For the last almost 20 years I have been working in web development and multimedia development. I started out as an Interaction Designer, but eventually decided to broaden my scope a little bit just to have more understanding about how everything comes together.
Doing that, I made a – pretty unconscious – decision to forget about excelling in one thing, but become – I hope – rather good in more things. For me it was a mix of pure frustration and curiosity that drove me there. The frustration came from other people in my teams telling me that my designs were no good because the code could not support it – so I had to lower my standards – and the curiosity came from wanting to know why code could not support it.
It got me into coding. And I still do not know if I should be happy about it that I did. Sure, I like it that I can set up whole productions from server installation, firewall configurations and databases, to designing and developing marketing tools, CRMs, CMSs, and make it work with any kind of design so no one can tell me my design cannot work on any code anymore. Fine. Sounds good… I can also lead teams, know when someone tries to get out of work by telling me that something cannot be done, see when someone is slacking, or where motivation is needed. Also fine.
But the cost of it is actually that trying to keep up to date about a lot, about all the advances in technology on all those platform, is too much to keep track of. So, I know of a lot just enough. Enough to create a well-funded opinion and to know what to learn if I want to get things done, but not enough to excel in anything. I am no programmer that can build anything right at this minute without diving into a book or searching more clarity of how to proceed online. Specialists will always be better in each and every element.
Still, a specialist alone cannot make a production and can only work in a team where I can set up, maintain and run a whole project alone. And that is a blessing and a curse. It is good to be able to think up projects, design them, prototype them and then release them in version 1.0, and then with a team of specialists make it shine to version 2.0, it is something I love to do. But, if you are also in such a role, you know you also get to deal with a lot of crap. Because somehow you usually in corporate IT end up to be considered ‘mediocre’ by specialists, and clients or managers always come to you to bug you about all the aspects of the project because, well, you cover all those elements.
Sure, my coding is by no means perfect. But it is secure, stable, does exactly what it needs to do. My servers have never crashed by coding issues for the last three years, and I am able to make productions in Flash, AJAX, simple HTML, Server-side or client-side or both, for your desktop, tablet and mobile platforms and discover and fix problems for differences in IE, FireFox, Chrome, Safari, Opera and many other browsers. And I can go into discussion with a client to convince them why it is essential to upgrade away from Windows 2000 and actually make sense to them.
But, as you have learned from the first paragraph, I am a designer by origin. Officially trained at the art academy. And you know it about artists… they are a stubborn bunch and emotionally attached to what they do. Woohoo! So critic has to be delivered to me with some time to let it work into me. Because the other negative point is, I know what it is to run a business, and that no matter how good you want a product to be; when there are finances involved, there is also this business side of – is it worth my time? In the past I liked to give my team manager, CEO, partner, whatever crap about that they did not understand the importance of good design. But truth to be told, I had no idea about their job either.
So, there I am. Technician, programmer, developer, designer, artist, producer, business owner. No entry-level in anything. Senior, absolutely, master in some, but most of them I am adequate. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it. But it’s me.
And I know I am not the only one out there like that, there are a whole bunch of people whose specialization is not being specialized in one thing. And I do believe they do not get enough credit. So this is my shout-out to those out there building up the foundations for future successes.