A few weeks ago, when I returned from the MWC and I wrote about “The wandering souls Network”, I wondered if it would not have been better for my career if I had specialized in a very specific area instead of being a generalist. I think there are decisions in our life that in spite every of us can analyse many times, the final decision will be always the same, because each person is the way he is.
“I define myself today as “A Generalist specialized in Internet of Things (IoT)”
Although the rest of this article can possibly be applied to all White Collar professionals, I'm going to focus on how will affect your decision of being an IoT specialist or an IoT generalist in a futuristic world dominate maybe by Robots.
Defining IoT Generalist and IoT Specialist
Before start examining the pros and cons of becoming an IoT generalist or a IoT specialist in this competitive and unfair world, it’s important to understand the distinction of these two approaches and how they relate to our future career path.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary’s simple definition of a generalist states a generalist is “a person who knows something about a lot of subjects”. A specialist is defined as “a person who has special knowledge and skill relating to a particular job, area of study”.
An IoT Generalist is a professional that understand a bit of everything. The IoT Generalist can speak about new business models enabled by IoT, the value of ecosystems, all kind of networks connectivity, protocols, sensors, devices, Gateways, Architecture, Cloud Platforms, Edge Analytics or Predictive Maintenance. And of course, he must be up to date of standards and security. Such a professional should be able to present to C-Level but also to maintain an intelligent conversation with different technical people. A value added of an IoT Generalist is his/her social network reputation, industry expertise recognition and strategic relationship with IoT/IIOT vendors, Telcos, Analyst, System Integrators.
Being an IoT generalist also require a skill-set of project management, effective communication and good people skills.
Do you have anyone in mind?
An IoT Specialist is a professional that is a subject matter expert in at least one of the core IoT tracks. Since the IoT is very complex even though we try to simplify it with concepts such as IoT in a Box, an IoT Specialist should offer at least expertise in one of the following 6 distinct tracks:
- IoT Devices (IoT Hardware Engineer or IoT SW Embedded Engineer)
- IoT Connectivity (5G, LTE, NB-IOT, 3GLoRA, SigFox, WiFI, Bluetooth) (IoT Telco Engineer)
- IoT Platforms (IoT Architects)
- IoT Edge/Cloud Analytics (IoT Data Scientists)
- IoT Enterprise Integration (IoT Business Process)
- IoT Development and DevOps. Take a look “IoT Skills For Developers”
Do you have anyone in mind?
But possibly to survive the future era of robots, it may matter little to be an IoT Generalist or Specialist and you will need a mix of a (someone who starts out as a generalist, but also has in-depth knowledge over a particular area) or specializing-generalist (someone who is specialized in a particular field, but also has a broader understanding of other aspects of the business) as Lev Kaye, the founder and CEO of CredSpark, wrote.
Remember that moving between both extremes can be extremely difficult once a career path has been embarked upon, so the mix is always good to have. There is, of course, opportunity to move between general and special IoT roles. But the more experience a professional gain in one area or the other, the more difficult it becomes to make a transition, at least without suffering from a dramatic salary loss.
Advantages and Disadvantages of being an IoT Generalists vs an IoT Specialist
There are benefits and downsides to both career routes. In the following table I have included some upsides and downsides of becoming an IoT generalist versus becoming an IoT specialist.
“The good news is that IoT job market is likely going to require both”
Age does matter - Which path is right for you?
If you are at the start of your career, you are probably pondering which route you should take: IoT Generalist or IoT Specialist.
When you start, selling yourself as an IoT generalist could be complicate to justify in a job interview, so will be better become a subject matter expert and then progressively move into a specializing-generalist.
- My Opinion: If you are under 30 you need to stay on top of your areas of IoT expertise and be willing to move when your expertise becomes a commodity or obsolete. This requires vigilance and the willingness to move with industry trends. You must be aware of disruptive trends in IoT technologies. Take into account that in the future, the IoT Specialists will be also under threat from software and robots.
But if you have already passed the barrier of 45 years and suddenly you want to use your background and experience to sell yourself as an IoT Generalist, remember that you have 6 months to demonstrate your added value (most of the time you will be required for selling) or you will be fired without any leniency.
- My Opinion: As an IoT Generalist over 45 you will find harder and harder to get hired. You need to be creative and become at least in spirit an entrepreneur. You must continue creating your own brand and reputation and extending your network with key people in the industry. Opportunities for IoT Generalist will not be forever but they must fight project by project. It would not hurt to start specializing in any of the IoT tracks.
