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Topic: Are you a generalist or specialist? (Read 3035 times) previous topic - next topic

Graynomad

There was an article in the Ganssle newsletter a while back about the increasing trend towards engineers becoming specialists in one area as opposed to generalists.

I'm a self-confessed generalist, ie Jack of all trades and master of none and I usually do all the design work from concept through schematic and PCB design to writing the embedded code and even the Windows GUI if required. Plus I do plumbing, welding, mechanics, house design etc etc.

I will never be an expert in say the intricacies of RTOS design or be good enough to weld on a gas pipeline but that's the way I like it, so when the Ganssle newsletter published this quote (Apparently from one of Robert Heinlein's books) I had to share.

Quote
"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyse a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."


I like to think I can (or could if required) do all the above, with the exception of changing diapers.

What are people here, generalists or specialists?

______
Rob
Rob Gray aka the GRAYnomad www.robgray.com

retrolefty

#1
Mar 07, 2013, 03:48 am Last Edit: Mar 07, 2013, 06:01 am by retrolefty Reason: 1
Quote
die gallantly


That's a Hollywood mime. What does that mean exactly for all the non combat forms of deaths, that will happen to probably 99.99+ % of us.

That aside I did read a lot of Robert Heinlein books as a youth. I just never tried to live my life by any book prescription.

Lefty


Graynomad

Yes I wasn't too keen on that one, and as you say what about us non-heroes. Personally I think something like dealing with cancer for 2 years with a brave face takes as much fortitude as most of the classic "brave" acts. Probably more actually because there's not the heat of the moment and the adrenalin to pump you up, you just have to deal with it.

Fortunately I'm well out of my depth with such a discussion as I've not had to deal with either scenario.

______
Rob
Rob Gray aka the GRAYnomad www.robgray.com

Jack Christensen

Generalist through and through. I've always loved that quotation, which is "from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long" in Heinlein's Time Enough For Love. In fact I was just thinking about it the other day, and wondering if I could get or make a copy of it to hang on my office wall. Good book, I should read it again, it's been a long time.
MCP79411/12 RTC ... "One Million Ohms" ATtiny kit ... available at http://www.tindie.com/stores/JChristensen/

alfiesty

I always liked the definition I was given by my high school calculus teacher!

A specialist learns more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing. A generalist learns less and less about more and more until he knows nothing about everything.

Jim
8000ft above the average

Boffin1

Wonderful quotes both,

  I am definately a generalist,

I have 2 big projects on the go in the office ( which the wife calls the lounge )

and one being assembled in the laboratory  (  which the wife calls her sewing room ),

I have the washing machine in bits in the kitchen, trying to get the main bearing out , working through a small hole in the back cover  (  I did assist in the delivery of my daughter 40 years ago, and it all comes back, like riding a bike )

I have the ignition switch hanging from the dashboard of the car in the garage.

I have the scribblings of my new invention ( a new type of fly trap ) in the drawing room ( which the wife calls the bathroom )

Its 5 am and I am catching up on Bar Sport with a cup of coffee  (  the only non decaffed one for the day  - hmm - I think that is a double negative )  before getting stuck in.

As for the die gallantly quote,  I hope I am never in a situation where I have to dive in front of a train to throw a toddler out of harms way, for instance.

Who knows how natures fight-or-flight toggle would behave without having been there ?

Re the cancer , very true, we lost a very gallant sister to cancer last year..
With my mobile phone I can call people and talk to them -  how smart can you get ?

Graynomad

:), to all except your sister of course.

______
Rob
Rob Gray aka the GRAYnomad www.robgray.com

#7
Mar 07, 2013, 07:42 am Last Edit: Mar 07, 2013, 08:21 am by rockwallaby Reason: 1
In my skull, where there is much of nothing, except for a little bit of 'Dark Matter' at its central core, a to-do come wish list wafts from side to side, right behind my eyeballs, where I can see and read it.

From time to time the list gets sucked into that central dark matter where it gets acquainted for a while with the up tight specialist left brain, before not long after, being torn away by the lazy right brain half. They each fight like hell to be top dog in wanting the list to be their own.

In the meantime with that commotion in the background, I myself sit in the middle, or should I say, on the outside.
I observe and then I try to do the best I can.

Mostly I'm buggered each time, as everything needs to be so damn perfect that not much gets done, and in the end and what does get done is so far from left brain perfectionism. I try to console myself that what I do get done is at least an achievement, a step toward my goals and values in life.

Like many of you, I also favour;

  • being able to weld with one hand while testing out my culinary skills on the other,

  • have chainsaw abilities, while soldering smd components after lunch,

  • being able to get thick black with grease, while keyboard manicured after dinner,

  • having mindless force to dig fence holes with a large iron bar, while having some wit to write with a pen,

  • ability to slurp a can of beer on the left, while sipping red wine with grace on the right,

  • go dizzy at the sight of blood any day, while happy at pulling your own child out at birth on one day,

  • wanting to stay home all day on the left, while madly excited and ready to explore the planet on the right.



As a child, my parents were horrified each time I would pull apart a new toy!
The toy was more fun apart than whole for me. I wanted to explore how it worked.
Putting it back together was never a problem.
_____
Paul

Boffin1

With my mobile phone I can call people and talk to them -  how smart can you get ?

Graynomad

My but you have a busy head Paul, mine's largely vacant.

I too have a problem with perfection, meaning that I like everything to be perfect in a design so the end result is (for personal work at least) that I almost never finish anything because I can always make it better, or maybe next week there'll be this great chip that makes the design just right.

Contract work is different, there's a deadline and the job just gets done by then...well sometimes.

Quote
Putting it back together was never a problem.

Same here, the fun part was gone at that point so I never bothered and moved on.

_____
Rob
Rob Gray aka the GRAYnomad www.robgray.com

JimboZA

Arduino ethernet server here.... http://jimboza.gotdns.com:8085/

No PMs for help please

#11
Mar 07, 2013, 02:55 pm Last Edit: Mar 07, 2013, 02:56 pm by rockwallaby Reason: 1
Quote
Rob wrote:
My but you have a busy head Paul, mine's largely vacant


Might sound like it's busy, yes it is sometimes, but largely it's background noise that I just ignore.
Living in the bush is nice and peaceful, I guess you like that too Rob eh?
On a warm summers eve I can stare at the stars and planets and other strange objects out there and then realise, well, not much at all, how vacant is that  :P

Thanks for your nice words Boffin, looks like a large glass of beer you are holding, or is that Cognac?

Isn't the bar here is a nice place to hang out at the moment  :D

_____
Paul

Boffin1

That glass Paul,  is a Hartenberg white wine from Stellenbosch just up the road from here.

I have switched to red a year or so back, I must change the picture, but it reminds of a lovely afternoon under the trees with a picnic....

Dammit, back to the washing machine and LED displays, it was nice to dream for a second ...................
With my mobile phone I can call people and talk to them -  how smart can you get ?

Jack Christensen


Contract work is different, there's a deadline and the job just gets done by then...well sometimes.


"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."
-- Douglas Adams
MCP79411/12 RTC ... "One Million Ohms" ATtiny kit ... available at http://www.tindie.com/stores/JChristensen/

JimboZA

#14
Mar 07, 2013, 03:47 pm Last Edit: Mar 07, 2013, 03:50 pm by JimboZA Reason: 1
Quote
"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."


Not to mention the Splat as they smash into the wall behind
Arduino ethernet server here.... http://jimboza.gotdns.com:8085/

No PMs for help please

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