations. However, I also have a fabulous admin. that knows this, pushes me into these situations and gives me feedback. Practice — feedback — understanding — practice etc seems the only way to learn to translate knowledge into practice.

      • #3190743

        High Value

        by tony hopkinson ·

        In reply to Low Value

        I’ve been a a Network & Systems Adminstrator, DBA, Sofware Engineer and Programmer throughout my career. Once I wore all four hats at the same time.
        I make no claim to be an expert at any of these disciplines, but in business terms I am good value for money. The thing is experts have a very narrow application and consequently should not be needed for any length of time. You fetch them in to solve a particular problem, if it’s a real solution, then someone like me can ride herd on it and have other things to occupy their time.

        Having lots of broadly applicable skills and experience has kept me in work no matter what the market conditions. The more you narrow your focus the more you are at the mercy of the market.

        • #3195375

          Reply To: IT Generalist

          by hbacheler ·

          In reply to High Value

          It has been my experience over the past 13 months that some companies only want those ‘experts in a narrow applization’ to apply for employment.
          As a Systems Analyst’ who has been programmer, analyst, trainer, project leader, course developer, contingency plan reviewer, tech writer/editor, mentor, I find it difficult to accept that I would not bring value to a company.

        • #3196156

          So do I if you can do all that.

          by tony hopkinson ·

          In reply to Reply To: IT Generalist

          I keep ticking away refeshing old skills adding new variants, revisiting concepts and aboslutely refusing to be described as someone who knows nothing about anything else.
          Stay away from those some companies unless you fancy a go down the consultancy route.

      • #3194853

        Some of us crave that role.

        by sjohnson175 ·

        In reply to Low Value

        Pigeon-hole me into a single role and I get bored.

        • #3194807

          Set your own priorities

          by charliespencer ·

          In reply to Some of us crave that role.

          A generalist often has the freedom to set his own schedule. If I walk in the door and the help desk queue isn’t backed up, I’m free to work on whatever interests me that day. Write an Excel macro; install new hardware; research a new utility; attempt to learn Linux (again); participate in on-line discussions.

        • #3194801

          Which is probably why so many companies don’t want us.

          by sjohnson175 ·

          In reply to Set your own priorities

          That sort of autonomy scares the 19th century style management to death.

          The scheduling you describe doesn’t fit well into Accounting’s line items.

        • #3051295

          Not Just IT Generalist Either

          by bluegiant ·

          In reply to Some of us crave that role.

          I also get bored in a single role. Fortunately, I’m in a “Jack of All Trades” role too. My official position is Business Systems Applications Analyst/Administrator, but what that amounts to is that I handle anything and everything related to our ERP system software (JDEdwards) and hardware (AS/400). AS400 system administration, business intelligence, JDEdwards help desk, minor programming and many other items are things that I may be doing on any given day.

          The reason I do so many things at our company is because we don’t need deep expertise in these areas on a daily basis. I handle the day to day issues, improvement projects, new applications etc., and when deep expertise is needed for a particular problem, I find that expertise and contract it.

          The other thing that I enjoy here is that I’m not limited strictly to IT projects. Because I, and my coworkers in IT, came from other departments (manufacturing for me) we are included in many non-IT projects. As you may know, IT is the one department that touches all other departments. We understand the business relationships between the departments and processes, and therefore are valuable members of almost any business process improvement team.

          The combination of business process knowledge and the ability to implement and maintain the supporting information technology kept us employed during the toughest times (at least so far 😉 ).

          Never a dull moment!


        • #3047226


          by master3bs ·

          In reply to Some of us crave that role.

          I concur. I’ve made a living out of being able to branch out into several areas of IT. And you know what? Its the only way I keep my brain stimulated enough.

      • #3051959


        by avid ·

        In reply to Low Value

        i personally enjoy the freedom of being a jack of all trades. if i configure a pix box and know it should work and it doesn’t, by having additional skill sets, i can track down the problem without having to wait for the hardware guy or the software people etc. it helps me complete projects on time.

    • #3190781

      Of specialist and generalization

      by beads ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      The term DP/IS/IT generalist has been around for quite awhile. Usually comes up during the peaks and valleys of the IT industry. When times are bad business leaders try to overextend IT to save money. When times are good, the generalist has to do everything because help isn’t readily (cheap enough) to hire.

      No one person is going to be a really good “generalist”. The first divide is programming or development versus the support or engineering side. From there you can divide admins from engineers from security from help desk. The list goes on and on. I can do alot of those things but I can’t do all of them well enough on a daily basis to call myself an expert.

      Hope that helps.

      – beads

      • #3194849

        What you want is multiple generalists with different strengths.

        by sjohnson175 ·

        In reply to Of specialist and generalization

        For a small company let’s say a developer not afraid to do some network and server admin and a sysadmin who’s eyes don’t glaze over discussing SW dev.

        I’m sick-to-freaking-death of all the “not-my-jobism” in the IT field. It’s one of the root causes of offshoring.

      • #3051181


        by olduser ·

        In reply to Of specialist and generalization

        I can agree with your first assesment, that there is a divide between the programming and engineering sides, and even the second one about ‘general’ work areas. But from there on, I think it is up to the individual. For my own case, I consider myself to be a ‘Systems & Infrastructure Specialist’ as well as enough of a generalist to fix most problems, from printers to file servers.
        I have been in IT since the late ’70’s and am highly qualified in several technologies – for example, Novell & Microsoft along with all of the ‘sub-specialities’ (EG. Security & Messaging)that are necessary for a top-notch resource person to know. I do not ‘know it all’ (only a fool thinks that), but what I do not know and need to know I can learn quickly.
        That is what I love about this trade…it is constantly changing and also constantly a challenge. I average 6-8 exams each year, just to keep current and slowly expand my area of knowledge (my current project is to attain an in-depth knowledge of LINUX).
        The key to all of this is to accept the fact that in this trade, you either constantly learn or quit! There is no third choice!
        I just started a new (very-well paying) job as ‘Senior Technical Architect’ with a LARGE company after over 15 years of running my own consulting firm and what landed me this job was the combination of experience and certification in a wide-range of technologies. Being a ‘specialist’ would not have gotten me this job.
        Face it, if you are going to hold a high-end position ‘in the trenches’, you have to know more than the people you supervise and be willing and capable of doing the job before you can simply assign others to do it.
        After all, you know the saying – “A Leader Is One Who Knows The Way, Goes The Way & Shows The Way.”
        Only in this way will you earn the respect of your peers.


        • #3050654


          by tony hopkinson ·

          In reply to Specialist/generalist

          Generally in my careeer, I’ve always known much more on the technical front than the boss. You don’t have to know how to do all the tasks to be a good manager, all you have to do is trust the people you are in charge of to be as professional as you are.

          They ususally are.

      • #3051141

        How about a specialized generalist

        by caharib6 ·

        In reply to Of specialist and generalization

        I’ve been in data warehousing for quite a few years and have found that the most valuable people are those who have a wide breadth of experience and skills in a number of related areas. For example, an abInitio programmer who understands a business analyst’s job, can contribute to business and technical requirement gathering and documenting, has some background with data modeling and also has a solid grounding in Perl, UNIX and scripting plus understands the system’s architecture and the limitations and opportunities it presents is much more immediately valuable that just an abItitio programmer simply because they’re more versitile. The skills are mutually-reinforcing. But skills and experience like help desk support (although good for communication skills) or java development wouldn’t contribute a whole lot to their immediate value. I bring this up because when a company begins considering outsourcing it’s the ‘one-trick ponies’ who get more nervous than the people with lots of skills.

        • #3052588

          It works

          by generalist ·

          In reply to How about a specialized generalist

          Given the breadth of IT, you almost have to have some specializations, even if you are a generalist.

          Now if you are good at being a generalist, your specializations may have a lot of overlap.

          Understanding database design and classic SQL can open things up in a lot of areas in DBMS.

          Understanding how businesses and organizations run from from the accounting and organizational management side helps with analysis and design.

          Understanding programming in general opens up the realm of applications design at the code level. Understanding a programming language that has been used to spawn other languages often makes it feasible for you to get up to speed with those other languages much faster.

          It can also help to develop skills that are outside the IT realm, especially if they are ones that you enjoy doing a lot. There are a lot of examples of people who have turned a hobby into a money making business and become their own bosses.

    • #3190753

      Generalist & proud of it

      by markand ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      I am an I.T. generalist and proud of my “family practice” in I.T.

      I am a jack of many trades and master of some. When I am out of my depth, I know when to stop messing with something in hopes I’ll stumble on a solution, and get help from a more qualified person.

      While I have a certain amount of technical skill myself, most of what I do is find solutions to people’s problems. I’m a librarian by trade, so I am happy at finding the answer to my customer’s questions, and finding solutions to their problems, without necessarily having to know the answer myself, right off the top of my head (though I do most of the time).

      Most companies in the world are small firms. Most non-profit organizations are like small firms. They can’t afford an “I.T. department” headed a middle manager or CIO. Where I work, I AM the I.T. department, middle manager and CIO, yes, I run what passes for our data center, I am the help desk, and I am the de facto programmer analyst. If it plugs in the wall, I get a call. From my perspective this is not an exception, it is the rule most places that use computers.

