Generalists vs. Specialist

I keep swinging between reactions to new tech. The joke is known, at least with JavaScript Frameworks, but I get excited by seeing concepts in backend languages that lead to un-attainable goals like “I am going to learn Scala this weekend”. Inevitably a book is bought, I do a course, play with an online walk through, but then it ends and I go back to my day job that leverages _none of these things_.

But why?
Thats what I am trying to work through. Finding an end to the cycle. I think my need to explore and learn has driven me well this far. I got into C# this way and this actually stuck. It prompted a career change to go work at a .NET Sitecore shop.I love Sitecore.
Cut to two years later, I am back at a PHP shop working on WordPress (a first love), having trouble keeping skills in other areas(C#) sharp (pun.)

I believe the reason for drive is starting to need goals and restrictions to guide a career path. As much as I want to end up spending all my time in a basement with Arduino kits and sensors, that is not a living for me. I think I hit the point most devs hit. Where to focus non-work related tech time? I think that statement is the problem. It should read “How to focus off-the-clock time to be work related”.

In our shop there is a need for interactivity and Front End on the web. The front end specialist stock has been rising rapidly in Boston and I am sure everywhere. We are focusing more and more on the experience layer and the shop I work for is no different. Since I have a sharper skillset in Front End technologies, a lot is being asked to support and build my career in this direction. This puts me in a spot where career choices are now being made due to timing and natural progression of skills to match demands. This is fine but I am not ready to let go these other areas of interest.

The Resolve
I am trying to pitch a case that we need these other offerings as a skillset in house. There is no reason why I cannot lead feature work requiring new tools and levels of interactivity on the Front End. I actually think this blends into what I want out of a backend scape. I am pushing Xamarin and mobile apps. Mobile apps to me are the final frontier given the hardware/consumer landscape … at least for the “web” developer. So much of what we do now can be built by automated tools. IA, UX, and customizations requiringthe human element, are the only exceptions to the robot taking over the developer role.(See Wix or Squarespace or countless other site builders). Mobile apps are a commodity that require love and attention. They are also highly experiential while balancing important UX factors. Web devs deal with shakey requirements that support marketing gone wrong, or foolish content authorship asks. Mobile is gated. The very nature of limited hardware, Realestate, slow connection, drive the experience to prioritize only the most important site features. It does the feature triaging for us.

This is obviously very blanketed, covering an app component to an integrated or similar web experience. But  there are a lot of parallels to Mobile App development now and what web dev was back in the day.

Xamarin is where I am heading with this whole lead. I can pitch it to our team. We want more Mobile Apps as an agency. We want them to mirror sleek end user experiences. This selfishly would give me the ability to flex C#/C++ muscles again and would still be able to pepper in animations and tricks.

… this was more of a diary entry but I believe the above sentiment regarding what devs should be learning in their spare time, to be an accurate issue we all encounter. This is because we learn concepts that translate across technology. We have the ability after seeing something done once to go online, network, and figure out via reading and typing, how to do this thing elsewhere, and better, or completely differently. This is our grad degree that we pay for with ambition. The real trouble is being young and wanting to be awesome at everything vs being seasoned in what’s relevant and going to where the puck is going to be.


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