We get it; you’ve spent so much time and effort becoming an expert in a specific area. And it’s paid off: you’re a tech professional doing great things in your field. But as you surely know, tech is constantly evolving and specializing in just one thing limits what you can do. As much as you love what you do, you’ve been tempted by other interesting areas of tech and have thought about diving into them. Well, we have good news: that’s a great idea and something you should definitely do. Here’s why.
The Problem of Specialization
At one time or another, someone probably told you that you needed to pick one skill and make it your life. Maybe that was in university, when you were instructed to take all the classes that related to your field of study and limit outside courses. Or at home, when your parents told you it was time to choose between theater or sports. Sound familiar? Let’s dive into a popular example that highlights the problem of specialization in a real-world scenario.
A Harvard Medical School study found a stunning result: those who suffered a heart attack and received medical treatment while cardiologists were away at a conference were more likely to survive. Yes, it’s true. Why? Because those doctors had been taught a certain way to handle that specific situation, they almost always acted in the same way, even if the patient needed another treatment.
This is a very specific situation, but there are others that help make our point. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, business responses to almost every problem were large Enterprise Resource Planning implementations (ERP), which led to incredibly expensive mistakes, causing many companies to close. Have you ever worked somewhere where they present the same solution to any problem? That’s another example.
Those who boast specializations in multiple areas have the following qualities: quick learning, adaptability, easy transition between different projects, contextual thinking, enthusiasm, novelty, leadership skills, and empathy and are incredibly valuable in the workplace. Learning about multiple areas is a key part of practically every industry. Don’t believe us? Check it out:
Learning Multiple Specializations
We’re sure that you’ve heard, at some point in your career, that you have to choose a specialization and center your efforts in one area instead of spreading yourself thin. And while we agree that yes, spreading yourself across a number of tasks and being “okay” in them and not an expert could affect your future career prospects, we do see the importance in being an expert in more than one area.
Writers need to produce high-quality work, but they also need to know how to market their content so that it actually reaches the hands of their readers.
Teachers have to be skilled instructors, but also need to have patience, classroom management, and leadership skills.
Scientists need to know how to carry out effective experiments while simultaneously possessing the skills needed to interpret and analyze the data yielded from their trials.
Do you need more examples? We’re not saying you need to get a PhD level degree in absolutely every subject, but taking additional courses and learning from your colleagues can help you improve in your own role.
Benefits of specializing in multiple areas
We think we’ve made our case, but just in case, let’s run down a few of the reasons why multi specialization is so key.
Hiring managers look for versatility: most industries are advancing incredibly fast, thanks to the digital growth from the pandemic and recruiters and managers want employees that can adapt to change.
Needs are changing quickly: specializing in one area is great, but what if that skill becomes nonexistent in a few years? Or your company decides it’s no longer needed? Having another skill can help save your job or find you another one easily.
Work is completed more efficiently: if you have to constantly pass off work to teammates because you don’t know how to use a specific tool or need someone to review something you don’t know, you could be wasting a lot of time and resources. Learning skills that are adjacent to your work can help your overall efficiency.
On a personal level, multi-specialization is also a great option.
Your employability skyrockets when you boast multiple specializations and aren’t limited to just one area; employers will see you as a versatile employee that can take on multiple tasks and you’ll be able to meet diverse company needs as they arise instead of being limited to just one skill. You’ll also be considered for managerial positions more frequently, given that you possess skills necessary to a wide range of jobs, not just one. Lastly, if your job becomes unnecessary, you can either reskill or upskill to meet company needs and not be without a job.
On a personal level, you’ll benefit greatly from having a wide range of skills because you’ll be able to appreciate not only others’ points of view, but also their skills and what they bring to the table. This is especially powerful with soft skills, when their skills might not be evident until there’s a real need for compassion or empathy. It will also help you be more open to group discussions as you’ll see what diverse people can bring to the table, making it easier for you to moderate different opinions and agree on a solution.
How to Specialize in Multiple Areas
Now that we’ve convinced you of the importance of specializing in not just one field, let’s dive into how to actually make that happen. After all, it’s a serious undertaking and one that will require effort and dedication on your part.
Look for help in your office: odds are you want to branch out because of a need you see right in your office. If you have a coworker or two that possess a skill you’d like to also have, talk to them directly and see if you can take a course that they’ve already aced or can explain their work process to you when you’re working together. And don’t be afraid to explain your desire to branch out to your boss and maybe ask for help from another department entirely.
Apply to roles in large companies: if you’re working in a small company that deals with a very specific area, you might have trouble finding help or even the space to learn a different skill. When you’re applying for a new job, look and see if the company offers professional growth opportunities.
Expose yourself to new experiences: change depends on you and if you want to become proficient in a new skill, it’s absolutely crucial that you truly focus on this new skill and use your free time to educate yourself, reach out to connections, and make it happen.
Multi-specializing in tech roles
Multi-specialization is so important that we have multiple series about it on our blog! Yes, web development and cybersecurity work together and UX/UI design does affect data analysis. The more skills you add to your collection, the more attractive you’ll be to prospective employers.
Multi-specialization in web development
Web development is an area that benefits greatly from multi-specialization; tech is advancing incredibly fast and professionals that know multiple languages or can work on both the back and front end are extremely valuable to managers. Web developers can also work on teamwork and critical thinking as soft skills to further develop so that they are better coworkers and teammates.
Multi-specialization in UX/UI design
UX/UI design is a pretty broad field and includes most of what the user sees and does, making up the entire user experience. Being skilled in multiple areas of UX and UI, such as information architecture and UX research, can help you not only read the data of what is working for clients, but also optimize your brand image from the back end to bring the project full-circle.
Multi-specialization in data analysis
Data is key to solid decision-making but if you’re unable to collect high-quality data or know how to interpret and communicate the results of the data to your team, it’s practically useless. Most data analytics courses cover lots of areas: statistics, computer science, information systems, management science, and more. Being able to not only properly collect and understand data but also put it into action will make you an incredibly valuable team member.
Multi-specialization in cybersecurity
Knowing how to halt a cyberattack in the first moment, but what if you could prevent it from happening altogether? Or were skilled in checking the overall abilities of the organization as a whole when it comes to data safety? Cybersecurity brings together tons of incredibly important skills and the more you know about the different sides of it, the better prepared you’ll be to do your job.
The best thing about learning multiple specializations is that there’s never a single right time to do so. No matter how long you’ve been in your role or how much you love what you do, there’s always something else to learn and another skill to add to your toolbelt. Ironhack’s bootcamps help you get the crucial foundational knowledge needed to succeed in a number of roles and will help you become more well-rounded overall.