I was in a recent discussion with some friends of mine that went on to work at a handful of different places, Intel, Oracle, Microsoft, NVidia, AMD, Google, Pixar to name a few.
I've been thinking about this early in my career and even now. I really think what I have heard from 1 of my former VPs, as well as what Google puts out as its 'defined philosophy' rings very true. They state:
It's best to do one thing really, really well.
Google does search. With one of the world's largest research groups focused exclusively on solving search problems, we know what we do well, and how we could do it better. Through continued iteration on difficult problems, we've been able to solve complex issues and provide continuous improvements to a service already considered the best on the web at making finding information a fast and seamless experience for millions of users. Our dedication to improving search has also allowed us to apply what we've learned to new products, including Gmail, Google Desktop, and Google Maps. As we continue to build new products* while making search better, our hope is to bring the power of search to previously unexplored areas, and to help users access and use even more of the ever-expanding information in their lives.
So in the end when I think of the strongest technical and techno-business people I know, sincerely, they are well rounded and know 'enough' about a lot of things, but they are KILLER at one or 2 particular skills, with almost no exceptions. When you follow your path, so to speak, it tends to rub against so many other areas that naturally fall onto your plate for you to digest. I've met too many people that get 'good' at a 'lot' of things. These people are smart and fast learners, but will always be below so-called subject area experts. I also firmly believe that the people that build the tools, and don't just employ them to build other things and use them are the ones that are the real experts. While there are thousands of DBAs, and even many top DBAs, and many great developers and managers....there simply are nowhere near as many experts that BUILD these tools at the actual software companies.