      Large I.T. shops are something of a luxury – a luxury many companies find ways to do without at the most inconvenient times. Just ask the guy who just got a pink slip or whose job was just sent overseas in a cost cutting measure.

      • #3194846

        And we’re a dying breed.

        by sjohnson175 ·

        In reply to Generalist & proud of it

        My recent job search taught me that. I’d try to sell the generalist role and all the companies seemed to want was X or Y specialty and focused on that one aspect of my resume.

        • #3195366

          Generalist or ‘focused’

          by hbacheler ·

          In reply to And we’re a dying breed.

          In my experience in looking for employment lately (as a tech writer) the focus is on the tools I have used. rather on the documents I have produced over the years.

        • #3195287

          Tools indeed.

          by sjohnson175 ·

          In reply to Generalist or ‘focused’

          Even as a generalist I like my primary role to be development and all anyone seemed interested in was X yeas of .Net.

          Never mind I’ve been developing with many languages (primarily VB) since 1995.

        • #3196153

          That’s the market as HR and Pimps see it

          by tony hopkinson ·

          In reply to Generalist or ‘focused’

          they aren’t capable of judging the quality of your work, so they look for acronyms on your CV that match everything but their password on the Post-It next to the monitor.
          Put all the buzz words you can lay claim to on there, drown the non technical in techicalities, get the interview, then you normally get the oportunity to talk to somene with at least some knowledge of IT.
          These pratts are just a hoop we have to jump through to get to the starting blocks.

        • #3050571

          yes, grasshopper, …

          by sr10 ·

          In reply to That’s the market as HR and Pimps see it

          Among other things, we have seen structural change in the hiring process since:
          1. companies looked at their sourcing costs;
          2. companies implemented applicant screening systems that were going to save the world;
          3. recruiting firms set themselves on fire using the internet.

          Well, you can certainly source people using internal recruiting; I was able to do it as a manager with the cooperation of an HR person who wanted to be part of the solution. But to do this, you need:

          1. a hiring manager who knows how to write a job requirement;
          2. an non-twinkie HR pro with a sense of urgency;
          3. everyone on the interviewing team understanding the key success factors of the job and interviewing to those factors, without agendas of their own.

          Without these, you get:
          * HR checking the boxes, as has already been mentioned elsewhere in this discussion;
          * interviewers screening for the candidate having memorized the manual to the finest level of detail, as has already been mentioned elsewhere in this discussion;
          * ridiculous job criteria: there was an ad in the local paper in 2002 seeking a desktop support person with ten years of Windows 98 experience.

          .. among other avenues of hiring prevention.

        • #3050513

          My Favourite Job Criteria up to press was

          by tony hopkinson ·

          In reply to yes, grasshopper, …

          Desktop Support Specialist (?16,000 – ?45,000)
          The skills requirement for the job, ranged from can see lightning and hear thunder to rests on the seventh day.

    • #3186037

      Outsourcing has a lot to do with it

      by dmambo ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      Many IT people are more or less project managers now who can speak the language. The big projects are outsourced and the generalist is there for day-to-day maintenance and to call in the “business partners” when there’s a significant problem or upgrade. This way companies do not need the experts on the payroll week in and week out, but are able to get coverage when needed.

      You can argue that the rates paid to the consultants can exceed the cost of company staff, but it’s in a different budget line, and headcount is one of the first things the bean counters look at when slashing. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to justify (or hide) consultant fees in capital projects and expense budgets than it is to justify staffing levels.

      • #3051422

        not to mention tech becoming “user friendly”

        by jck ·

        In reply to Outsourcing has a lot to do with it

        think about it…

        20 years ago if you were working with a PC and wanted things to happen in the OS during boot, you had to know how to write DOS shell script.

        20 years ago if you wanted to make a “windowing” application, you had to either know how to make the ANSI characters to build the frame or have a designer that took a lot of work.

        20 years ago if you wanted to administrate a server, you had to know the settings in the system config file and the ramifications of modifying those settings.

        Now? Point and click.

        The advent of the GUI has not only made the computer easier to use, but it has also led to the production of technology that allows just about anyone who can put their mouse over an object, or who can drag and drop an object onto a form, or click a check box to change a setting…an IT specialist.

        It doesn’t take any real knowledge of the internals of an OS, programming language or peripheral component to get the thing to work right at a basic level.

        A fine example is a report viewer that we’re looking at using at my office. I was in the middle of writing an application to do (pretty much) everything that it does. Then, my boss comes along and says “We can get this for a little bit of nothing and we can use your time to do more important things.”

        First of all, are reports for the Administration at my government office not important things?

        Second, the application is developed and maintained by a university professor (and I would assume, some small staff). How timely will bug fixes be from this company once they are reported, versus my ability to take the task to hand within minutes and have a fix out for any issue within a short amount of time?

        The fact is, just about anyone can be a “IT Specialist” in the *general* sense. However, it neither guarantees a level of expertise nor does it ensure quality of delivery for the tasks which they undertake.

    • #3182221

      communicate clearly

      by ip_fresh9 ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      Your second paragraph is right on and exactly my point – we’re not seen as a business partner and it’s OUR problem. Most of the time it is our fault because we don’t communicate clearly, we don’t meet deadlines, we don’t hit budgets, we routinely believe that a +/- 300% LOE is okay to sign a contract on…sheer madness. To be fair there are times when management simply turns a deaf ear to us because they’re ignorant, but it’s safe to say that’s not the preponderance of times.

      I’d argue that the issue of “resources” isn’t the issue. At some point it absolutely is – saying “it’s what you’ve got that’s truly important” has to assume that you have a bare minimum of resources allocated to it in the first place.

      I have a friend of mine that was responsible for all IT for a 300-user base. ALL IT. This included help desk, IT procurement/negotiation, server administration (about 20 servers of various types), SQL admin, infrastructure, machine configurations/rollouts, new development, etc. ALL IT. Absolutely the issue there was resources. As it turned out, 80% of his time was spent on the help desk. If he had a resource that could handle the help desk calls (even half of them) then he’d be free to clean up the messes that he inherited and that CAUSED the help desk calls in the first place.


    • #3194978

      Generalists, No Longer In Demand

      by isaacreiff ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      As Technology evolves, so does the mind set of those responsible for supporting this complex world of systems, networks, applications, etc. The feeling among many CTO’s/CIO’s is to staff these positions with younger more specifically skilled individuals. What they are now realizing is that there is a missing link that once brought all the pieces together into a “Big Picture” like rendering, which connected all the dots and kept things on track. The Generalist was expected to have a very wide breadth of knowledge in all areas of the organization, while keeping an eye on newer alternatives to improve the environment. By contrast, the new breed is more inclined to adopt a technology that may serve only a portion of a given unit in the organization, thus leaving the rest to suffer in silence or seek alternative solutions that are not consistent with the firm’s overall direction. As most things go, this too shall make the full circle and we may start to see a return to the older philosopy of having one really well rounded individual in the forefront of these hi-tech institutions.

      • #3196151

        Not in my experience

        by tony hopkinson ·

        In reply to Generalists, No Longer In Demand

        I’ve been continuously employed since 1981. Just started my most recent employment 3 months ago as Delphi/MS SQL/ WEB Client-Server, mentoring, leading and training development expert, which of course I’m not.

    • #3194811

      Excellent for sites not co-located with IT HQ

      by charliespencer ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      I’ve spent my entire career working at manufacturing plants that are not corporate headquarters. The specialists (programming, security, WAN, testing, etc.) in the IT department are located at corporate headquaters hundreds of miles away. The plant has a couple of hundred users, large enough to require on-site support. There are many companies with this structure, and a generalist often fits the bill. It’s a great improvement over answering the phones at a centralized corporate help desk.

      A generalist gives the plant a front-line support person with the ability to solve many problems and the experience to determine which specialist to contact as necessary. He must be self-motivating, able to set local priorities, and able to determine when they override departmental ones. A generalist should keep the IT boss appraised of his facility’s unique needs, explain technologies to the local managers, and keep the users in compliance with IT policies.

      Yes, it is a “jack of all trades” position. The generalist is rarely the first to implement new technologies or play with the new toys. While the generalist is almost never the best in the department in any one field, he is often second or third best at everything. He has the advantage of seeing how all the pieces fit together. Sounds like a good step toward a management position.

    • #3182093

      ‘Generalist’ – you bet.

      by martymccaghren ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      The definition of a ‘generalist’ was supposed to be someone who did know a lot about a lot of ‘general’ things in IT. What it has evolved to is an older ‘pro’ who has worked with a whole lot of stuff. That kind of person is relevant and in demand. The generalist coming out of college is not, in my opinion, because I find that they do not ‘know enough’ to handle the varied issues that the experienced person (>10 years, more likely 15+) does.

      Anyway, as training evolves to ‘high levels’ and teaching about the ‘base’ of systems declines, the experienced old generalists will become very important.

      • #3182074

        hope you are right

        by jeffersnet ·

        In reply to ‘Generalist’ – you bet.

