Are T-Shaped People Better Programmers?

by | Oct 10, 2019 | Career Advice, Learn to code, Programming | 0 comments

Coming across the word T-shaped person I immediately related the term to the body type of a person – how about you? Well, I had to learn that it has nothing to do with the physical appearance of a person but rather their skills and expertise.

Are you a T-shaped person?

You might have had many different jobs, pursued various hobbies and experienced joy in a vast variety of tasks you took on at work. At the same time, you have been always using the same skills or were captivated by the same expertise. If this sounds familiar to you, you most probably are a T-shaped person.

As a T-shaped person, you have a broad range of general skills and expertise, represented by the horizontal stroke of the T, and deep knowledge or skills in one specific area, represented by the vertical stroke. Being a T-shaped person brings great added value to the company recruiting as IDEO Chief Executive Tim Brown in an interview explains:

The horizontal stroke of the “T” is the disposition for collaboration across disciplines. It is composed of two things. First, empathy. It’s important because it allows people to imagine the problem from another perspective – to stand in somebody else’s shoes. Second, they tend to get very enthusiastic about other people’s disciplines, to the point that they may actually start to practice them. T-shaped people have both depth and breadth in their skills.

So why should you focus on being a T-shaped person?

Although the term is quite young, it has especially gained momentum in the world of agile software development. T-shaped people are seen as great collaborators who are able to provide support to the whole team with amazing flexibility. They are great resources for the in-depth knowledge they gained and the ability to see the whole picture. T-shaped people are not only able to just focus on the deep knowledge and expertise they have, as opposed to the I-shaped person, but they are able to apply their skills and expertise to other areas and projects they are involved in, which makes them great employees.

Want to become a T-shaped employee?

First of all, you need to understand what is your vertical skill. It might not be so obvious at first sight or you have indeed not yet developed an in-depth skill. Find out by investigating your last jobs, which tasks were you good at, what skills do you like to apply more often and were admired for it. If you still struggle to find this one skill or area of expertise, investigate the gap and find out what you would require to become an expert at and what you really like to do.

There might be many skills and areas you could see yourself as an expert, so now it is time to focus on just one. While you apply your other skills on a daily basis, find out how you could improve just this one skill that will make you an expert and remain focus on it. Now comes the difficult part. While you wish you could become an expert overnight, it will take time. Gather as much knowledge as required, take online courses, read books and articles and learn as much you can. The more insight you gain, the more of an expert you will become.

T-shaped employees are able to make an impact with their expertise and knowledge, so start applying what you learned in your daily life. Find opportunities where you can have an impact on the company and show what you know.

T-shaped people and programming

Why do T-shaped people correlate so highly with a good programmer? Especially as a Full Stack Developer, you are required to understand all areas of a software solution, the front end, the back end of the data storage. But you will for sure realize sooner or later, that one area or the other is more of what you really like to do. Still, to be able to fit into a team and support your colleagues while creating a solution together, having the knowledge, understanding and insights into all areas will bring huge advantages and allows you to become a T-shaped employee every company wants to hire.

Are you keen on understanding what a Full Stack Developer is and if this is an opportunity for you to change your career and becoming a T-shaped person? Check out our program!

This post was written as part of the event “Navigating your career in the Age of AI”, which took place on the 31st of August 2023 in collaboration with digitalswitzerland, LzLabs and Singapore Global Network.

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