There are 2 ways of finding your way professionally.
This is not valid only for testing and software development but for other professions as well.
The first way is to find something that you like, a specific type of job, learn this job as best as you can and do it as best as you can.
A person going this way would be a specialist, someone who goes deep into the core of job and gains lots of knowledge about it.
Focusing so much on a specific job comes with the disadvantage of not knowing anything else.
If the job demand or the job requirements on the market change as well, the person will go through some tough times learning a new job.
The second way is the way of the generalist, someone who has knowledge from different job types but without knowing anything too well.
This type of person navigates the job market easier and maybe finds jobs faster.
He might have though difficulty keeping the jobs as without knowing a job very well, he does not contribute much.
Both the specialist and the generalist types have positive and negative aspects so it is difficult to choose one.
Maybe a better way is to become a specialist with a generalist background, also called a T-SHAPE person.
The top part of the T stands for the generalist background and the I part for the specialization in one job.
I had the suspicion that this is the best way of developing a career for a while now, even before immigrating to Canada.
I heard about the T-SHAPE person for the first time from the Valve employee handbook (http://www.valvesoftware.com/jobs/) mentioned also in the Scott Berkun's book about Wordpress.com.
So, what is so good about being a T-SHAPE person in your career?
- you are a great contributor because of your specialization but can also collaborate easily with other groups
- navigate easier the complex, always changing and uncertain job market as multiple job types are possible
- more prone on learning new things
- by continuously learning relevant skills, you stay meaningfully employed
- you have a better ability to interpret, sort and use the hug volume of available information
- more prone on generating new ideas, think laterally and cross-polinating across disciplines
How does this apply to a tester?
See below 2 possible ways of being a T-SHAPE tester:
Which type of tester do you want to be now?