Not long ago, “craftsperson” was a title given to a driven individual that had excelled at a specific trade. An obsessive focus to create to the best of their ability and accel at their craft. In the same capacity, a “handyperson” is a title given to a person who may not excel at any one singular trade but is aptly capable across many. In today’s technology-driven world, I come across many gifted engineers of both backgrounds.

I have pondered over the years. Would I have been better off to focus on a more specific toolset? As this is more an existential exercise, I do not intend to answer this for myself or you, the reader. I merely want to address the existence of these thoughts.

The Craftsperson

Creator of exceptional quality, always striving toward perfection.

Have you ever been to a planning meeting and found yourself tangled deep within a briar patch full of MySQL optimization or Java VM debugging quandaries? Only to find that the question at hand, “how much effort will this story likely take?” is not being answered? Commonly the realm of the craftsman, one of detail and thorough understanding within a problem domain. People of this caliber are exceptional at their role, albeit always in danger of slipping too far down the rabbit hole. You may sit in awe of their understanding or possibly retreat and withdraw from the conversation at hand. Luckily some people are skilled in re-aligning focus and getting the meetings back on track!

These craftspeople are invaluable in their ability to execute and implement solutions. They often help foster growth within their teams. They become architects empowered to design solutions that help to drive innovation and progress.

Often though, many I have seen are unable to see beyond their specific domain of expertise. As companies evolve, so do the technologies that support that growth. Along the way, this may impact those that are unwilling to grow. In many cases, this may be fine; there are often other companies looking for these craftspeople to grab the mantle and push forward within a specific domain.

The Handyperson

They are solving problems across many specialist domains.

The evolving nature of the industry we ascribe has pushed many to break out of their specific specialties to grow across domains. To become more effective at creating more holistic solutions to solve and create value across disciplines, they have become more aware of cross-functional concerns. They are capable of implementing and realizing this value.

It is not to say that these people may not have specific specialty domains, though. Many have developed an expert level of proficiency in particular areas. Though in many cases, there is still a generalist induced “gap” in my experience. This gap is offset in many cases by their ability to cross technical boundaries while weaving more holistic solutions.

As companies evolve and the technologies change, these more generalist minded people often are more adaptable and are more suited to weather the seas of change. Their ability to pivot, regroup, and push forward allows them to evolve with their companies, and they are often the ones to drive the change.

In Closing

I have found myself to be more of a technology “handyperson,” or polyglot, if you will. As I have progressed in my career, this more generalist mindset has come to serve me, as it has given me insight and understanding that I personally otherwise feel may have been missed. However, there have been times when I felt that having this generalist view of specific technologies has worked against me, though. As with any industry, there is room for those of either mindset. There is a need for both and a balance in how one develops and builds their teams.

Spend some time to think through how both these roles are essential to the success of a project. Go forth and build the future, consider both’s values, and leverage each when building your teams. If you are early in your career, I hope you may glean some insight from my ramblings. Push yourself to become the best at whatever that may be, never settle, and always fight to thrive!