How to Become Specialized in Something, and What to Choose

I hope you didn’t think this was going to be a helpful and informative article that would provide answers to this question, because it will not be. In fact, it would be very helpful if you could go ahead and answer this question for me.

I have spent my (admittedly short) career proud to call myself a generalist — or for the purpose of college admissions essays, an “interdisciplinarean” (this may or may not be a real word). In a field as broad— and well, general — as user experience design, being able to put on many hats can be an asset. In the words of designer Cheryl Heller, “the most effective social innovators are generalists… they see systems that are invisible to experts.”

I think millennials like to be generalists, despite the fact that we also like to set up a blog or an Instagram page where we claim to be an expert in something. We’re a generation of amateur photographers, taxi drivers, hosts, activists, business owners, etc., and consequentially, we’re constantly “killing” industries full of real professionals. (Read the word “real” in whatever tone you like — I’m ambivalent about it).

I like being a generalist. But tomorrow is my first day in Carnegie Mellon University’s Masters of Human Computer Interaction program, a program in which students fair best when they (quickly) choose an area of specialization and then tailor electives and research projects to that focus.

So here’s mine:

Hardware and Software for Education/Criminal Justice Information Services/More Education/Security/Preventing-Death-by-Hyperthermia-in-(Self Driving?)-Vehicles. Catchy, isn’t it?

If you run a company that specializes in this, please call me in three years.

TL;DR: Make a flow chart. Then go read an article written by a real professional.