Jack of All Trades, Master of None
The other day I was asked to help a colleague at the IAPP determine the profile of a typical candidate for a CIPP/IT certification. It started out with a simple question, “Help me understand the different classifications of IT professionals?” I thought this would be an easy exercise.
However, once I sat down and started to give it some thought, I was surprised to recognize the breadth and complexity of the IT profession. It was one of those seminal moments where the collection of everything you know on a topic suddenly comes together as one—and it made me shudder.
I used to consider myself a “jack of all trades” when it came to information technology and I meant it. My first job out of school included both software development (in Pascal) and network administration (Novell Netware 2.12) and I continued on that dual path off and on through a handful of jobs. Having done both development and administration left me with the impression that I had done it all. The reality though was that my knowledge was a mile wide and only an inch deep.
I can recall, a decade into my career, telling people in interviews how I could do “everything IT.” Ugh! I must have seemed so damn arrogant. Fortunately that was a long time ago.
To end this public airing of my past arrogance and get to something useful in this post, here is an outline of the IT classifications I came up with:
- Engineers - Hardware engineers and operating system developers
- Software professionals - Anyone who writes code for a living that isn’t an engineer
- Network administrators - Those who manage networks of all shapes and sizes
- R&D/Academics - PhDs doing research not geared towards a particular product or service
- DBA - Database gurus
- Interactive Media - People developing games, doing CGI for movies, etc.
- Support - The noble front-line people between users and the rest of us