Parking: Generalist or Specialist Needed?


Parking: Generalist or Specialist Needed?

The job market has always been loosely divided into “generalist” and “specialist” categories. However, the world is changing very quickly. Knowledge is becoming obsolete very quickly. With this change, and the fact that technology is being introduced at a much quicker pace, we see that somebody in a given field needs to know about what is going on in another field to get ahead. We see that there is significantly more boundary crossing and boundary spanning when it comes to identifying solutions to some of our industry’s biggest problems. 

Given these developments, I believe the ability to “connect the dots” is a skill that is going to become more valuable. I also think this is a skill that will naturally develop within our work force. For example, you can no longer be a parking professional without also understanding architecture, without understanding regulation, without also understanding IT. 

What is a generalist?

A generalist performs a broad range of duties within an organization rather than specialized work. They are considered a dabbler, an explorer, a learner, someone with a broad knowledge of many topics and expertise in a few. A great example of a generalist is a salesperson who performs equally as good across business-to-consumer sales, business-to-business sales, internet sales, and whatever other branches of sales their company covers. Another example would be an HR Generalist who performs different HR functions from hiring to managing compensation, benefits, HR administration, and other tasks. 

I consider myself a Parking Professional Generalist as I have experience managing a variety of parking operations (valet, hospital, municipal, on-street, off-street, etc.) In addition, I have experience in accounting, auditing, fraud prevention, monthly parking management, maintenance requirements for parking structures, and so many other things in my 20+ years in this industry. 

Generalists tend to gravitate toward leadership roles due to their multitasking and collaborative abilities. There is a reason why Bill Gates recommended “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World” by David Epstein as one of his top reads aback in 2020. This book goes into great detail on the career journey of a generalist.

Pros and cons of being a generalist


• Open to challenges: tend to possess critical thinking and collaborative skills.

• Desirable for smaller organizations; organizations on a tight budget can hire one individual with a variety of skills instead of hiring several people.

• Leadership: great at providing guidance and fulfilling leadership roles.

• Outside-the box thinking: they visualize the big picture and are usually the first to find the problems.


• Lack of expertise: when tackling niche projects, they may need assistance from a subject matter expert.

• Burn Out: due to working across multiple teams, functions, and responsibilities, it can cause burnout.

• Pay rate: rate of pay may be lower.

• Job security: since skills are not unique, it might be easier for a company to replace a generalist.

What is a specialist?

The term ”specialist” is a broad term that describes a professional who is responsible for specific tasks within their specialty or department, for instance, a sales specialist that works in the sales department of an organization to network and find business and customers to purchase their organizations products. Another example would be an HR person who specializes in recruiting, and who might take it one step further and specialize in recruiting for upper-level positions within an organization or industry. 

In the parking industry this might be a manager who specializes in a municipal, airport, or university operational environment. It could also be an administrator who concentrates in monthly parking account management. 

Specialists tend to be more dedicated to problem-solving and considered subject matter experts in their fields. Most specialists tend to deal with a similar work structure and flow each day. 

Pros and cons of being a specialist


• Higher salaries: most specialists start their career with lucrative salaries, as their field requires extensive study or specialization.

• Less training: specialists stay connected in their area of study, don’t change quickly, and usually fit into their roles right from the start.

• Specific content knowledge: they dedicate a lot of time and energy to learning every facet of their fields. They also have an edge on developments within their fields.

• Less competition: fewer people put in the time and effort to become specialized in an area.


• Need to stay updated: must keep skills up to date with new developments within their field.

• Limited positions: must forgo advancing their skills in other areas. This can limit the number of applicable positions they can find outside their field.

• Fewer skill sets: while they have advanced knowledge in their area of expertise, they don’t possess wide-range skills throughout other departments.

Other Employee Types

Besides the generalists and specialist there are other common employee types in the workforce:

 What about the T-Type?

Adaptation and technology evolution in the parking industry has been going on for over a decade. However, COVID rapidly accelerated some of this evolution, and in some cases, the evolution of our customer base. With this evolution the “T-Shaped” employee is taking center stage. As a replacement for a generalist or a specialist, there is a need for the workers that are a combination of both types. 

A 2021 McKinsey survey revealed that 87 percent of leaders acknowledged a skills gap in their workforce. This gap cannot be closed without employees upgrading their skill sets, specializing in certain areas, and becoming more fluid in their roles. Therefore, T-shaped employees are the future of work, as they can wear the hybrid hat and work in multiple disciplines. They are not just a subject matter expert in one area, but are also skilled in several others.

So, which is it?

In the parking industry, when it comes down to the battle between the generalist versus the specialist, it also comes down to the interests and aspirational goals of the organization. Do they need someone with a specific skill or someone with a handful of skills, or someone with both? Ask yourself, what skill gaps exist within your organization and how can that gap be reduced? 

Katherine Beaty is VP of Implementation at Tez Technology. She can be reached at


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Katherine Beaty
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