T is for Talent

I am lucky to have had some great bosses as well as some not-so-great ones. The one common thread, however, was the good ones were all T-shaped.  And by that I mean they were highly skilled in more than one area. Sometimes even more than two.

Mark Hopkins
Mark Hopkins
Data and Digital World Around You
Data and Digital World Around You
WHAT IT TAKES TO BE SUCCESSFUL?

Which has always lead me to think: is this (at least part of) what it takes to be successful in the agency world?

In today’s world where new tech and practices emerge daily, it is increasingly common for the really top talent to offer more than one skill. 

I am not talking 'jack of all trades, master of none’ skills, either. I mean deep vertical experience in one and heavyweight in another.

In my last three agencies the high achievers, or at least those who zipped up the ladder, were those who were indispensable. People who could do a variety of present, sell, consult, mentor, estimate and write proposals (as well as a super-broad version of their day job).

Climbing Steps of Success
Climbing Steps of Success

This isn’t a symptom of under-resourced agencies, by the way. They were all well-known outfits with kick-ass portfolios.

Recruiters appear to have latched onto this new trend, as most of the best profiles I get sent today all touch on this theme of T-shaped individuals – be it full-stack developer, hybrid CS/PM, IA/strategist and UX/UI designer. 

The good news is I have yet to see an example of this new breed of multi-skilled digital professional being a bit crap.

PRO AND CONS OF T-SHAPED TALENT
Touch of Digital Transformation by Nature
Touch of Digital Transformation by Nature

Quite the opposite, to be honest. When new projects come in it is the T-shaped individual who is 'first pick' for me.

A person whose ambition and broader-than-usual experience can help glue together a multi-disciplinary product team and succeed against the odds.

Clients buy into this, too. While most won’t explicitly state their preferred practitioner it’s easy to see which ones they gel with: those whose broad digital experience tops up their own knowledge without having to go ‘back to base’ for the answer.

Another component part of this T-shaped formula is these people tend to have an ambitious streak and high-grade emotional intelligence (EI). Specifically, the sort of ambition to challenge themselves, yet have the capacity to know their own weaknesses, navigate tricky clients, befriend peers and lead teams.

As would be expected, these individuals are not always available when you need them to be, which is why I constantly interview, vacancies or not. And to top up this pool of talent I also only ever hire graduates or juniors who have the willingness/ability to become T-shaped.

Admittedly, this takes a generous helping of patience, cajoling, training and regular feedback on my part, but surrounding myself with a team of T-shaped individuals not only cuts down my own workload longer term, it makes us the agency more commercially viable, efficient and certainly more consultative – and that’s never a bad thing.