Jan 07, 2021 / Leadership

T, Pi, M and Comb-shaped People

Group 14 Copy

Choosing the right people at webdna

In 2014 I was introduced to the idea of T shaped people, by my then colleague and long time friend Mark Pinsent. At the time we were recruiting for email marketing specialists at the agency where we worked together. Whilst there were lots of people with deep expertise in one email tool, the candidates who had a broad overview of the requirements of the industry and had deep expertise in any one area were few and far between. What we had were lots of I shaped people and not many T-shaped people.

Group 9

Since then I have read hundreds of job applications, interviewed over fifty people and hired more than 20 of them.

During that time, I have started to consolidate my own thoughts on the type of person that I believe fits in well at the type of organisation that webdna aims to be. Initially, my view of the type of individual we were looking for was very much formulated by life in the world of start-ups where everyone needs to do everything and so generalists rule. Then I started to come across a lot of I-shaped people but discovered the limitations to deep expertise in one area, but no generalised abilities. This can be especially limiting in an agency setting. The idea of a T-shaped person started to crystalise in our thinking at webdna, we started talking about developing our team accordingly to ensure that they have an area of expertise as well as broad general knowledge in digital marketing and development.

We began to include a reference to a T-shaped person in our job adverts in 2020 and often linked people to this excellent article on Medium - Why T-shaped people by Jason Yip which not only explains what a T-shaped person is but also explains the benefits of building a team of T-shaped people.

As 2020 came to a close and we looked forward to 2021 and started writing our next job advert, I took some time to reflect on what type of people we have at webdna, and what sort of people we want to join the team. It was then that I realised that I am not sure that T-shaped really sums up the people we have, possibly Pi, M, or even more of a comb might be more appropriate as more and more of our team have deep expertise in more than one area.

Group 12

For now, we will probably still talk about T-shaped people, certainly in our job adverts anyway, but through cross-training, we will certainly be looking to develop more Pi, M and Comb-shaped people.