Generalists are just second-class citizens

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I was in a meeting with someone the other day who I knew had some input, but didn't give it. They told me that they felt a little overwhelmed because they thought the other people in the room knew more. Now, I agree that if you don't have something to say, don't say it, but I thought this person was holding back when they didn't need to. So I told them this story: 

Eratosthenes was a man who lived in ancient Greece a couple of hundred years BC. He was a pretty interesting guy, who believed the earth was round, and one day when we found a particular well where the sun shone straight down, had an epiphany. He thought, that must make the sun directly overhead - forming one side of a triangle. All I have to do is form one more side, and take some measurements. So he took a stick and shoved it in the ground and measured the angle. He then had the distance to a city measured, took the same angle there, and calculated (by dividing the distance into 360 degrees) that the earth was 24,700 miles around. He was off a little - it is acutally 24,902 miles. Not bad for a guy with a stick and a brain, over 2000 years ago. He also created a chronological view of history, some musical scales and thought about the concept of prime numbers. Kind of a generalist, so the intelligencia of the day termed him a "Beta" - meaning a second-class thinker.

You might be a generalist too. I've worked a lot with SQL Server (and other database systems), and even though I've learned a lot, I'm sure there are a few of you out there who could eat my lunch on T-SQL constructs or in Reporting Services. Perhaps you've felt a little intimidated because you felt like you don't know as much as someone else in a particular area. Hey - I'm all for vertical knowledge. And you know I always push for learning more, all the time.

But the next time some one uses the term "generalist", and not in a good way, smile at them a little. Tell them you're just a "Beta" - and that you're in good company.

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