        That’s where I’m at today. I’m not really there by choice I just sort of ended up being the person everyone went to when the problem was too difficult for them. I started as a DBA went to being a Network Admin/System Engineer who also did all of the Lotus Notes Admin duties and I am now really a jack of all IT trades. Today I fix hardware and software on servers and workstations along with network admin duties. I also work on switches, routers and printers from time to time.

        I don’t think I get paid as much as a specialist but I also think I can get a job quicker than a specialist. I consider myself a specialist with Lotus Notes administration but those opportunities are limited.

    • #3181864

      Another career, another lifetime, far, far away.

      by dstraight ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      Long ago in a career far, far away, there used to be people called pipefitters, tin knockers, electricians and painters. There were carpenters, and machinists and instrument techs, too. All had their own specialty and each was seen as a “specialist” in terms of the unique skill they possessed.

      Eons passed and a shift was seen, company hiring was moving from the specialist to the Maintenance Person. Someone in an HR department somewhere woke up one day and over their plate of poached eggs thought to themselves: “Instead of hiring an electrician, a painter and a carpenter, what if we just hire someone who can do all those things. A “Swiss-Army knife” type of person?”.
      And that is just what they did. Now look at the want ads in your city manufacturing, real estate, institutional. They all want the same thing. One person doing the work of 4 for the pay of one.

      The reality is, of course, that there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all/one-man-army” person in any field. Anyone who claims to be that person should be approached with caution and from up-wind.

      It’s interesting for me to watch IT go through the same sort of evolution over the last few years. From my chair it seems to be totally cost driven just as it was in the maintenance & trades universe.

      Oh, and they would like you to have 5 to 10 years experience and a Masters as well. Here’s your bucket and paint brush.


      Formerly a Chief Stationary Engineer in a big, hot, noisy power plant.
      (Yeah, like Scotty on the Enterprise)

    • #3195354

      better trouble shooters

      by deadly ernest ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      Too many people are becoming specialisedad then expecting all the problems to be as compartmentised as they are. This results in many disputes over what problems are and what is the best way to go about things.

      I have seen problems bounced back and forth between spcialised areas as each claimed everything was working properly within their area and it was the other area’s fault. In the end the problems get solved by a generalist who understands enough about both areas to identify that the problem is in the hand over between the two – one is sending data in one format and the other is expecting it in another; why because both have set their area up for maximum performance based on their specialised knowledge, not on what is best for the overall system.

      I have also seen a manager who was a top network infrastructure fellow actually mess up a few hundred thousand dollars worth of specialised secure gateway because he did not understand the importance of having hardware that natively managed all the communications protocols used in the gateway – thus he bought some new equipment that was good for general use but required a total redesign of the gateway to allow it to be used as intended in that situation. He was good on network cables switches etc but useless on communications and protocols.

      Some companies have been bitten in the pocket due to these types of problems and are now looking to have their IT run by people with a good overall knowledge and then short term hire specialists when required for specific tasks.

    • #3051564


      by silvioandpauly ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      I was just thinking – what if sports was like this? Um, We’re looking for someone who’s a good pitcher, catcher, outfielder, and oh yea, cover all the bases too. LOL – I guess we’d have a bunch of generalists who weren’t that good at any one thing.

      • #3051457

        Reply To: IT Generalist

        by mattww ·

        In reply to Baseball?

        And when said sports jock breaks his specialist arm he is out of the job, hoping he has made enough money to keep him going and prevent the need to be selling second hand cars.

      • #3051368

        “Utility infielder”

        by charliespencer ·

        In reply to Baseball?

        Anybody else remember the concept of the utility infielder, that guy who could do a decent job of covering any base?

        NASCAR drivers have to drive a variety of tracks (half-mile ovals, road courses, 2.5 mile tracks with reduced-horsepower engines).

        Some small town high schools have football teams with so few players that everyone plays both sides of the ball.

      • #3051097

        If I remember right

        by jdmercha ·

        In reply to Baseball?

        Albert Pujols has played every position in the major leagues.

    • #3051461

      It’s horses for courses

      by golfloon ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      I manage a small IT Team and have to employ generalists to get enough spread of skills to manage all the technologies we support and use consultants for things outside of our skillbase.

      If an organisation has a large IT Department then they will employ specialists as the technoology they manage is usually more complex and downtime is more expensive.

      From a personal perspective if you want to play with lots of toys be a generalist if you want to get serious about technology become a specialist.

      Or if your interested in technology and just want to dabble be an IT Manager :o)

      • #3050643

        Thanks for highlighting the problem with specialists

        by tony hopkinson ·

        In reply to It’s horses for courses

        That was extremely patronising.
        An IT generalist is a specialist solutions developer.
        It’s very rare in business that one specific facet of a skillset will solve anything. If it does it will be when someone with an appreciation of the big picture has identified a problem they don’t have the skill to solve. Get expert out of box, throw at problem, put back in box, common sense prevails.

    • #3051454

      Never a good thing to have a single focus

      by rstoebe1 ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      All I can say is welcome to the new world of IT support. It is either expansion of the roles for a position or the actual combining of two postions theat leaves these very broad job definitions. They are shooting for the sky and that is what their “A” canidate would look like. They really would settle for a “B” canidate and depending on time related issues would settle for a “C” canidate. It never hurts to apply. If you get to the interview you need to give them something that sets you a part.

    • #3051453

      Reply To: IT Generalist

      by aussie kid ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      The issue is that the world gets more and more complex and the ability of people to be specialists in everything is limited.

      Generalists are needed for broader strategic and big picture items – specialists for specific purposes. It may be argued specialists are exceptional at what they do, but can be restricted in generalist skills such as people management, politics, networking and broad planning. Generalists can similarly be restricted in the specialist skills. One is not better than the other – both are necessary. The problem occurs when a generalist is sort for a specialist role and vice versa.

      It is my opinion that we are seeing a decline in the quality of senior management and talent management is suffering as a result ? specifically the ability to communicate business needs to technical staff appears to be worsening rather than improving even with the recent experiences.

    • #3051433

      Different Opinion – different location

      by johan.glantzberg ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      I am sorry that you have met with such difficulties.
      Maybe you should go to Sweden, where highly educated Generalists like myself can go un-employed for years, but Specialists are recruited per day.
      Maybe I should have gone to where you are? (I am employed now 😉

    • #3051425

      Hey, I resemble that remark :)

      by tonythetiger ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      “Now you have to run the data center, helpdesk, and be the programmer analyst.”

      • #3051315

        Not only that……But…..

        by brentc76 ·

        In reply to Hey, I resemble that remark :)

        I work in a factory and I support the Desktops, desktop apps, and here is where it may get tricky for some…On the Shopfloor(Production environment) I support the Barcode Scanners, Barcode Printers, Shopfloor Production Applications, and much more. I do more than what an IT person (in my mind) would do, but I have been around here for a long time and people take advantage of what I know here. I often ask myself, “If I were to leave today, would the next IT guy to fill my seat do ALL of what I do?” I doubt it.

      • #3050671

        deleted post

        by lumbergh77 ·

        In reply to Hey, I resemble that remark :)

        mods, how about adding a delete button?

    • #3051423

      IT Generalist

      by mignered ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      I am now a retired IT person who entered the career in the mid 1980s. I am now a “semi-retired” librarian at a small college and much saner.

      When I got into IT in the early 80s I was a Cobol Programmer with one mainframe program to maintain. By the time I retired in 2000 I was an “object librarian/DBA” on a Powerbuilder/Oracle project, on-call and going crazy.

      Will not go back to that.

    • #3051409

      What a great discussion

      by trafficjon ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      I’ve enjoyed this thread more than any in a long time.

      Myself, I moved from a branch manager position into “IT Manager”, with very little computer knowledge.

      So now, I’m the generalist IT guy, no programming ability, PC Tech, help desk, jackleg security guy (helped by a healthy dose of paranoia), webmaster, and a skilled search engine optimizer.

      In my spare time, I’m overseeing a software conversion and data mapping, training recruiters, and doing just a touch of recruiting and relationship building/online networking and planning future online ventures for the company….

      Does that make me one of those generalist kind of people? LOL

      y’all have a good day.


      • #3051247

        Sounds like a job I would relish

        by sjohnson175 ·

        In reply to What a great discussion

        if the pay was right.

        You do far more than most I see with the “manager” millstone hung about their neck.

    • #3051394

      Do what you love and make it work

      by sid ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      Okay, I’m an optimist. And I went independent in 1993 after five years of desktop support and microcomputer management.

      But I think that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. And the more we know what we’re good at and what we want to do, the better we’ll be able to move up in a career.

      I don’t mean you have to be a specialist. If what you love is being a generalist, then go for it.

      Success is achieved by adding value. To succeed in a job, we need to maximize value for two–for ourselves, and for our employer.

      Value for ourselves includes our paycheck. I suggest it should also include something between an acceptable job and a rewarding career. (Which one is your choice–how important is your job in your life?)

      Value to the company (or organization) comes from understanding what the company needs. And that does require good communictions skills, as many have mentioned. It helps to understand the industry or agency you are a part of. And, if you don’t like your job, to understand how other industries work, as well.

