No one ever tells you that the things you study in programming school (assuming you go to one) are, more than likely, not going to be the things you work on. And by work on, I don’t just mean at a particular job, I mean your career in general. It’s safe to say that most developers naturally gravitate (or are gravitated) towards an area of specialization. (You also have your wunderkinds who can do everything under the sun, but that’s another discussion) Specialization, in my limited experience, is both a good and bad thing.
First, the bad.
It pigeonholes you and that’s not good when the chips are down and you need something. I’ve definitely had my share of job hunts where the phrase “There are just aren’t any BI jobs right now” has started to make me consider another line of work.
And on top of the aforementioned limitation, there’s a strange conception among non-IT folks that results in a paradoxical situation; even though you’re specialized, even though you’ve been encouraged, pushed even, to specialize, you’re still expected to know everything about anything that ever flipped a bit.
Network routing? That’s you right?
Server architecture? That’s you guys right?
Hey I have an application that someone’s eighth grader wrote for me in Excel and I installed it and it fried my machine and now I need all my files for a meeting with the CEO five minutes ago. You’re in charge of that right?
You get the point.
And now for the good: if you can get past the pigeonholes, paradoxes, and primitives (data types, of course), stuff starts to get good.You start to see your contribution even when others don’t.You start to turn red X’s into green checkmarks and get to wear the hero badge for the day (or week depending on how big the X was). You start to really hone your craft and begin to understand things that seemed incomprehensible before.
And that, for me, is one of the most empowering feelings in the world. Being able to look at the tasks you have completed, see their value and therefore your own, and start to really asses what you are capable of. Start to really understand what you as an individual can accomplish.
It’s probably a lot more than you think. I know it was for me.