An IT Professional: Jack of all Trades or Master of one?

In a competition driven IT world, the debate of choosing between a ‘Jack of all trades’ or ‘a
Master of one’ would continue forever.

An IT professional having expertise knowledge in a specific domain of work would no doubt score over a novice or an intermediate when the former’s performance is measured only in the particular domain. However when the same novice is able to maintain acceptable but need not outstanding performance standards over multiple work domains, his reputation increases many folds.

The arguments go on and its upto one’s perception to choose between the ‘JACK or and the MASTER’.

A closer look at the scenario would bring to the forefront the fact that the comparison is actually superficial as the two are not on the same playing field. The same master who has won the accolades of his boss, is the motivation of his peers , the toast of his department ….may suddenly find himself lost and misplaced when confronted with a new technology or new domain of work. It is at this point that the jack has his moments.

Being overshadowed by the master for a major part , the tables suddenly turn when the jack and master are both confronted with a new domain. The Jack suddenly turns out to be the dark horse, racing unbelievably fast and in a matter of minutes racing way ahead of the master so much so to the point that the master begins to envy his counterpart.

In a nutshell, the Master can be labelled as a big fish in a single pond whereas the jack may be described as the small fish of multiple ponds. The Jack is the lifeline of the enterprise, he helps building interdepartmental and inter domain connections, creates a measure of adaptation, and adds to the skill set of the organisation a key element- ‘flexibility of work’.

The Master on the other hand is a go-to man, the one who is always there as an expert, the one who can guide and build manpower skills in his particular domain and the one who can fix-up even the largest of errors, and if
necessary even recreate the object.

As we dwelve deep into the two contrasting viewpoints, there is a strong indication that the roles of the master and the jack are not necessarily forging in two different directions. In fact , from the organisational perspective it wouldn’t be wrong if the two are said to be complimentary to each other. After all no enterprise wants to be shallow in its core domain and needs the expertise of the master. At the same point, an enterprise needs diversification of work and needs the inter domain flexibility and adaptability of the jack.

The jack sets up the base platform for the master to discharge his expertise. The master takes up the burden of handling complex technicalities while the jack serves the purpose of integrating the works of various masters. An expert Programmer and an expert Database administrator may be incredibly good in their respective domains, but unless the two are bridged by the jack (who has the elementary and interface knowledge of both) , the benefits cannot be realised by the enterprise.

The Jack keeps striving to know less and less of more and more while the master keeps striving to know more and more of less and less… When the jack begins to expand the depth of his knowledge in one domain, his transformation into a master starts . Similarly when the master starts to expand his horizontal knowledge of multiple domains, he slowly
transforms into a jack.

One may favour any of the two, but the fact that the two are complimentary and interdependent on each other can never be ignored. After all, the master can give away his masterly performance only when the stage is set by the jack and jack without the services of the master may be able to churn out multiple performances, but without the expertise and the skill of the master it will always be toothless.…..

Rohit Singh