      For some people, it is crucial to do what we love, and we have to carve out a niche, either through career development, or through going out on our own and then marketing what we do.

      For others, we’re more willing to do what others want in return for a paycheck.

      But note–in both cases, understanding what others want is crucial. I recommend getting past job titles and looking at functional roles and work processes.

      You might also consider self-evaluation for personality preferences or skills.

      My suggestion, figure out what you want to do, and then find someone who will pay you to do it.

      • #3051165

        Re :Do what you love and make it work

        by rayjeff ·

        In reply to Do what you love and make it work

        “But note–in both cases, understanding what others want is crucial. I recommend getting past job titles and looking at functional roles and work processes.”

        It’s hard to do when one, they don’t know what they want or even need. And two, when you come in and it’s not even realized how experienced you are and then you get the ten car pileup.

    • #3051376

      Generalist & Burnout statistics

      by mwinder ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately on the burnout rate increasing for IT professionals. Looking back at my 20 years in this field, I’ve had to learn most of what I do on my own without formal training (lack of training budget) and have done everything from systems analysis & design, programming, database design, network installation & maintenance, configuring & maintaining servers, firewalls, routers, PC & printer maintenance, and many “other duties as assigned”.
      I’ve found that being in this field is a never ending learning curve causing me to put in many extra hours at night and on weekends either learning new technologies or doing work that there just isn’t enough time to do during the normal 8-5 work day.
      Is it any wonder that so many of our peers are going through burnout? A life? What’s that?

      • #3051357

        Been there…done that…had enough…

        by hybrit ·

        In reply to Generalist & Burnout statistics

        I’ve been living this sort of IT life for the past 10 years. It was fun in the beginning, it’s not so fun anymore. I have proven time and time again how quickly I can learn and adapt to any company, environment, people, or product yet companies still are not interested in providing any training (i.e. investing in their employees).

        Frankly I’m tired of having them make money off of my hard work in my spare time. I no longer give 110%. The best option is to work for yourself. It takes a year or two to get up to speed, but in the end you’ll make a lot more money…and you might as well if your not doing something you necessarily don’t enjoy.

        After all, why should a company bill $150/hr for me to go on site and I get less than 1/3rd of it? Where’s the logic in that?

        “Oh, it’s to cover overhead costs…” – whatever! Do you think we’re stupid!?!?!

        Greed has ruined this industry.

        • #3051312

          1/3 of the $$…..HAH!!!!

          by brentc76 ·

          In reply to Been there…done that…had enough…

          I recently transitioned to a contractor company, my previous company signed a contract with them, and each time there is a new software install, desktop relocate, desktop deploy, etc…. there is a charge of X amount dollars, and I have to fill out what I have done each day and they charge according to that. I know I do not see even close to 1/4 of what is being charged. So I agree if you want to get ahead in life, working for yourself is the best thing you can do if it is available.

        • #3051285

          You said it!

          by haydt1 ·

          In reply to Been there…done that…had enough…

          Couldn’t agree more. After 23 years in the game I’m tired of companies making a massive ammount of money off of my experience,knowledge etc… I have worked for small startups fortune 500’s and one of the big 3 (EDS). They are all the same. Squeeze everything out of you they can, No training and in the end your out the door when thier done with you. I have been in the process of starting my own company for the last year and can make more money in 10 hours billing for myself than I do in a 40hr week at my current employer. Few more customers and I can tell the boss to go pound sand 🙂

      • #3051340

        Or Not

        by charliespencer ·

        In reply to Generalist & Burnout statistics

        One of the advantages of being a generalist is that you aren’t stuck in one area and getting burned out. You’re exposed to even more new technologies than a specialist who only sees new developments in his area. If you decide you want to specialize, you’ve seen a variety of technologies and can make a better-informed decision than a specialist who wants to change. If you remain a generalist, sooner or later you’ll be the only one with any knowledge about a system, however shallow, after that specialist leaves.

      • #3050635

        Working like that isn’t going to help

        by tony hopkinson ·

        In reply to Generalist & Burnout statistics

        anybody. Put the books down, go for a beer.
        We all have to pull out all the stops every now and then, but only when asked nicely. Which means recognition in denominations of 10 as far as I’m concerned, the opportunity to work yourself to death is not sufficient reward.

    • #3051372

      The size of the shop matters.

      by beilstwh ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      I was in a smaller company and I ended up wearing the DBA, SA, Programmer, e-mail administrator, Telco Guy, virus protection, network administrator, and hardware support hats. I am now in a company that is 4 times bigger and all I do is is programming, SA and some backup DBA. Large companies tend to have MUCH more rigid role definations, but smaller companies can’t afford to do that.

    • #3051370

      It’s all about communication

      by don’tquityourdayjob ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      Bottom line. The avereage IT/IS expert is still unable to communicate what it is that they do for their company. A generalist can come in and communicate with your management better and get the job but may not do the job as well as the expert.

      A lot C-Level Management DOES NOT understand all of the terminnology that this “expert” throws at them. The IT/IS expert DOES NOT understand the functional terminology thrown at them from various areas of the organization.

      The generalist demonstrates the ability to step outside of his/her box and communicate in areas that he/she is not an expert in themselves.

      The gemeralist is better at acting as a liaison between IT/IS and the rest of the company. They tend to communicate in terms that are easier for non techies to understand.

      Mind you, there is still a place for the focused expert but more often than not a translator is required.

    • #3051366


      by dcharlesm ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      Gartner has a term they use called Versatilist – where a person’s prior roles, assignments and experiences create knowledge and context and add business value. This is uniquely different than a genealist or specialist. A versatilist is neither, but yet a little of both.
      This seems to apply well to much of the IT organizational change in progress – particularly as the nature of IT, and the value that IT brings, shifts to a more business value focus. AND as the inevitable outsourcing/offshoring activities increase – questioning the core value that IT brings to a company. IT does not bring developers and network specialists, etc as the core value proposition – it brings business value through the creative coordination of those roles.
      A versatilist is a necessary capability, or role, in today’s IT.

      • #3052614

        Current term

        by generalist ·

        In reply to Versatilist

        I believe that this is the term that the spin meisters of IT are trying to promote. You have enough skills in several core IT areas to serve as a specialist, so that a single hire can fill multiple part-time positions.

        It works well when dealing with small companies who don’t need full time specialists in areas that are nonetheless critical.

        IT generalists would work better in really small companies where they may be the entire IT department as well as the person who does product photography, web page design, copier fixing and other tech activities that are not quite IT.

        A generalist generalist in a really small company may do the IT stuff, the tech stuff AND answer phones, do art work, build product, work conventions and everything else.

    • #3051363

      You want me to do what?

      by wordsend ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      Started out specializing in pc support, now -inventory, connectivity, electrical, phone systems, mover . . . more for the money.

    • #3051360

      Ditch the title

      by doug ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      I can relate. In modern-day austere budgets, we all know it’s hard to hire the so-called experts for every position. But let’s face it: Our jobs are a key component of public personna and private self-esteem. My first order of business after accepting a government “MIS Generalist” position 7 years ago was to get the job title changed. It has the cache of someone in show business being called an “entertainer”. I make a science of my work, and I work too hard at it to be tossed off as a techno-gopher in the company flow chart.

    • #3051353

      Believe it or not column …

      by zoran ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      … despite the fact that it is a true story, and I have learned in a veeery hard way that it doesn’t matter at all (and if it matters one day, then it is too late for the victims).
      Here is the one fragment of my life (the latest one)

      Non-IT and semi-IT people have a very generalized idea of IT job. In my case, 4 years ago I got the job at Infineon as “IT”. That was a title. And I worked exactly that – everything concerning IT:
      – Network administration
      – DB system development and administration
      – programming (VBA, C++, LabVIEW, SCPI) the measurement devices, data analysis, report generation
      – HW reparement, configuration, reconfiguration
      – HW/SW ordrering, taking care of lincenses, inventarizing equipment,
      – you name it
      And I tried and tried to explain that we need more people, but it was “not right time”, “no money”, … , and I managed somehow to do everything, working and learning 10-11 hours a day and at least one day of the weekend.
      Then we were acquired from another company.
      And one day, my new CEO came, asking me how is it going and asking me “why we have to hire external IT support to configure our Cisco router and e-mail server (Debian-Linux)”, and that I should learn to do it myself “in my free time”, and that by “looking what are those guys doing and then next time do it myself”. “At the end”, he concluded “it is always some stupid command you have to type in”.
      “Why and for what money?” you may ask. Because I come from a country destroyed by those who “know the best what are the human rights” and who lied terribly about everything concerning the situation and events there, and I have a wife and two beatiful little doughters to whom I wanted to provide nice life that I once, as a boy, had in that country.That was Yugoslavia, by the way, and I am “Serbus terribilus”.
      And, at the end, we made a good product (ROADM), tested it, and the bigger company came, bought the know-how and closed us. Without any compensation, because it would be the same amount needed to hire a lawyer to get it.
      I love kapitalizm 😉

    • #3051344

      Depends on which companies you want to work for.

      by ttetranscripts ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      My experience has led me to the conclusion that the larger companies require more specialized people. For example, they would most likely have a person or persons dedicated completely to Exchange server. Medium sized comanies would require you to know everything within a particular area. For example, you would need to know Windows Server, Exchange, IIS, etc. When you move to smaller companies, you need to be a jack-of-all trades. The size of the company you want to work for is entirely up-to-you. Larger companies offer more perks and benefits, smaller companies has more stability but offers less money. Let me know what you think.