And Enterprise size matters too. What are you looking for?
Governments insist to sell us the importance of entrepreneurs for the well-being and sustainable development of countries and encourage us to create startups. Of course, there is no work for life except for Government employees. And it is known that the big multinationals are rewarded in stock market by the number of employees that are fired out each quarter.
Even so, startups are possibly the only way out for IoT Specialist under 25 or IoT Generalist over 45.
- If you are an IoT Generalist over 45, find a job in IoT startups will be a chimera, except as Sales roles. Launching your own startup with other partners can be a better option.
- If you are an IoT Specialist under 25 you can try to convince other colleagues to create a Startup and enter in the dynamic of find investors, win awards and pray for a stroke of luck. If you decide to work in an existing startup to get experience and you are not a Founder or Co-Founder, you must be prepared to be exploited, and then move to a Big company.
SMB (Small and Medium Enterprises)
IoT Generalists add value specially to medium to big international companies. Knowing the details about the complex ecosystem and can handle a vast array of technical concerns is becoming critical for SMBs. There is little need for IoT specialist as there are not enough technical needs in any one specific area to warrant a full-time staff member dedicating themselves to them.
This does not mean that if you are an IoT Specialist you should not try to work for a SMB. Other consideration like industry knowledge, proximity or quality of life will compensate the promises of more money and relevance in Big International companies.
- IoT Generalist over 45 are typically more valued in smaller organizations. Small organizations typically cannot afford to hire a lot of IoT specialists. You will be more valued in smaller organizations who need their employees to wear a lot of hats. In a SMB the transition to a generalizing-specialist will be natural-
- If you are an IoT Specialist under 25 and you do not pursue the fame of being a number in a Big international company, you can enjoy more in a SMB because you will have more probability to become more quickly a specializing-generalist.
Big International companies / Top IoT companies
Here we must separate into two types of companies: Top IoT companies including Big IT and OT vendors and End Customers.
There are many lists of Top IoT companies. Almost always these lists include the habitual suspects, and as usual they have notable absences and without forget that the ranks leave much to be desired. But at least such type of list provide the names of companies that either IoT Specialists of IoT Generalists should be searching for a job.
End Customer will need help from both IoT Generalist and IoT Specialist, the question is when and who are them?
- The desire of an IoT Generalist over 45, that used to work on Big Companies, is return to a Top IoT Company or Big Enterprise. Although it would seem easy, it is by no means a road of roses. You must create your own strong personal brand and be a well-known and influencer of the industry.
- If you are an IoT Specialist under 25 with experience in startups you will be hunted soon for one of IoT Top vendor. Do not let yourself be blinded by the name of the company, but the project and the future importance of IoT within it.
Looking beyond 2025, the begin of the era of robots
Not because I attend the MWC that specifically caused me to think back on the changes that will occur in the IoT job landscape, it was this conference in addition to the many other IoT events that I attended over the past years that make me think how IoT professionals will be living the strong gravitational rift as we approach to 2025 and beyond.
Unemployment is one of the main problems in today consumer owned society. The unemployment is especially cruel to young people in search of their first job. But also for those who have passed the barrier of 45 (IF $your age is >45 THEN "sorry you are overqualified”).
When I wrote “Your job will be in our special metal hands” I imagined a near future in which companies will use Recruitment Robots to search, identify, select and manage candidates and employees more efficiently. Although it is crucial you follow your heart and your passion when making the decision you should consider the requirements of future employers will be robots.
If today, what matters is knowing a little of everything in the Internet of Things, an IoT Generalist, cross-trained and energetic. Fast forward a few years, and the IoT profession will took a different turn. IoT Specialists must emerge, particularly in larger organizations. IoT Specialist should also be aware of the way IoT jobs will change. Several traditional IoT specialist jobs today will be facing the threat of automatization and will not have an easy time beyond 2025.
THE BOTTOM LINE
When deciding between IoT generalist and IoT specialist career paths, you need to carefully consider the type of person you are. Ultimately, the advantages and disadvantages of either path depend on your personality and drive. If you work hard towards achieving your career goals, you can do so as an IoT specialist and as an IoT generalist and remember you need to be passionate and your attitude will matter today and beyond 2025.
IoT Specialist or IoT Generalist? Choose your own destiny.
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