This is post 28 of 30 for #30daysofcreativity.
Specialization limits you. It limits you to the area in which you specialize, and that’s the problem I have with it. Why would you limit yourself to only one area of expertise? It doesn’t make much sense.
I agree that it makes sense in a few cases, sure. Let’s pick WordPress as an example. Some people specialize in WordPress theme development, or the development and deployment of WordPress based websites.
First of all, lets go through the three problems I have with it, then we’ll look at the two cases where I support it.
Problem 1: Limitation
As mentioned earlier, you limit yourself to, in this case, getting deeper into a single platform. You may some day be a WordPress ninja rock-star, but you won’t be a genius who can select the right tool for the job and create a tailored solution. You’ll do WordPress sites on demand, as simple as that.
Problem 2: Stimulation
It can’t be stimulating for your mind to use the same platform, doing practically the same thing over and over again. Sure, you’ll do vastly different sites from time to time but the platform stays the same. In my opinion, this job will quickly get boring unless I learn something new every day.
You don’t want to turn into an assembly line worker in a WordPress factory. It’s not stimulating.
Problem 3: Creating solutions
Even if you use the same system over and over, you’ll be creating solutions. That’s what we do, right? Correct. However, I believe that if you want to really create the best possible solution for your client, you need to actually discuss with your client and figure out what the right tool for the job is.
I’ve said it before: there is no solution that fits every problem. You need to tailor your solutions—that’s how you provide quality service and products to your clients.
Case 1: Guru
Specialization may be a good thing if you want to get really deep into something. You may argue that that’s what specialization is all about, but I mean really deep, as in becoming a maintainer of the platform, or one of the worlds foremost goto-guys in your area of expertise.
Unfortunately, that’s most of the time not the case. You need to be extremely ambitious for this to work. It’s tough to learn new stuff all the time. If you choose to go with a specific platform or narrow area of expertise because you think it’s comfortable, then you need to seriously get off the “bitch train”, as Gary Vaynerchuk so elegantly phrases it.
Case 2: Wider Range
I support specialization to the degree that you focus most of your energy on one thing but are always open to learning about stuff that’s outside your comfort-level. Specialize in a wider range of subjects.
Sure, you can bend WordPress to do a lot of things it’s not built to do, but why not use something that is actually created for the purpose?
If you choose to specialize in WordPress only, it’s built on PHP so learn all you can about that too. If you specialize in ExpressionEngine, make sure you also become a CodeIgniter genius. Take a look at all the “dependencies” of your area of expertise and learn as much as possible about them.
Those who know me also know that I’m deeply against selecting a single platform and use it for all your projects. Thus, I’m to a degree also against specialization. There are definitely cases where specialization is awesome, really, but if you specialize to be comfortable then please stop.
Only offering one platform is just not the way to provide quality service, unless you focus on a very niche market and say no to the rest of the projects you are offered. If you don’t know anything else, then make sure you actually do say no to projects for which your chosen platform isn’t suitable.
If you want to spend the rest of your life working for the man, using your platform of choice, then do it. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you have the ambition to be all you can be in this industry, then get out of your comfort zone and push yourself.
If you live for new adventures, then you’ll agree with what I’m saying. I’m not really against specialization per se I guess—I’m against not learning as much as you possibly can.
Think about what you would enjoy doing—that’s what you should focus on. Then you’ll want to keep learning and never stop pushing yourself, I promise.