      • #3050627

        Not in my experienece.

        by tony hopkinson ·

        In reply to Depends on which companies you want to work for.

        The one thing large orgainsations offer you is a chance at moving about within them. It’s much easier to become surplus to requirements, generally you valued much less and the narrow focus and truly anal amount of bureaurocracy makes the job much less satisfying.

    • #3051337

      Generalist – way of the future

      by pauly pockets ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      This seems to be the way of the future specially if you work for a small shop. I am the resident Backup & Recovery expert/Intrusion Detection Expert/ and head of Research & Development in my department.

      I work for a large university and since they can’t afford to pay (will not pay) to have experts in each field I am more than willing to take on multiple roles and when I am comfortable enough with each field I pick what I want to be when I grow up and make the money in specializing at a diffrent job.

      I would not get the opportunity to do the things I do around, I can’t complain about it. Besides I get the training I as for…can’t beat that.

    • #3051335

      Generalist or Specialist

      by matrix181 ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      A brilliant physicist once said there are two kinds on knowledge workers generalist who know nothing about everything and specialist who know everything about nothing. The point here really is how your knowledge fits into your career plans and the opportunities that flourish in your chosen field or your geographic location. Your tolerance to risk should also be evaluated as specializing will narrow your opportunities but often increase your potential earnings.

    • #3051332

      You bet! Unless you want a $20/hr tech job

      by mhasf ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      The only way I am keeping my salary up there is to do more and more… Besides, systems are easier to maintain these days than they used to. When I built my first server, I had to set jumpers and map out non-conflicting IRQs. Now, everything plugs in… Windows 2003 is more stable than any other MS O/S I have worked on. So… While the servers are humming along, I got trained in SAP ABAP/4 and started writing new systems.

    • #3051326

      Master of IT

      by shawnl ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      I have to agree with another post. In today’s job market, you need to be good at anything in IT. At our company, the IT department is my boss, myself and one other programmer/analyst. We do everything from cat5 wiring to disaster recovery on an AS400. We are a small shop (~150 employees) but that does seem to be becoming the standard for many places.

    • #3051309

      JOAT’s Forever

      by andeanderson ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      I’ve been a JOAT all of my life. I may not be as academically challenged (college degree) as my peers, but I am the one called on to fix the problems no one else can figure out. Not because I have extensive knowledge, but because I am not afraid to dive into, explore and learn new skills and tools. Where the academically challenged IT people say “It’s not my job.” or “I don’t do that.” JOATs say “How soon do you you need it fixed?”. And then the JOAT start searching for the solution.

      Computers and JOATs just seem to go together. It’s not just the ability to fix things that is great, it is also the drive to constantly learn about other things and processes that makes a JOAT valuable. The first computer companies, other than IBM, were started by JOAT’s.

      In the U.S. Air Force we had a training program called “CUT”, Cross Utilization Training, which had different career fields learning how to do other critical career field tasks. Not only did it provide a back-up for combat situations it allowed for a closer knit team to accomplish the Unit’s Goals.

      It never hurts to broaden your experiences and skills. When you learn what someone else has to do to accomplish their work it gives you a whole new perspective on what actions you need to take to help reach your corporations goals and to further your own career.

    • #3051302

      You can’t help but generalize to some extent

      by quiet_type ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      No one needs to tell you that this is a constantly changing field. In some ways, you can’t help but generalize, since there is so much you need to learn and know that may not be directly related to your specific area of expertise. At my place, I was the only tech around for a couple of years, and when I finally got a helper, they didn’t fund the position sufficiently to really get an experienced person. Every time I turned around, someone wanted something that required the introduction of a new technology to us, so I had to learn it or get out of the way. Yes, I guess I’m a “jack of all trades” here, but nothing else would really fit well in this environment. Perhaps in a larger organization, with a finer division of labor, they can afford to hire specialists in various areas, but small businesses can’t. It all depends on the specific needs of the place.

      • #3051144

        Become a specialist of an Obsolete system

        by don’tquityourdayjob ·

        In reply to You can’t help but generalize to some extent

        Anyone out there still a specialist in DOS?



        Why would someone want to take years to become an expert (specialist) just to have the technology “yanked” away from them?

        The technology simply changes too much and a lot of time must be invested in learning the technology.

    • #3051280

      Wax and Wane

      by marcel lecker ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      I’ve worked wioth a lot of folks looking for work in IT. The general trend is “When you are too specialised, generalise. When you are too generalised, specialise.”

      Think Darwinism, and think about adaptation. A generalist is very versatile but has a hard time excelling. A specialist excels when the conditions are right, but sacrifices adaptability in the process. If the conditions change they could quickly have painted themselves into a corner.

      I suppose in the end a lot depends on what you specialise as. If it is an area set to take off (read: do your research), you could stand to do well for yourself, however keep in mind that all things change. Have a contingecy plan in place that will help you adapt to the comming change.

    • #3051269

      Balance, Extremes and other random babblings

      by don.bricker ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      I work for State Government and we are experience moving in the opposite direction. We are gathering the resources from agencies statewide and pooling these resources in defined functions. We are not only standardizing the hardware and software, but people are being categorized and placed in specialized categories according to function. Some of our groups will be e-mail, Windows administration, Unix administration, Database Administration etc. These people will then perform that function.
      It seems to me that human nature is to look for the one solution that solves all problems. When we stop and think about it don’t we need both generalists and specialists. I see the sliding scale going from generalist in small organizations to very specialized in very large organizations.
      Either approach that is taken brings with it it’s own set of problems that need to be dealt with. Eamples might be,in a small organization trying to hire specialist for each IT function would be costly. Or in a large organization having a large number of generalists is probably going to be costly in duplicated efforts and added expense of getting different technologys to work together.
      So to the original poster. Are you looking in the right places to utilize your speciality skills? There are a lot of companies out there subscribibg to the specialized approach to IT.

    • #3051253

      Generalists are unwelcome at hiring time

      by dbreeden ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      One thing that amazes me is how narrowly focused people (headhunters, HR, Management) seem to be at hiring time. Not only do they want you to have expertise with their product, they want a particular version. I’m sorry, but at the speed things change in IT, what is important is if a person stays current with technology as a habit. Can they learn the needed technology. Amazingly, they don’t seem at all concerned with breadth of knowledge and experience, which from my perspective (work) tends to be critically important.
      I tend to work in smaller shops where I am the system, database and development department. Does anyone ask me if I can do that when hired? No. They tend to have no idea what I can do.
      Frankly, my experience does not lead me to warm fuzzies about being hired. I assume that they are not going to communicate what they need.
      The amazing thing is that I tell them that much of my job is research and they hate that. Basically, I feel that most (not all) employers hate their IT departments because they don’t understand what or how they do things, it is extremely labor intensive and it is necessary. I may not like the constant pace of change and my managers like it less.
      Enjoy, Mike Breeden
      …. I wrote sort of a Fear and Loathing in IT essay. Here is the start of it. I hope it amuses.

      Who am I? I’m the Tech Man. I build it all for you.
      My first PC came with only a floppy.
      I was there when Jugi Tandon was making the first 5 Meg Hard Drives in Chatsworth and then the 10 Meg Winchester.
      I was there in the Silicon Valley when it grew.
      I was there to build Apple, Maxtor, Tandem, Ampex, Seagate,

      I’ve been hit by 220 volts when putting together the Apple Building in Milpitas
      and I’ve been gaffed by CPU pins while doing PC testing at XXCAL in Santa Monica.
      You could say I’ve had close relations with hardware.

      Hardware is my friend, but I didn’t neglect software.
      I wrote my first c programs on a CPM machine and then sent my them to a PDP machine at JPL to be compiled. … Was it THAT PDP machine? I don’t know.
      I programmed the Windows API… for OS2. I liked ATT Unix better than SCO XENIX 286.
      I learned C++ and grocked the Tau of OOPs. Then I networked it all.
      In 5 years, I architected, designed and wrote two Enterprise class software projects in San Diego.
      I was a follower of Bjorn Heisner at Borland. He made the Builder from COM. He built Microsoft .NET from COM as well, so I followed him to that vision.
      I first learned VB.NET to do something that was not not C. Then ASP for where computers be. XML, well XML.
      I have other essential IT skills.
      I keep my tongue still.
      I can beg and flatter until tech support will help me with any problem or else I just wear them down.
      I can understand your business.

      • #3051233

        by charliespencer ·

        In reply to Generalists are unwelcome at hiring time

        Anybody remember a last-page article from Datamation back in the 80’s? Something like

        “I am a computer technician. I get paid three times what the janitor does but don’t dress half as well. I find errors in Mr. Spock’s logic. I never include comments or write documentation; the code speaks for itself.”

