When hiring, should you go for the person who has a lifetime acquiring an insanely deep knowledge of a small subset of tools or someone who can rapidly pick up any new tool?
Hire learners, not niche players
True niche players can be some of the worst hires. If they’ve spent a lifetime acquiring an insanely deep knowledge of a small subset of tools they are innately biased toward those tools. They see every problem through the lens of that tool, and are resistant to adopting other technologies or practices since they are a threat to that hard-fought knowledge rather than a potential better way. Furthermore, when your entire career has been structured around nicheification, there’s little potential for leadership or management, skills that are learned rather than innate, and generally ignored when your search targets a niche player.
Contrast that with the lifelong learner…usually reverently described as a technical “wizard”, who can rapidly learn new development tools, and is always interested in exploring what’s new. The learner has no allegiance to a particular tool beyond wielding what seems best for a particular job. Rather than jealously guarding esoteric knowledge about a favorite programming language, they hit the manuals and get the job done, learning as they go.
Usually the lifelong learner applies this same knowledge to the company where he or she works, gaining a working understanding of the company and applying that knowledge to his or her work rather than considering that knowledge outside their purview. The upshot is that someone who understands the business problem being considered will likely produce a far more effective answer to the business problem, even when it’s not the most technically elegant solution.
Lifelong learners also have the benefit of changing with the times. Today’s Objective-C could very well be tomorrow’s Fortran, and as the lifelong learner has no particular allegiance to the technical tools, they evolve technically while their knowledge of your business grows deeper. The lifelong learner can also evolve away from their technical roots, growing into project management or a leadership role, usually with great success, since leadership is simply another tool to be learned and applied.