Ever since switching jobs a while back, one of the questions I'm asked most often by co-workers and friends I don't see that often is...
What exactly is your job, anyway?
The funny thing is that I've never had a short answer for it. Instead, I have to rattle off a medium sized list of loosely related things I end up getting involved in. And people seem generally puzzled at first but eventually say, "oh... that's kind of cool." Reading Ken Norton's How to hire a product manager made me realize why there's puzzlement:
The first thing you notice at a big company is the amount of specialization. At a startup, everyone does a little of everything, so you need strong generalists. More importantly, it's hard to predict the future, so you need people who can adapt. You might think you're hiring somebody to work on something specific, but that something might change in a few months. It doesn't work that way at big companies. Usually when you're hiring you have a very specific role in mind, and the likelihood that that responsibility will change is low.
See, they know I work at a big company, so they figure that what I do has a "normal" job title associated with it. Thus... brief puzzlement.
In job interviews (internal or external), I've often told hiring managers that I tend to get bored if I'm doing the same thing for more than a few years. So it's a wonder I've managed to survive at Yahoo! for over 5.5 years already, isn't it?
Not really--because I've moved around a few times. But I've recently come to understand that while this is possible and even encouraged it's not common. Most people tend to do the same (or a very similar) job for quite a long time.
In other words, unlike a lot of people here I must be a generalist. Or, as someone recently told me... A startup guy.
Somehow, seeing this all from a slightly different angle makes me more comfortable with it. I don't know why.
Posted by jzawodn at June 14, 2005 09:40 AM