      • #3051223

        I’ll add to your slightly off-topic rant about hiring.

        by sjohnson175 ·

        In reply to Generalists are unwelcome at hiring time

        I get frustrated with interviews where they want information of a very technical nature on the fly.

        An example recently was expectation of an in-depth discussion of SQL Server’s different index types.

        I’ve been working with some type of RDBMS since 1995. Isn’t it enough for me to know there are different flavors of indicies and I’ll spend a few minutes with the documentation to determine the correct one for any given project?

        • #3051171

          Yah, I know that one

          by dbreeden ·

          In reply to I’ll add to your slightly off-topic rant about hiring.

          They probably wanted a clustered index, but I think there are now about 7 types of indexes. Try to maintain that!
          My best question on an interview was what is a bubble event? I still have not been able to find out.
          Enjoy, Mike

      • #3051179

        I enjoyed reading your essay…

        by rayjeff ·

        In reply to Generalists are unwelcome at hiring time

        I enjoyed it. Probably will be me in 15 years.

    • #3051177

      East versus West

      by peter choi ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      I always think the situation in western countries are far better than the east already. At least there are companies that really treasures IT competence.
      To become general is a good idea, just treat it as another kind of learning opportunity. Never miss the chance to deal with customers, for this is the very skill that makes an employee values.

      Commercial and financial institutions, mortgage corps, stock broker firms…
      Domain name now for sale on Sedo

    • #3051169

      It works for me!

      by brenda.collum@publicisgro ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      In my role as a PC Support Analyst, being an IT generalist is a necessity. My team supports 3000 users and over 300 different application. We MUST have a diverse skill and knowledge base just to get thru the day. We deal wiith everything from wireless networking issues to spyware. All issues from our Help desk come to us before the issue can be sent to anyone else. I am and have been a Jack of all Trades since 1987 and it works for me.

    • #3051161

      Jack of all, master of all

      by chughlett ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      True generalists are rare nowadays.

      Most of the specialists I’ve know would be better described as one-trick-ponies. Seriously, if you get a few certs in a single area and that’s all you’re good for, the small and mid-sized business of today is running out of patience with your species. This is how I.T. departments balloon into company-strangling tumors. One true generalist can easily outperform 5 to 7 specialists in a single year, not by volume of work but by value of work. I know of one case where a 20 million dollar company with 20 I.T. personnel acquired a 3 million dollar company with 1 I.T. “jack of all trades.” The 20 million dollar company asked the “jack” for help, going around its CIO, because the mom-and-pop had better tech solutions, greater customer satisfaction and much lower cost per service point due to the generalists multi-faceted expertise. In 2 years time, the big company had been overhauled in tech and while most of the I.T. specialists kept their jobs in the short term, it was fairly obvious they had been shamed by the no-certs, no-degree jack.

      That being said, good luck finding a true generalist. Most people go for some certs and call themselves “tech.”

      • #3051105

        Dieing on the IT vine

        by wally_z ·

        In reply to Jack of all, master of all

        It has been my experience that specialists tend to die off as their specialties are replaced by bigger/better systems and solutions. In the evolution of IT they either re-invented themselves into a different role or ended up without employment. The very nature of working in IT for a period of years can often make you a generalist even though you started out as a specialist.

        There are exceptions in large organizations as well as consulting firms. Very few organizations are large enough to afford a specialist. If you want a true expert in network security then a small firm with 2 ? 3 IT staff members will hire consultant/contractor to fulfill that role for a limited time. On the other hand an organization with thousands of users and 100?s of servers and solutions will have many specialists working on specific sets of tasks. One large organization I worked for had two people who did HPUX hardware and OS patches full time; they had over 200 servers running that OS. This is typically the type and size of organization that starts off shoring their IT talent to save $$$. Of course exceptions abound.

        • #3050741

          Well said and so true

          by dkjames ·

          In reply to Dieing on the IT vine

          I started out as a Banyan engineer! Yeah, I’m old! Had I failed to evolve, I would be in another field – probably a hay field. While I would love to a professional horse trainer, I really need to stay current in IT to pay the bills. It is just reality. “Inevitability is the greatest magic of all” – Flight of Dragons.

    • #3050738


      by realgem ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      Splunge. Referring to the Monty Python sketch where “splunge” is given as an answer that is neither agreeing nor disagreeing.

      When I’m hiring a programmer, I’m looking for specialization. If they happen to have some DBA experience, that’s nice, but not crucial.

      If, however, I’m hiring an application architect, I expect them to know more that just Java. They should know about databases, LDAP, security, tools, and so on.

      Generally speaking, the higher you go in the organization, the more you must be aware of other knowledge areas. As a departmental manager whose previous job was project manager and who has not done programming since client/server was the thing to do, I’ve had to become aware of these other areas. I may never be able to practice in those areas, but I have a much broader general knowledge than I did when I was a programmer.

      The other factor is the size of your company. Small companies have smaller IT groups, and more roles will be covered by fewer people. Generalism is critical. If you were the only IT person, you would do everything from configure computers to create database applications. Combine this with the fact that most companies are small to medium sized, and you see why generalists are important.

      Last word: keep your objectivity. Is generalism a new thing, or is it just the lastest old concept to be dusted off and repackaged by media and pundits in order to have something to talk about?

    • #3050730

      Generalists are more valuable to me, not to everyone.

      by zteccc ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      I’m a self-proclaimed generalist who has risen to the level of Assistant Director (and its only a matter of time before I can move into the CTO position). I am indeed a jack-of-all-trades, but I’m also a master of many of them.

      I hire people below me based largely on what value they can bring to the enterprise. What I’ve learned is that a specialist, such as a DBA, Network Admin, etc. won’t bring me near as much value as a Generalist in IT. The fact is that our enterprise is a consumer of IT, not a producer. We do not design our own Databases, we purchase them and then use them. As such, the reality is that I don’t need a DBA, I simply pay for tech support from the vendor (which I’d do even if I had a DBA). I let the vendor do the DBA work.

      Another reality is the nature of our business. We are a 24 hour entertainment business. We don’t have the luxury of regular downtime, so we have to be capable of supporting our enterprise 24 hours a day. If I hire a DBA for a certain shift, we wouldn’t have 24/7 coverate or that DBA would have to be on call 24 hours/7 days. If I hire a team of DBAs to cover all shifts, I’m going to be spending a large amount of money. Even if I were willing to do so, I’d still need 24 hour techs, helpdesk, network/domain admins, systems admins, etc.). If, instead, I hire a team of generalists, they can cover the business 24 hours a day in a wide variety of areas (not just databases) and can call for support when necessary.

      The nature of many businesses do indeed require specialists. For example, one vendor that we purchase some of our systems from employs several DBAs because their product is databases. It makes sense to have those specialists. They are producers of IT systems, not consumers. As it turns out, I’m aware of some of their internal workings. Their internal IT department doesn’t employ any DBAs, but their development departments do.

      My point is that it there is room for both specialists and generalists to make money and to advance (sometimes in the same enterprise), but specifically in consumer-based IT, generalists are going to have an edge because they can provide a greater value to the enterprise for less money.

      — Jeff

      • #3050676

        IT should be MIS, but both are misunderstood.

        by pmorrison ·

        In reply to Generalists are more valuable to me, not to everyone.

        I am a Generalist for the record. Sometimes the only problem in being a generalist is not being able to exploit some special piece of technology whether it be hardware or software because we are too busy working on all those generalist tasks.

        What I really want to point out is that this discussion by IT professionals to discuss their profession is moot. The discussion should be on how to better explain to those who supervise us and those we support as to exactly who we are and we do. I think the IT profession is one of the most misunderstood by those outside the profession. Some say, oh, you’re a programmer, while others say, oh, you fix computers. I’m actually a subscriber to the MIS discipline and would probably be safe in saying that Generalist and MIS professional are one in the same.

        • #3050568

          IT & MIS are one in the same…

          by rayjeff ·

          In reply to IT should be MIS, but both are misunderstood.

          I agree with you on that. The misconceptions about we workers in the field. Even though I’m doing majority IT/MIS work, I consider myself more to the side of a computer science-based worker because of my educational background.

    • #3050672

      It’s all a matter of brain’s and dollars

      by info ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      I run my own IT business. Whilst I have had previous specialist knowledge (data comms)I am now days a generalist. I have worked with many generalists and many specialists and have seem good and bad in both.

      The biggest issue I have seen is not so much what the person knows, or what the person is qualified to do, but can the person use his or her brain and commonsense to figure out difficult problems. Can they think outside the box.

      Can they locate the correct information when required and will they put their reputation before the almightly dollar.

      I have seen very experienced and qualified specilisted make simple mistakes and the same with the generalist, but the ones that shine and continue to prosper are the ones who acknowledge what do and do not know and know how to fill the gaps in their own knowledge and never assume they know everything.

    • #3050669

      What credentials does the average generalist have?

      by lumbergh77 ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      I’m a generalist and have a B.S. in Computer Information Systems. No certifications although I’ve been debating it for months. I’m torn between getting certs, getting a master degree, or starting a side business. What kind of credentials do you all have? Are certifications necessary? I don’t see the value of getting an MCSE, and learning the various components of the kerberos protocol, when there is other stuff out there to learn that is far more valuable that I’ll actually use on the job.

