A “versatilist” is someone who can be a specialist for a particular discipline, while at the same time be able to change to another role with the same ease (Wikipedia). I first became aware of the term while researching my dissertation in the book The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century (Friedman, 2005) and the term was first applied to me by a fellow scholar during doctoral studies. I had always considered myself a generalist, not the guy you want to hire to do the job itself, but the guy you wanted to help plan, create, and innovate using a vast background of disparate knowledge and experience.
So, what is the difference between a “generalist” and a “versatilist”? I think the difference is the degree of competency within each domain of knowledge. A generalist has experience or is familiar with the various domains of knowledge they have, while a versatilist becomes an expert (albeit briefly) in each domain they pursue. Generalists are philanderers in a sense, never truly committing to any particular domain of knowledge and content with superficial awareness; versatilist are serial monogamists, committing deeply to each domain with passion and intensity, but never staying for the long-haul to make a career of it.
This perspective certainly makes my varied career history a lot more understandable, explaining how I have achieved success in each of my roles, but never staying long enough to truly define what I do or give any clues as to what I want to be when I grow up.
- computer nerd, basic/pascal programming for fun and profit
- DOS expertise
- DEC MINI administrator
- Associates Degree in Electronics Technologies
- Component-level repair of IBM mainframe logic boards and POS systems
- Achieved Novell CNE and Microsoft MCSE
- Independent Small Business technology consultant (design, sell, install hybrid LANs) specializing in “Internet Connectivity”
- Started installing first wireless networks / fiber optic solutions
- Achieved CCNA/P, Network+ certifications
- Fortune 100 Retailer “eCommerce” team building “new” web architectures
- Field Service Engineer for technology manufacturer
- Achieved CISSP, C|EH and CCE security certifications
- Independent computer forensics consultant
- Security Architect for technology manufacturer
- Technical Marketing Manager for technology manufacturer
- Completed Bachelor’s in Information Technology
- Manager Technical Marketing
- Completed MBA (IT Management)
- Corporate Press/Analyst Spokesperson
- Manager of Professional Certification for technology manufacturer
- Completed DBA (Strategy and Innovation)
- Begin Data Science training
At each point in time, I was committed to being the best “whatever” I could, applying all my passion and effort towards achieving competence. Yet, once I could consider myself an expert in that endeavor, I moved to the next thing, generally not looking back. I’ve programmed, but am not a programmer. I’ve been a systems administrator, but don’t do systems administration. I’ve written numerous articles, whitepapers, and academic papers, but am not a writer. I’ve done many things, but don’t feel that any of them define who I am or what I do.
The only moniker that makes sense is . . . I’m a Virsatilist.