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Are you a master baiter?

F. Y. Teng | May 10, 2010
Specialisation can and often does hurt your career, keeping you boxed in a role, stuck in a rut you cant get out of.

Yea, well, good for you. But I am not going to put a less than perfectly baited hook into the water, no way.

Even if it means you get nothing?

Yea. Even if I get nothing. Thats the price you have to pay.

The price you have to pay? For what?

Perfection. Mastery. I want to be a master baiter.

The relevance of this story to you as IT executives out there? I should think its obvious. A great number of IT professionals today are specialists in their field, whether its software coding, hardware, networking et cetera. Only a minority of themwhether I look at this anecdotally or through the many, many surveys, including our ownknow how to relate the information services they provide to the businesses they work for. And even a smaller group within that minority can accurately map their information services to the business processes they enable or support.

To my mind that says a lot about specialisation. Some of you may want to be funny and point out that it pays to be a specialistjust make sure youre the guy who specialises in architecture or whatever it is you need to master in order to completely understand how your IT and your business are inextricably linked, so you can ensure process by process business-IT alignment at all times and youve got a great career ahead of you. Hell, some of you may even want to talk about Tim Duncan whos not known for his style of play in the NBA, but rather the bank shots he keeps putting inand then say that all you have to do is do one thing well and itll take you all the way to the bank!

Thats true. There are those in the minority among us who are specialists in the right skills that can take them very far. And that minority is from what I have seen the most successful among you.

But if you look at the other side of the coin, specialisation can and often does hurt your career, keeping you boxed in a role, stuck in a rut you cant get out of. The majority of IT executives are technically inclined, and for the most part generally inept when it comes to communicating with non IT or technically inclined people. They think like IT specialists, which is great; but unfortunately they talk like IT specialists and view most things in the confines of their technical terms.

What do you think, my readers? Which specialist are you? Should you be looking at specialising in the business-IT alignment side of things, say with special credentials in IT architecture training? Should you be, like Ben in the story above, be someone who is more well-rounded and go home with the catch of the day? Or do you, like Joe, aspire to be a master baiter?

Teng Fang Yih is the editor of Computerworld Singapore and Computerworld Malaysia. 


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