What is a Technologist?

I’ve been struggling for a while (a mid-life crisis, perhaps?) to work out exactly what it is that I’m passionate about in the IT field, since it’s where I’ve spent pretty much all of my working career.

So, where do I go from here?

Friends & colleagues have all tried to convince me to go back to school & get certified in this and that, find something to specialize in. But that’s not me. I didn’t go to university because I didn’t want to.

Then I came across the term Technologist. Wikipedia has a definition which seems to fit quite well.

A technologist is a person who specializes in using technology. While similar to a technician, the two are not the same. Where both are employed, a technician works for a technologist. A technician is someone with a basic knowledge of a technology. A technologist is someone who completely understands the technology and other technologies that can be applied.


At the same time, that’s not really me either. I don’t claim to specialize in anything. I enjoy not knowing things, and having to ask questions or investigate on my own.

So, I started looking around to find if perhaps Wikipedia’s definition could be explained better. Here’s an explanation from David Foster, The Curious Technologist:

I like to take it a step further and define a technologist as a General Technology Specialist, just to ramp up the oxymoron. However, as most technologists know, that’s exactly what we are – general specialists. We’ve spent decades honing our skill-sets into fine points… in many, many different areas. These finely sharpened points may not be very deep, mind you, but boy are they sharp! The old “jack of all trades, master of none” chestnut comes into play a bit.


This work better for me. I love knowing, I love finding out, I’m happy to be a subject matter expert on things but also happy to have the caveat that I don’t know everything.

It’s helped me to realize that the role I’ve played over the years, the retail worker or help desk guy, can be something I can specialize in.

Helping to reduce complexity with automation, without adding junky business rules or technical complications in the middle just because one person knows how to shout loudly to the decision makers.

Working more efficiently by finding ways to automate the mundane tasks we perform every day. If you have to repeat it, you can automate it. If you can automate it, you can be confident that you understand the problem and the solution. And with that, you can start to work on preventing the problem from occurring in the first place.

I haven’t stayed in these roles because I like the work I do. I stay in them because I know the end user wants their problem solved, and fast.

I’ll never be happy just sitting at a desk, fixing problems as they come in. I need to get involved from top to bottom. I don’t care if I have to ask users if there’s something they don’t understand, or poke at upper management to bring the problem to their attention.

I specialize in wanting better for everybody involved. Again, David says it best:

Technology, at its best, is invisible. Properly implemented, it should disappear while improving our quality of life. By becoming transparent, it becomes beautiful – and that’s when I become interested.


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