      • #3050626

        Not a single one. Nor any certs

        by tony hopkinson ·

        In reply to What credentials does the average generalist have?

        All my learning was on the job, usually the loud splash method.
        Certs are for specialists, they have to keep getting them so they can keep their claim to specialism, nice money spinner for someone, that little trick.

        • #3048604

          becoming a generalist

          by ssampier ·

          In reply to Not a single one. Nor any certs

          I currently work in help desk for a rural telcom supporting dial up and DSL customers. My major is in Sociology, but I’d like to stay in I/T. I’d like to branch out and expand my horizons and learn more about database, server administration, programming, etc.

          My only credential is my minor in Information Systems. I have some Access experience through my current position (I maintain databases for our department). What would be the most effective way to “generalize”? I considered getting IT certs such as A+, CCNA, and MCSE, but I don’t want to pigeonhole myself.

        • #3048585

          If they are paying

          by tony hopkinson ·

          In reply to becoming a generalist

          get all the certs you can. Pimps & HR love ’em.
          If you’re paying try and stay away from vendor specific certs until you’ve learnt enough to know where the vendor specific tech fits in the big picture.
          As I said I have n’t got a single one, there again if I was starting out I’d have more chance of becoming CFO than a helpdesk tech with such a lack of credentials.
          The other thing to be wary of is generalising to the point where you know very little about everything.
          If you want to be an admin, learn admin then apply that knowledge to different architectures, platforms etc. That way with the cert as backup and some experience you’ll be confident of administering anything.
          User maintenance is user maintenance, the location/syntax of the dohickeys to change a user will vary, what you want to do and much more imporantly why will not.
          Th real problem with certs is they tend to reach by task for a vendor tech, lot’s of what very little why.
          Knowing why it’s a lot easier to ask what, than vice versa.

        • #3050410

          appreciate the help

          by ssampier ·

          In reply to If they are paying

          I’d like to learn more, but my current position doesn’t afford me much freedom to learn more. I’d like to change that in the near future. I will try my best to get certified without being a “test expert” or “paper MSCE”.

          Hopefully my “liberal arts” education has taught me to analyze and think critically.

      • #3052610

        Average generalist?

        by generalist ·

        In reply to What credentials does the average generalist have?

        I don’t think there is such a beast.

        My BS degree is in architecture and city planning with a VERY unofficial minor in computer science. (I happened to be the computer jockey that ran the programs for the department, in addition to taking classes in programming, simulation, systems theory and the like.)

        Oddly enough, I picked up the concept of being a generalist from a teacher who promoted the idea of knowing as much as you can about as much as possible. While he was in the city planning department, he taught a course in cybernetics because he was deeply into simulation.

        When I graduated, I used my unofficial training to get a job in IT. That was about twenty-five years ago, and I’ve been in the field since.

        In recent years, my official training has become a ‘hobby’ that keeps me busy as I try to discourage urban sprawl and encourage the wise use of land and resources.

    • #3050662

      Is this a true statement?

      by lumbergh77 ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      The average generalist has more job security than a specialist but less of a chance to make the big bucks.

    • #3050570

      what would you like me to be?

      by sr10 ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      IT is a notoriously cyclical business, and this is just one example. In 2001, everyone wanted people who were “sharply pointed, not well rounded.” Now, evidently, some people are getting fed up with specialists and forgetting why they got fed up with generalists not so long ago. So the pendulum will swing back until people get fed up with generalists and forget why they got fed up with specialists, and so on, and so forth, and scoobie doobie doobie…

      Meanwhile, back at your life, what in your background paints you as a generalist? As a specialist? How can you position yourself as either one, as the latest itch dictates?

      • #3051918

        Easy every

        by tony hopkinson ·

        In reply to what would you like me to be?

        generalist has a main strength, I sell my self as a client server applications developer, the admin web and databse knowledge are bonus prizes.
        I’m far too out of date and refuse to join the certification merry-go-round for admin jobs but after twenty years I can sell my self as web developer or as a database designer with reasonable ease. I set out to specialise as a programmer but that discipline died in favour of developer. Working in a one man shop ended up giving me some DBA and network admin and hardware exeperience, a useful accident that’s done very well by me.
        Read the add for the skill sets, ring the pimp to find out which of the 15 skills it’s desired you are an expert in are actually important and go from there.

      • #3052607

        Versatilist option

        by generalist ·

        In reply to what would you like me to be?

        Perhaps the best approach would be to be able to show that you are both a specialist and a generalist, depending upon the target audience.

        If you know several of the hotter topics well enough, you can be a specialist when needed. Ditto if you are well versed in topics that are technologically obsolete yet still in use.

        At the same time, expand your range of topics to include non-IT areas as well as skimming IT areas that are useful, interesting, but not something you want to spend working on all day.

        Above all, keep ahead of the curve in several areas, because today’s hot topic specialist is tomorrow’s legacy systems grunt and the day after tomorrow’s unemployed.

    • #3050539

      Generalist’s make good managers and consultants

      by thebofh ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      When I was still a tech I was faced with the same dilemma, should I go into networking, database support or SQL, Active Directory, exchange and list goes on. IT companies especially out source companies prefer specialists, simple reason a generalist tends to overlook certain areas where as a specialist does a job 103%, I can see myself getting very bored specializing in a specific area.

      As a generalist and an IT manager I don?t get bored, and I know what is going on with all the aspects of the IT department and company and I can adjust to what ever challenges come my way, with all this said I still at times need advice and help from a specialist.

    • #3050506

      my best guess

      by lemondrop ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      It’s all about businesses getting the most bang for their IT bucks!

    • #3052000

      It Has Always Been Thus…

      by smokemaster ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      And, ultimately it’s true of any profession – if you can’t get
      outside your “comfort” zone and be a jack-of-all-trades
      and MASTER-of many (NOT master of none!!) – in other
      words _ EXPAND your comfort zone – you’re going to hit a
      serious plateau in your upward mobility and your paycheck.

      All top organizational leaders and managers are more
      generalist than specialist – they have to be – whether they
      like it or not. You can expect that the answer to doing
      more with the technology and less with people REQUIRES a
      steadily increasing degree of broader knowledge and ability
      to apply it, not more people with arcane specialties.

      The ultimate bottom line in any business is about profit.
      Like it or not, cutting costs is the fastest way to increase
      profits (1:1 ratio). Your specialist jobs are now being done
      by a very skilled, very educated, very motivated, and very
      cheap workforce in eastern europe, russia, far east, and the
      central asia areas. You can either compete with THAT or
      increase your market value by being the guy who can put
      all the pieces together. It’s not a case of being “good at
      your game” no longer having value – it’s just that you have
      to play ALL the different kinds of poker, not just 5 card

    • #3051799

      I agree

      by smg123 ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      This is simply the function of business squeezing more and more out of their existing employees while paying them less. Hire you as a “Network admin” and before you know it, you are fixing the phones, the copier, the fax, the printers, and anything else that plugs into a wall. It is less being an “IT Generalist” and more being an “IT Slave”

    • #3052415

      I fail to see the problem

      by htos1 ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      A little of everything?Hmmm….,well,since I “specialize” as an A+ eng/tech,it was always assummed I’d do a little of everything,by “default”.That is,yes,office manager,hr manager,hex/app/web development,then,I can get to my benches,even had to take out the trash at night and lock the building!
      I like to give good value for the expense my employer incurs w/my salary.

      • #3052305

        That’s it exactly

        by tony hopkinson ·

        In reply to I fail to see the problem

        Specialism is only attached to proprietry knowledge in IT. Everyone has at least one more knowledge area. With a little experience you can apply those secondary skillsets outside of your traditional environment.
        A hardware guy is bound to have admin skills particularly if you are talking network.
        An admin will have as least some scripting skills. A DBA will need hardware and admin knowledge on big systems and scripting skills. A developer will have database and admin skills. The secret to not being categorised as a specialist is to avoid doing it your self.
        That’s not to say you shouldn’t advertise based on your strengths, simply avoid marking yourself up as weak in other areas.
        An education in general IT is a different thing, that’s a general appreciation course for those who wish to manage, (another specialist skill), in technology terms you gain nothing but weaknesses from such a course.

    • #3052619

      Renaissance People

      by generalist ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      Specialists are great if an organization is large enough to have work for them.

      But in many instances you have situations where you don’t need a full array of specialized skills all of the time. Rather than paying through the nose for a consultant, you rely upon generalists to handle the small stuff. A good generalist will tell you when the consultant is truly needed.

      In some instances, having a generalist who knows about a wide array of topics can be invaluable. Specialists are often VERY focused and can’t think outside the box when it comes to problem solving. Having a generalist available can help the problem solving process by providing a different and much broader point of view.

