By John Watkins, inRsite IT Solutions
I’ve worked in IT for a little over 12 years now and in that time I’ve worked with hundreds of other IT professionals on various tasks. Out of those interactions I found most IT pros loosely fit into one of three groups when categorized by their overall knowledge and experience in the field; IT Generalists, IT Specialists, and MSP Pros. Keep in mind this is based on my personal experiences and interactions over my career and not everyone fits neatly into a single group.
Despite that, this has been a useful way of categorizing contractors and new hire prospects into groups that correlate with their roles and responsibilities. For example, IT Generalists do well in help desk environments where they work with a wide range of technologies; while Specialists excel when they’re able to focus on a specific implementation.
Often having experience working on a help desk or as L1 support in a call center, IT Generalists focus on growing skills that are easily transferable to other networks and environments. They can walk into almost any office and fix a printer or configure a SOHO router, but occasionally need to escalate to specialists for more complex issues.
Generalists are said to have knowledge that’s a mile wide and an inch deep. They know a switch is required to get a LAN communicating but might not understand how each layer of the OSI Model works.
Unlike a Generalist, IT Specialists tend to carry extensive amounts of knowledge pertaining to one or two areas. Most often seen working in large enterprise environments, Specialists focus almost exclusively on their area of expertise with little interaction with other non-adjacent Specialists or teams.
With this mile-deep-and-inch-wide approach, a Storage Specialist will be able to and configure a new but will defer to a Network Specialist to the connectivity and a Specialist to connect the SAN to Hypervisor.
Up until recently, MSP Pros wouldn't quantify their own category on this list. Instead, MSPs were staffed with a mix of Generalists and Specialists, all working toward the same goal. While tickets do get completed in this model there are communication issues between the end users, Generalists, and Specialists that can lead to delays in resolving the ticket issue. Additionally, Specialists are expensive resources that are commonly under used or over used, wasting company resources either way.
This has led to a new type of IT Pro, one that balances a deep and intricate knowledge of the products and services that encompass the MSP’s Solution Stack while retaining a Generalist level of understanding across other areas.
When you use the same stack across all of your managed services clients, you can leverage MSP Pros to manage multiple clients without needing to retrain or wait for a specific Specialist to become available.
I feel this is the group I now fit in. I spent the first half of my career building up to a Generalist level of knowledge then, after we decided on the technologies that would build our stack, I worked to obtain a Specialist level of competence with those specific solutions.
So Which Type Of IT Pro Is Best?
There’s no one answer to that question. Each category of IT Pro has their own unique set of benefits they bring to an organization. That said, there seem to be fewer Generalists in the field today than when I started working in IT. Maybe it’s because they moved on to specialize in a specific technology or perhaps they moved on to work at an MSP like I did.
Regardless of the cause, it can’t be denied the IT roles of yesterday are fading, and it’s anyone’s guess as to what the future holds for our industry.
About The Author
John Watkins is the Vice President and COO of inRsite IT Solutions, a Central Florida based MSP that helps clients embrace new technologies to drive meaningful change in their organizations. Under his direction, inRsite grew from a PC repair store and into an award-winning MSP and Private Cloud Provider. For more information visit www.inRsite.com.