By December 3, 2020

Should I Niche Down as a Beginning Programmer

Today we're gonna be talking about whether or not you should find your niche when you're first beginning as a programmer.

We're moving to a world that is much different from the world that existed 30 or 40 years ago. And requires a different set of skills and a different approach to your career. #programmingniche #howtochooseaniche #findyournic

Transcript Of The Video

John Sonmez:

Today, we're going to be talking about whether or not you should find your niche when you're first beginning as a programmer, whether you should specialize and go down the rabbit hole of painting yourself into a corner, potentially, pigeonholing yourself as they call it or if you should be more broad and more general, learn a lot of different things and not go so deep and narrow. I have definitely an opinion on this and a lot of you aren't going to like it, but I'm going to give it to you anyway. If you guys are just joining me for the first time, I'm John from simpleprogrammer.com. On this channel, I teach you the soft skills that you need to become a successful software developer and a human being. And I have a book here called, The Complete Software Developer Career Guide. I highly recommend that you check it out. It is a bestseller on Amazon. There's a link up here in the cards and also in the description below.

And it's long, it's big. It's for any stage of software development, but this is definitely the most useful resource, I believe that exists out there right now in becoming a software developer and I wrote it for that specific purpose. It took me a long time to write this thing because I was like, “I have to dump all the information I have about software development and succeeding as a software developer into a book before I forget it all.” So let's talk about this. Should you niche down? Should you niche down or not? By the way, if you haven't already subscribed, I don't think I told you that, so subscribe to the channel, because you're going to want to do that. So here's the deal. Think about a couple of things here. So society has changed and it's changed in such a way that what is more valuable than generalists are specialists, right? This is just the way that things evolve, that cultures evolve. I'm reading a book right now called Non-Zero, okay?

And it's essentially about this. It's about non-zero type of situations in game theory and how that really drives human and cultural and social evolution, all right? And so, in order for there to be non-zero, you have to have a synergistic effect. I mean, dependencies, countries depend on other countries for imports and exports, animals depend on each other, people depend on each other and part of that is based on specialization, right? So if you go back in history and you go back to the old days where you had hunters and gatherers, there wasn't a lot of specialization. Everyone hunted, or they gathered, okay? And sometimes they hunted and gathered, right? And so, everyone made their own hut and they made their own food. And there might've been some small specializations, but as those societies evolved and as it became more civilized, what ended up happening was that they had more and more specializations.

In fact, Plato wrote about this in Plato's Republic and he talked about his ideal society, that's what that book is about. And he talks about this idea of we need to have specialized people. We need to have a guard class, right? A soldier class, basically the protectors. We need to have a ruling class, we need to have essentially craftsmen who create metal work and who cook and all these different things, and that's how society is today. And it just keeps on getting further and further specialized. So again, the reason why I give you this history lesson is because I want you to understand that this is the direction that progress moves and that you become more and more valuable in a society like the one that we're living in, the more specialized that you are, okay? So if you want to be valuable, even as a junior developer, even as starting out, you need to pick some kind of specialty. The world of programming is too large for you to make an impact, to make a splash when you are trying to be too many things.

One of the biggest things I tell my coaching clients who are trying to build businesses and try to really expand their careers, and they're paying me a lot of money for this is I tell them to niche down, to be very, very specific. I want them to have something that they can be potentially number one best in the world at. Think about that. And that seems like a tall order, but think about the Guinness Book of World Records, right? Is there a way you could get in the Guinness Book of World Records? I'm sure that you could figure out some thing, some obscure thing that you could become the best at. And that's the key here is that you need to have a specialization in which you could potentially become the best at. Doesn't mean you have to be the best now, that doesn't mean that you ever have to become the best, but that you have some contention to be potentially the best, okay?

And the reason for that is because that's going to create a huge amount of value, it's also going to allow you to build up your brand and to be known better, right? So even within a company, even within a small company, and I see this a lot of times on software development teams, you'll have someone who is the expert at one particular thing. They know the database really, really well, or they know the DAO, data access objects for the database, or they know this structure or this part of code, or they're the UI expert or whatever it is. That person is typically going to get paid more, okay? And more people are going to come to them and they're going to trust them and they're going to be considered to be of a higher technical skill. They're going to be more valuable to that company because they have the specialization. Maybe they're going to be doing trainings about the area that they know about.

So you want to pick something and pick something that you can go really deep on so that you can become that expert in that area, right? For me, at least in this space, I've been the expert on soft skills for software developers. I wrote the book on it. I've got my other book, Software Developer, or Software Developer [inaudible 00:05:26] Man, it was unpublished by the publisher, I'm republishing that. So it should be out pretty soon again. You can get the audio for now. I think they're infringing on my rights because I'm supposed to have the audio rates, but forget about that. I don't care, for now. I will definitely get what is mine. But my point is that I picked that as a particular specialty, all right? And it served me extremely well in my career. It allowed me to build a multi-million dollar business and to make millions of dollars as a software developer, because I picked that specialty.

So you need to pick something right now. And even if you're just new, right? Even if you're just learning, let's say you're a Python developer, okay well, don't just be a generic Python developer. You're going to get a better job, you might even be able to get a senior job right off the bat if you're a Python developer who specializes in machine learning for self-driving cars, let's say, okay? Or maybe you're a Python developer who specializes in computer vision. Again, a much more specialized type of thing or whatever it is. Maybe you're good at writing Instagram bots. Whatever it is, pick some kind of specialization and you will be able to do better in your career and you'll be able to potentially build a business and a brand off of that, right? Think about if you wanted to go and write a book. What does a publisher want? Do they want a generic book from some programmer or do they want it on a very, very specific technology?

And the more specific, the more likely that you won't have to be as well-known to write that book and more likely that you'll become well-known because of writing that book or at least in that sphere. Same thing if you're wanting to speak at a conference. You want to go speak at a conference? What are you going to talk about? If it's your specialty, if you're the expert in this particular thing, right? You're going to be much more likely to be able to get a speaking gig. So from the bat, yes, specialize and narrow down and try to be someone who's going to be known for a specific thing. If you can accomplish that, and if you can be known for a specific thing, you're going to build a good personal brand. You're going to have a lot of opportunities ahead of you rather than being generic. Now, again, it doesn't mean you should know a lot of things, right?

To some degree, I'm a Renaissance man. Because I know a lot of things, I specialize in a lot of different areas. I've got a different company that the teaches masculinity and teaches men. And I dabble in a lot of different things. But when I present my face, as far as what I'm doing in a particular business, it is specific, it is niched down. I be specific in that area. I be specific, okay? It's really, really important because people need to be able to communicate, they need to be able to say, “Hey Jack, he does this,” right? Not, “Jack does this and that and he dabbles in that. He's also a part-time plumber.”

It's too much. Because when people can summarize you, when you've crafted the brand, the image that you want people to have of you, they can communicate that and they will communicate that. But if it's too big, it's too many things they're not going to, okay? So be known for something. Start from the beginning. It's hard enough to build a brand, so you need to start building a brand right away. If you haven't already clicked subscribe, subscribe to the channel. Also, if you want to build a blog to build your brand, check out my blogging course, it's up here, it's free. Link in the description below as well. Talk to you next time.

 

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."