I just read a post on the Convince & Convert blog about the rise of the t-shaped agency and it got me thinking about people, products and companies.
I was on an interview last year applying for a position at an agency here in Boston. The partner who was interviewing me said that he was intrigued with my skill-set and told me I was ‘a t-shaped professional’. I had no idea what this meant so I asked. The answer was a compliment. He said that I was very broad in my understanding and knowledge of all things related to marketing as an organization within a company yet I was refined in one specific area. In layman’s terms, i could do and understand everything, but I excelled at one thing.
In the post, Daniel Lemin talks about how agencies can prosper from developing a t-shaped mindset and it makes compete sense. Agencies are no longer solely responsible for issuing press releases and getting clients into the paper, they are responsible for building and executing upon strategies with more profound goals such as lead generation. But I’m not going to get into that because he covered it very well. What I do what to consider and discuss is where the t-shape does not work.
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As a professional
I had considered my t-shape profile as a compliment, but was it really? Is there one setting over another that I could apply a t-shaped skill-set? As someone aspiring to be a CMO, will this help me to be really good at one thing and just had know-how of everything else? I’m starting to wonder. For example, I enjoy excelling at lead generation and program management, but I struggle with product marketing and product management. I want to have these skills and excel at them but I don’t right now.
Where does it work? I feel as though a t-shaped professional would be an asset to a company that has a large marketing group where the person can own the role they are in, yet have intelligent conversations throughout the department and understand what is going on.
As a company
I’m not going to name names but there is a company that I have been watching over the years grow. Now growth is never a bad thing but they are not growing in one particular area. In fact, I am sadly watching them acquire and develop new technologies to add to their basket and deterring from their original mission and intent. Perhaps this is their intent. The way I see it is that companies often fail when they try to be all things to all people. You cannot possibly provide every tool-set I need on a daily basis all within your software. A ball is going to drop somewhere.
Where does it work? A company like Procter & Gamble or Microsoft excel as t-shapes. They are able to produce multiple products and solutions to varying markets while maintaining their core mission. They are strategic in their decisions to expand and evolve and neglect to drop the ball they were holding when they pick up a new one.
Are you a t-shape? Where do you think it applies?