      • #3048138

        Renaissance People

        by pitsburghtek ·

        In reply to Renaissance People

        I agree, specialists are definitely an asset to the organization (or society as a whole), but so is the generalist. The strengths of each of these two mindsets compliment each other. Case in point: NASA has gone through some very troubling years lately due to what I attribute to a specialized mindset. Each team is extremely good at what they do, and together these teams have put together an engineering marvel. But there comes a certain point in the timeline that a generalist is needed. The generalist works on an intuitive level and will ‘sense’ the trouble. I think that is why generalists tend to be better troubleshooters than specialists. They look at a complex structure from the whole DOWN to the parts. The specialist though creates something from nothing, and that is something to be envious of too.
        I wonder if IT is following the same skillset trajectory as the space industry? It took concentrated specialists of many disciplines to put together the complex IT environments we work in today, and now it is the generalists turn to make all these different tachnologies work together.

    • #3052572

      Momma don’ ‘llow no generalists ’round here!

      by charliespencer ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      At the top of this page, click “My Profile”.

      When your profile appears, click “Edit my profile”.

      From there, click “Edit your name, job function or location here”.

      See the “Primary Role” pull-down? Notice anything missing?


      • #3052871

        Seem a little angry?

        by rayjeff ·

        In reply to Momma don’ ‘llow no generalists ’round here!

        You appear to be a little upset, Palmetto. Why doesn’t momma need a generalist?

        • #3052851

          Was that the royal we?

          by tony hopkinson ·

          In reply to Seem a little angry?

          It’s been my experience that people with more than one useful skill are needed, badly as well. In fact a few more with one useful skill as opposed to a title, a badge and a mortarboard wouldn’t go amiss.

    • #3052926

      If it has electricity, it’s IT

      by Anonymous ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      The general feeling around my shop ist that if it has electricity in it, call IT. Fax machines, copiers, telephones, you name it. If they ask nicely, I don’t care much if it’s in my job description or not; I’ll do my best to get it done. I even wound up doing our inventory because we had a new barcode scanner, and the software was pretty flaky, so it took an IT type to keep it running.

      On my off time, I’m a blacksmith, so every once in a while I get some REALLY strange IT requests. Ever try to repair a PC with a 15-pound sledge and a 275-pound anvil?

      • #3052869

        A good laugh…

        by rayjeff ·

        In reply to If it has electricity, it’s IT

        “On my off time, I’m a blacksmith, so every once in a while I get some REALLY strange IT requests. Ever try to repair a PC with a 15-pound sledge and a 275-pound anvil?”

        You know what’s really funny??? I’d be one of the people that would actually try to repair a PC with a sledge and anvil. And would probably make it work too…

        • #3052840

          RE: a good laugh

          by fscitadmin ·

          In reply to A good laugh…

          Well you know I might try the hammer bit myself one day. It could work!

    • #3052888

      Too stupid I guess for the state people

      by fscitadmin ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      Well I guess I’ve wasted over a year getting everything from the telphone system to the 3 networks, 5 different educational programs software working properly, 60 computers working, the network security in place only to be told the day before my 48th birthday that I didn’t have the “paperwork” that the great state of Alabama requires for me to keep doing what I have been doing for the past 20 months.
      Further more they are replacing you with a person that is not in the least bit computer literate and to add insult to injury they want me to work 10 hours a week keeping the network up and handling the backups.So what do you do when you are a jack of all trades and the powers that be decide that you are useless now? By the way I don’t have any degrees in anything except a GED which I obtained 2 years ago. I taught myself what I needed to know.

      • #3048370

        The AL government is a banana republic.

        by sjohnson175 ·

        In reply to Too stupid I guess for the state people

        Private sector is where it’s at.

        If you’re in the central part of the state and would be interested in some pimp (headhunter) contacts e-mail me.

        Probably my biggest complaint about IT in this state is so few companies direct hire. We’re overrun with pimp firms.

        • #3049539

          Alfa Insurance direct hires in Alabama

          by montgomery gator ·

          In reply to The AL government is a banana republic.

          Regarding Headhunters in Alabama, your statement may be true for most companies, but my employer (Alfa Insurance) does direct hiring through our HR office.

          Also, there may be a lot of people here looking for jobs in a few months, since the BRAC process has recommended moving 2000 jobs from Maxwell AFB here in Montgomery to Massachusetts, despite the fact that labor costs are a lot higher in Boston than Montgomery. Shows that government logic is an oxymoron, it will end up costing the government a lot more money. May be an opportunity for you to get some clients.

      • #3050409

        Image vs. performance

        by Anonymous ·

        In reply to Too stupid I guess for the state people

        I’ve worked for both federal and state governments, and I’ve found that the old saying really is true: “An ounce of image is worth a pund of performance.”

    • #3048394

      Specialization can be a trap

      by server queen ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      It’s been my experience – after more than 25 years in high-tech – that overspecialization can be a decided trap. I mean, how many companies are out there looking for Xerox XNS system administrators these days? That’s what I started as, lo these many moons ago. But because I was willing to branch out and experiment with those early, piece-of-crap PCs, I became an MS-NET and then a Lan Manager admin. Those became, in the course of time (“like sands through an hourglass”), Windows.

      Had I decided, all those years ago, that I would only be an XNS administrator, I’d have been working as a barista for some time now. Ditto for those who decided they were Clipper DBA’s and only Clipper DBA’s – not much call for that d/b these days. If you want to remain a Lotus Notes admin until retirement, better find some company that’s going to keep their Lotus Notes system for 30 years.

      Now, I do think a lot of employers are getting a bit ridiculous in their demands these days – “must be SQL DBA, have extensive C# knowledge, 10 years of Java programming, know XML and Active Directory, and make really great coffee – salary $10/hr.” But I think they figure right now it’s an employer’s market, so they can ask for what they really want, which is a really talented serf for life. But it doesn’t hurt to learn a bit of the guy in the next cubicle’s job as well as your own – you never know when yours might go the way of XNS.

      • #3048375

        IT SH*T

        by korgmeister ·

        In reply to Specialization can be a trap

        IT field is constantly changing. people would need more powerful applications and better device in the future. and at the end, a programmer may have to know how to administer LAN or whatever the shit. your boss dont give a damn either what kind of knowledge you have. just make sure his/her business running smoothly and you can work at the company until you retired.

        • #3050070

          Not hardly

          by fscitadmin ·

          In reply to IT SH*T

          That’s not true in my case. There where no problems on the networks that I managed, it came down to POLITICS.
          It might be true for some situations but not all. Goverment and NON Profits are the worst I think.
          Just MHO

        • #3050069

          Not hardly

          by fscitadmin ·

          In reply to IT SH*T

          That’s not true in my case. There were no problems on the networks that I managed, it came down to POLITICS.
          It might be true for some situations but not all. Goverment and NON Profits are the worst I think.
          Just MHO

    • #3047370

      Buzz-Word = Clueless (+Bloviation)

      by oldcodemonkey ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      As usual, folks that do not know what they want, know how to state what they want, or do not want to state what they want, will shift to using words that do not mean anything in context.

      ‘IT Generalist’
      ‘Light at the end of the tunnel’
      ‘The obvious solution is value-add application of amanagement paradigm that…’

      What they are doing is bloviating (Yup, it’s a real word [bloviate] & sounds real good too!).

      Or they may be trying to get a freebie open-ended interview question: ‘How are you a Generalist?’


    • #3047353

      Like “Right-Sizing” and Other Notable Terms

      by jonathanpdx ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      To paraphrase Homer Simpson, “Labels…is there anything they can’t do?” I’ve been a “generalist” for years…doing things the “specialists” couldn’t – or wouldn’t – because it was either beyond their capabilities or beneath them.

      Perhaps businesses are waking up to the fact that having people around who can do more than one IT task (besides picking their noses) is a good and overall cost-saving idea.

      I wouldn’t hold my breath, though. I’m still waiting for all these jobs that are supposed to be appearing with our hot economy. 😉

    • #3064963

      I am proud to be a generalist

      by stoweboy ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      First of all most small IT departments seek employees (because of tight budgets) who have general IT knowledge not an individual who only has just one area of expertise. I agree this type of hiring practice gives companies more bang for the buck, one employee who can handle the role of three. I work at a job that forces me to wear many hats and having ‘general technical knowledge? has helped me make many of the decisions that are thrown at me on a daily bases. No one knows everything and being a generalist if I do not know I seek out someone who does. I think of a ?IT Generalist? as a general practitioner in the medical field and just like the ?GP? you see many different problems on a daily bases and I agree an employee with general knowledge is usually a well rounded employee but just like a ?GP? if the problem is over your head you have to seek out a specialist in that area who can help you make the correct decision. I see nothing wrong with admitting that you have a general knowledge of technology but you are not an expert in any area. When a technician thinks they know everything about a particular subject is when I think they are in trouble!

    • #3116060

      Generalists are the glue that binds together the specialists.

      by deepsand ·

      In reply to IT Generalist

      Without generalists, specialists would be isolated from one another, unable to understand either other specialists or the whole of which they are but parts.

      During the frenzy, generalists, who are for the most part those who have acquired a rather large knowledge base by virtue of their age & experiences, came to be viewed as being not merely unessential but antithetical to the “new paradigms” that were then all the rage.

      The result? The bubble burst, and the generalists are once again in demand.

      Specialists are analagous to the elementary particles that comprise the atom, the proton, neutron & electron. Generalists are the particles that carry the forces that bind said elemental particles together.

      We JOATS are in fact masters of many trades.

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